Flame was an American hard-rock band from Brooklyn that released the 1977/78 RCA albums Queen of the Neighborhood and Flame. They later worked as backing players for Brooklyn-born German star Helen Schneider.
Singer Marge Raymond had a background in session work and roots in the girl group era. She was one of many talents picked for the 1977 all-star project Intergalactic Touring Band.
Members: Marge Raymond (vocals), Jimmy Crespo (guitar), Frank Ruby (guitar), John Paul Fetta (bass), Bob Leone (keyboards), Eddie Barbato (drums)
Flame appeared in 1976 when veteran singer Marge Raymond formed a rock band after years as a session vocalist.
Raymond was first discovered at age 14 singing doo-wop on the corner of Ave D in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn. She was invited to the Brill Building on Broadway and signed to Coed Records, home of The Crests and The Duprees. Under the guidance of writer/producer Billy Dawn Smith, she fronted Margie and the Formations on the 1965 single “Better Get What Goes For You” (b/w “Sad Illusion”), both perky girl-group tracks in the vein of The Chiffons and The Marvelettes. She was offered a spot in the Shangri-Las but declined due to road weariness, not envisioning their success.
As an adult, Raymond surfaced in the ’70s vocal trio Sumagna with singers Susan Collins and Nancy O’Neill. They signed to Don Kirshner Enterprises with Paul Shaffer as their musical director. As session vocalists, they backed Ritchie Havens, Benny Mardones, Elephant’s Memory, and New Riders of the Purple Sage. Along with singer Ellie Greenwich, they backed Electric Light Orchestra on their 1975 release Face the Music, where Margie’s vocals interject those of frontman Jeff Lynne on the hit “Evil Woman.”
Her efforts impressed the album’s co-engineer Jimmy Iovine, who urged her to front a band. She formed Flame with drummer Eddie Barbato, lead guitarist Jimmy Crespo, keyboardist Bob Leone, bassist John Paul Fetta, and rhythm guitarist Frank Ruby.
Fetta played on the 1972 Columbia release Naked Songs by Al Kooper. He first teamed with Ruby in Frankie & Johnny, which issued the 1973 Warner album The Sweetheart Sampler.
1977: Queen of the Neighborhood
Flame released their debut album, Queen of the Neighborhood, on RCA in 1977. It features eight originals, mostly co-written by Crespo (incl. “Long Time Gone” and “Laugh My Tears Away”), plus covers of Chuck Jackson (“Beg Me”) and Frankie Miller (“All My Love to You“). Iovine produced the album and co-wrote three numbers: “Angry Times,” “You Sit In Darkness,” and the title track.
This was among Iovine’s first productions after four years as an engineer on albums by Return to Forever (Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy), Lighthouse, Kansas, The Raspberries, Bruce Springsteen, Merry Clayton, Meat Loaf, and Wiggy Bits.
Through Iovine’s contacts with the E Street Band (as engineer on Born to Run), Queen of the Neighborhood features horn arrangements by Steve Van Zandt, plus saxophone by Clarence Clemons on the track “All My Love to You.” Flame recorded the album at New York’s Record Plant with engineer Thom Panunzio, credited here as “Surprise Guest Electron Director.” Most recently, he engineered 1976 Arista releases by General Johnson and Hermann Szobel (Szobel).
Flame toured Queen of the Neighborhood as an opening act for Bachman Turner Overdrive, Foreigner, and Nektar. “Beg Me” and “Angry Times” were paired on an RCA 7″. “Beg Me” also appears with “You Sit In Darkness” on Father and Suns, a promo-only comp with two cuts each from the contemporary RCA titles Hip Shot by Stephen Dees and The Idiot by Iggy Pop.
Raymond, along with Clemons and fellow Iovine associate Meat Loaf, appears on the 1977 sci-fi concept album Intergalactic Touring Band, an all-star project on Passport Records. She sings as the titular character on the track “Silver Lady.”
Flame’s self-titled second album appeared in 1978 on RCA. It features three songs by Crespa (“Don’t You Go,” “Shadow In the Night,” “Midnight Sun”); one apiece by Fetta (“Watch Me Run”), Leone (“It’s All Over”), and Ribando (“Walk Away”); plus covers of Willie Dixon (“Too Many Cooks”) and the Isley Brothers (“This Old Heart of Mine”).
Flame was produced by Iovine at the House of Music, West Orange, New Jersey, and mastered at Sterling Sound by Gregory Calbi (William Bell, Spooky Tooth, The Chambers Brothers, Atmospheres). Barbato cleared out for drummer Thommy Price on this release. Two tracks feature drummer Woody Cunningham and organist Louis Small, who both soon emerged in Kleeer.
“Too Many Cooks” and “Shadow In the Night” were both issued as a-sides. The former features uncredited backing vocals by Luther Vandross. Both songs appear on March 1978 Album Sampler, a white-label promo LP that also features several acts on RCA-subsidiary Windsong, including two cuts by future associate Helen Schneider.
Leone played bass behind singer-songwriter Melanie on her 1978 RCA/Tomato double-album Ballroom Streets, a live-in-studio release that also features keyboardist Luis Cabaza (Stray Dog, Aalon, Gap Band) and guitarist (Jay Ferguson).
Fetta played on 1978–81 albums by Patti Smith, Sylvester, J.R. Funk and the Love Machine, and ex-Ten Wheel Drive singer Genya Ravan. In 1980, he formed Atma for the album In Transit, also released as Haven’t You Had Enough?
Crespo backed ex-Stories frontman Ian Lloyd on his 1979 solo album Goose Bumps, which also has appearances by , , Mick Jones (Spooky Tooth, Foreigner) and songs by Terry Britten, Russ Ballard, Ric Ocasek, Ian Hunter, plus covers of The Zombies, Bee Gees, and the Hello track “Love Stealer” (later covered by Cliff Richard on his 1983 release Silver).
Later in 1979, Crespo helped a troubled Aerosmith complete their sixth studio album Night in the Ruts and remained their guitarist until 1984.
The alumni of Flame, including both Barbato and Price, perform on the 1980 release Crazy Lady by Brooklyn singer Helen Schneider. It appeared on WEA in Germany, where Schneider found fame. Price stuck around for her 1981 release Schneider With The Kick, which includes a cover of “Angry Times.” He also played on early ’80s albums by Mink DeVille, Tom Verlaine, Billy Idol (Rebel Yell), Scandal, and The Psychedelic Furs. In 1986, he partnered with bassist/singer Kasim Sulton on the CBS release Lights On.
Raymond reteamed with Crespo in the band Renegade, which also featured guitarist Bob Mayo (Peter Frampton) and the rhythm section of a then-waylaid Aerosmith. They cut an album for CBS that got shelved the moment Aerosmith frontman Steve Tyler summoned his band for contractual obligations to said label. She then fronted hard-rockers Kicks, which cut tracks for an album with ex-Mountain bassist Felix Pappalardi. That project collapsed with Pappalardi’s untimely death in 1983. Her last band was Proton, which recorded at New York’s Hit Factory but collapsed when a member died.
After the band activity, Raymond turned to theater and played Madame Defarge in a stage adaptation of the 1859 Charles Dickens historical novel A Tale of Two Cities. She also sang commercial adverts, including jingles for Pontiac, Michelob, and Mountain Dew. For Leggs pantyhose, she belted the memorable tagline “they’re going to move you, they’re going to smooth you” to an appropriation of “Legs” by ZZ Top. In 1991, she partook in the Paul McCartney Oratorio, a classical production at Carnagie Hall by the ex-Beatle.
- Queen of the Neighborhood (1977)
- Flame (1978)
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