Fireballet

Fireballet was an American symphonic/art-rock band from New Jersey that released the albums Night on Bald Mountain (1975) and Two, Too (1976), both on Passport Records. Multi-instrumentalist and composer Jim Cuomo hailed from Spoils of War and Mormos and later played in the multi-national jazz-funk group Pacific Eardrum. Cuomo and guitarist Ryche Chlanda partook in the 1977 Passport all-star project Intergalactic Touring Band.

Members: Jim Cuomo (vocals, drums, percussion), Brian Hough (Hammond organ, keyboards, backing vocals), Ryche Chlanda (guitar, vocals), Frank Petto (piano, synthesizer, Mellotron, keyboards, vocals), Martyn Biglin (bass, guitar)


Background

They started as the Fireball Kids in Northern New Jersey in the early 1970s. By 1974, Fireballet featured guitarist Ryche Chlanda, bassist Martyn “Spike” Biglin, keyboardists Brian Hough and Frank Petto, and drummer/percussionist Jim Cuomo, who sang lead and wrote most of the band’s material.

Cuomo (b. 1945, Chicago – d. 2018, Portland, Ore.) was a veteran of numerous projects dating back to the late 1960s, when he played saxophone in the University of Illinois Jazz Band while earning his Masters. He performed with the band in Moscow and worked as a computer card programmer for composer John Cage. In 1969, he cut an EP with avant-psych rockers Spoils of War. The following year, he issued six cuts of musique concrète on the EP Cuomo’s Record, released on self-press Depot Records.

He then served as the touring director for New York’s La MaMa Experimental Theatre, which brought him to Europe. Along with two other MaMa players, Cuomo settled in France and formed the folk-psych band Mormus, which backed François Béranger and issued the 1971/72 CBS albums Great Wall of China and The Magic Spell of Mother’s Wrath. During his time in France, Cuomo also played on 1971–74 albums by David McNeil, Jacques Higelin, Jacques Yvart, Jean-Max Brua, Michel Buhler, Pierre Barouh, and Mahjun.

Back in New Jersey, Cuomo established Fireballet, which regularly played the Ryder College Arts Center near Princeton. Taking advantage of the center’s state-of-the-art lighting setup, they floored audiences with their pyrotechnic showcases. Petto’s keyboard arsenal included the Mellotron, the ARP 2600 Synthesizer (serial #7), and an electronic strings device called the “Pettotron.”

The centerpiece of Fireballet’s early shows, which typically ran several hours, was their 45-minute epic “Night On Bald Mountain,” a multi-movement suite with themes appropriated from Debussy and the namesake Mussorgsky series. During intermissions, Chlanda performed solo guitar improvs with an assortment of gadgetry (pedals, echoplex, tape loops).

Along with band-friend and fellow Jerseyite Larry Fast (Synergy), Fireballet were one of the first stateside acts signed to Passport Records, an American label steeped in the UK/German underground (Nektar, Camel, Capability Brown, Lucifer’s Friend). They entered Broadway Recording Studios in New York City with producer Ian McDonald, the one-time keyboardist/reedist of King Crimson and McDonald and Giles. Fireballet were one of the first bands to record in Sansui Quad.


Night on Bald Mountain

Fireballet released their debut album, Night on Bald Mountain, in 1975 on Passport.

A1. “Les Cathèdrales” (10:16)
A2. “Centurion (Tales Of Fireball Kids)” (4:46)
A3. “The Fireballet” (5:15)
B1. “Atmospheres” (3:40)

B2. “Night On Bald Mountain (Suite)”
      a. “Night On Bald Mountain” (2:20)
      b. “Night-Tale” (6:28)
      c. “The Engulfed Cathedral” (4:38)
      d. “Night-Tale (Reprise)” (2:34)
      e. “Night On Bald Mountain (Finale)” (2:50)

Recorded At – Broadway Recording Studios
Producer – Ian McDonald
Engineer – Bill Radice
Arranged By – Fireballet

Martyn Biglin – Bass, Twelve-String Guitar, Pedalboard [Bass Pedals], Synthesizer [Moog Taurus Pedals]
Ryche Chlanda – Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Jim Como – Lead Vocals, Drums, Timpani, Xylophone, Vibraphone, Glockenspiel, Bell Tree [Chinese], Gong, Finger Cymbals, Tubular Bells, Triangle
Bryan Howe – Organ [Hammond], Organ [Pipe], Celesta, Vocals
Frank Petto – Piano, Electric Piano, Synthesizer [ARP 2600], Mellotron, Strings [Electronic], Synthesizer [Oberheim DS-2 Digital Sequencer], Vocals

Ian McDonald – Alto Saxophone (B2a to B2e), Flute (B1 to B2e)

Art Direction – Toni J. Wadler
Illustration, Design – Ron Levine
Photography By – Lee Marshall


Two, Too

Fireballet released their second album, Two, Too, in 1976 on Passport.

A1. “Great Expectations” (4:30) Written-By – Jim Cuomo
A2. “Chinatown Boulevards” (6:42) Written-By – Jim Cuomo, Ryche Chlanda; Harpsichord – Brian Cuomo, Woodwind [Additional] – John Zangrando
A3. “It’s About Time” (6:12) Harpsichord – Brian Cuomo, Written-By – Jim Cuomo
B1. “Desirée” (2:45) Written By – Mike Brown, Tom Feher
B2. “Flash” (5:11) Written-By – Ryche Chlanda
B3. “Carrollon” (6:00) Written-By – Jim Cuomo
B4. “Montage en Filigrée” (4:49) Arranged By [Strings] – Eumir Deodato, Written-By – Jim Cuomo

Recorded At – House Of Music, West Orange, NJ
Producer, Engineer – Stephan Galfas
Engineer – Cliff Hodson

Frank Petto – Accordion, Electric Piano, Autoharp, Synthesizer, Backing Vocals, Other [Polymoog, Pettotron]
Spike Biglin – Bass
Jim Cuomo – Drums, Other [Vibes, Tubular Bells, Wooden Blocks, Tympani, Sleigh Bells, Hand Cymbals, Bell Tree, Cup Gongs, Triangles, Polymoog], Xylophone, Marimba, Gong, Glockenspiel, Tambourine, Clavinet, Lead Vocals
Ryche Chlanda – Guitar, Mandolin [3-string], Zither [Chinese]
Brian Hough – Organ, Saxophone, Synthesizer, Recorder, Organ [Pipe Organ – West Orange Continental Cathedral Organ], Other [Polymoog, Rmi Rock-si-chord], Vocals

Art Direction – Tom Wilkes
Photography By – Lee Marshall


Discography:

  • Night on Bald Mountain (1975)
  • Two, Too (1976)

Sources:

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