The Bliss Band

The Bliss Band was an English–American adult-oriented rock band based in Los Angeles. They made two albums for Columbia: the Steely Dan-inspired Dinner With Raoul (1978) and the West Coast-styled Neon Smiles (1979).

Members: Paul Bliss (vocals, piano, keyboards), Nigel Elliott (drums, percussion), Phil Palmer (guitar), Andy Brown (bass, vocals), Alan Park (organ, piano, keyboards)


The Bliss Band formed when namesake keyboardist and songwriter Paul Bliss converged in Los Angeles with four fellow English musicians: guitarist Phil Palmer, keyboardist Alan Park, bassist Andy Brown, and drummer Nigel Elliott.

Bliss (b, June 26, 1953; Birmingham) hailed from Dog Soldier, a spinoff of the Keef Hartley Band that released a 1975 self-titled album on United Artists. He also spent time in the David Essex Band along with Palmer, who hailed from the 1974 one-off Dragonfly with Alan Park, who also played on Goin’ Down Laughing, the second album by Big Jim Sullivan’s Tiger.

Dinner With Raoul

The Bliss Band released their first album, Dinner With Raoul, in September 1978 on Columbia. It features ten originals by Paul Bliss, most modeled on mid-period Steely Dan, including “Rio,” “Over the Hill” “Don’t Do Me Any Favours,” and “Whatever Happened.”

Ex-Dan guitarist (and current Doobie Brother) Jeff Baxter plays acoustic and pedal steel guitar on Dinner With Raoul, which features backing vocals by fellow Doobie Michael McDonald on two tracks (“Slipaway,” “Stay a Little Longer”) and L.A. Express malletist Victor Feldman on “Rio.” Tower of Power trumpeter Gregory Adams arranged the horns on “Right Place, Right Time.”

A1. “Rio” (3:37)
A2. “Over the Hill” (3:19)
A3. “Slipaway” (3:42)
A4. “Don’t Do Me Any Favours” (4:01)
A5. “On the Highway” (3:25)
B1. “Right Place, Right Time” (5:12) features backing vocals by ex-Ikette Venetta Fields.
B2. “Stay a Little Longer” (3:04)
B3. “Here Goes” (4:22)
B4. “Whatever Happened” (4:03)
B5. “Take It if You Need It” (2:55) features backing vocals by Doobie drummer Keith Knudsen.

Sessions took place at Cherokee Studios, Hollywood, where Baxter earned his first production credit on Dinner With Raoul, which he slotted between work on 1978 albums by Dusty Springfield (It Begins Again), Stanley Clarke (Modern Man), and his own Doobie Brothers (Minute By Minute). Baxter next worked as a soundman for Nazareth on their 1980 release Malice In Wonderland.

Dinner With Raoul was engineered and mastered by A&M Studios staffer Bernie Grundman, whose concurrent credits include titles by the Tarney–Spencer Band, Kinsman Dazz, Patrice Rushen, Racing Cars, Starcastle, Cedar Walton, Chick Corea, and Lenny White.

Artist Bill Stout illustrated the cover to Dinner With Raoul, which shows a spat between a yuppie and his hot date in front of Raoul’s taco stand; flanked with the band (far right) and a cup-sniffing Cocker Spaniel.

Columbia lifted “Slipaway” as a single (b/w “Take It if You Need It”).

Neon Smiles

The Bliss Band released their second album, Neon Smiles, in 1979 on Columbia. It features eight solo compositions by Paul Bliss, including the epic closer “That’s the Way That It Is,” a 1982 hit for Uriah Heep. Phil Palmer co-wrote “We Never Had It So Good” and the frantic opener “Stagefright,” a group-written number with Andy Brown.

Neon Smiles expands from their Steely Dan influence with traces of Latin pop (“Hollywood”), West Coast balladry (“Someone Else’s Eyes”), and uptempo new wave (“Stagefright,” “Doctor”). Side B includes the guitar-based blues instrumental “If It Takes Until Forever” and the Toto-esque rocker “Something About You.”

A1. “Stagefright” (4:34)
A2. “How Do I Survive?” (4:08)
A3. “Hollywood” (3:51)
A4. “Someone Else’s Eyes” (4:12)
A5. “Doctor” (4:31)
B1. “Chicago” (5:40)
B2. “We Never Had It So Good” (3:14)
B3. “If It Takes Until Forever” (2:37)
B4. “Something About You” (3:59)
B5. “That’s the Way That It Is” (7:15)

Sessions took place in England at two studios owned by Richard Branson: the Town House (London) and the Manor (Shipton-on-Cherwell). Neon Smiles was produced by Geoff Westley, an auxiliary musician (The Hollies, Sweet) who worked with Italian singer–songwriter Lucio Battisti.



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