Orchestra Luna

Orchestra Luna was an American operatic art-rock septet from Boston that released a self-titled album in 1975 on Epic, produced by Rupert Homes.

Members: Rick Berlin (keyboards), Scott Chambers (bass), Randy Roos (guitar), Don Mulvaney (drums), Lisa Kinscherf (vocals), Liz Gallagher (vocals), Peter Barrett (vocals), Steven Paul Perry (guitar), Chet Cahill (bass), Bob Brandon (keyboards), Ace Holleran (drums, 1976-77), Karla DeVito (vocals, 1976), Erik Engstrom (drums, 1977-78), Joe Petruzzelli (drums, 1978)


Background

Orchestra Luna formed in 1973 when keyboardist–composer Richard Kinscherf assembled a cabaret–rock septet with his sister, Lisa, and three musicians and two additional singers on the Boston music scene: guitarist Randy Roos, bassist Scott Chambers, drummer Don Mulvaney, and singers Liz Gallagher and Peter Barrett.

Kinscherf (b. 1943; Sioux City, Iowa) graduated from Yale University, where he served as the second tenor in the campus singing group the Whiffenpoofs during the 1966-67 school year. After several years in Northeast music and theater projects, he conceived a new act that would fuse both worlds.

Chambers, a Tufts student, answered Richard’s ad and recommended Roos, a Berklee College of Music alumnus who played guitar in the jazz-rock band Softwood, which performed at Club Zircon where Lisa worked as a waitress. After considerable prodding, Roos joined Orchestra Luna, which hired Chambers from an audition pool of forty drummers. Liz joined as their second female vocalist while Barrett narrated their theatrical live act, which roused audiences around Cape Cod and the Greater Boston area.

In 1974, Orchestra Luna signed with the Epic Records division of CBS–Columbia. They pressed an acetate of their proposed album, slated for an October release. After Epic president Bruce Lundvall caught the band’s live act, he insisted they ad two unrecorded setlist numbers (“Doris Dreams” and the vintage showtune “Heart”) to the finished album. This delayed the release by five months and squeezed three songs (“Fishbowl,” “Chicken,” “Sky Is Red”) from the final tracklist.


The Album

Orchestra Luna released their singular album in March 1975 on Epic. It features seven originals by Richard Kinscherf, including “Far Wray,” and the epics “Love Is Not Enough” and “Doris Dreams.”

Side A contains two outside compositions: “Were You Dancin’ On Paper” (by veteran Italian pop writer Francesco Reitano) and “Heart” (from the 1955 musical Damn Yankees by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross).

Singer–songwriter Rupert Holmes arranged, conducted, and co-produced Orchestra Luna with his musical partner, engineer Jeffrey Lesser. In an article sub-titled “Looney Tunes,” PopTop writer Andy Doherty described the album’s vocal element as “camp tangles redolent of stage-door alleycats, Saturday morning cartoons, and R.A. Lafferty stories.”

A1. “Were You Dancin’ On Paper” (3:34)
A2. “Miss Pamela” (3:17)
A3. “Little Sam” (3:12)
A4. “Heart” (5:54)
A5. “Love Is Not Enough” (6:25)
B1. “Boy Scouts” (2:24)
B2. “Fay Wray” (4:18)
B3. “But One” (3:02)
B4. “Doris Dreams” (11:53)

Sessions took place in July–August 1974 at Mediasound Studios in Manhattan, where Holmes produced Orchestra Luna after finishing his own debut album, Widescreen.

Orchestra Luna credits three concertmasters: trumpeter Alan Rubin (Blood Sweat and Tears), violinist David Nadien (Hubert Laws, Grover Washington Jr., O’Donel Levy), and saxophonist Lou Del Gatto (Barry Miles, Cal Tjader).

Due to the album’s postponed release, the back cover states 1974 while the LP labels state 1975. Orchestra Luna appeared in sequence with Holmes-produced Epic–Columbia titles by Barbra Streisand, Sailor (Trouble), and Rupert’s self-titled second album.

Orchestra Luna features liner notes by Epic A&R Tom Werman, who calls Randy Roos “absolutely unparalleled on guitar” and declares Kinscherf “an astounding and unique composer and pianist, whose vocal style sets a standard for a future wave of entertainers.”

Epic lifted an edit of “Heart” (2:56) as a promo 7″. The song became an annual opening-day theme for the Boston Red Sox.


Later Incarnations

Orchestra Luna received little promotion from Epic, which dropped the band after Lundvall cleared for new brass with no sympathy for the band’s sui generis music.

In late 1975, Kinscherf disbanded the original septet and moved to New York, where he formed a second Orchestra Luna with guitarist Steven Paul-Perry (another Berklee alumnus) and singer Karla DeVito. This lineup shared double-bills with Talking Heads at CBGBs and appeared in the Kennedy Center’s single staging of Neverland, a 1974 musical by Jim Steinman with three songs (“Bat Out of Hell”, “Heaven Can Wait,” “All Revved Up With No Place to Go”) that the writer recorded with Meat Loaf for their album-in-waiting, Bat Out of Hell. Soon after, Orchestra Luna disbanded. Karla joined Meat Loaf’s tour and sang the female BOoH parts (sung on the album by Ellen Foley).

In 1977, Kinscherf changed his name to Rick Berlin and formed Luna, a new wave band that released one single, “Hollywood” (b/w “Dumb Love”), in 1978 on Titanium Records. They recorded a full album that ended up vaulted under litigation.


Post-Luna

Randy Roos teamed with guitarist Mike Stern and bassist Neil Stubenhaus for the 1978 jazz-rock album Mistral on Spoonfed Records. He played on Eighties-era albums by Robert Ellis Orrall and Peter Wolf and teamed with Steve Khan and bassist Victor Bailey (late-period Weather Report) for the 1990 disc Photogenic Memory.

Rick Berlin and Paul-Perry formed the rock band Berlin Airlift, which released a 1982 album on Handshake Records, a short-lived subsidiary of CBS. They followed with the 1983 EP, Professionally Damaged, on self-press Lo-Tech Records.

Peter Barrett moved to San Francisco and teamed with his three brothers (Tim, Tom, and Dave) in No Sisters, a new wave band that released the 1981–82 indie singles “Rosco’s Family” (b/w “Lights Out”) and “(You Bring Out) the Animal In Me.”


Discography:

  • Orchestra Luna (1975)

Sources:

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