Trillion

Trillion was an American AOR|hard-rock band that released the 1978–80 Epic albums Trillion and Clear Approach.

Members: Fergie Frederiksen (vocals, 1978-79), Thom Griffin (vocals, guitar), Frank Barbalace (guitar), Ron Anaman (bass), Patrick Leonard (keyboards), Bill Wilkins (drums)


Background

Trillion had its roots in Whisper, a Chicago bar band formed in 1976 with keyboardist Patrick Leonard, guitarist Frank Barbalace, bassist Ron Anaman, and drummer Bill Wilkins.

Leonard (b. March 14, 1956) hailed from Crystal Falls, Michigan, inspired by Gentle Giant and the conceptual works of Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Jethro Tull. In 1977, legal issues forced Whisper to adopt a new name, Trillion.

They hired singer Dennis “Fergie” Frederiksen (b. May 15, 1951), a Grand Rapids native fresh off a one-year stint with MSFunk, a storied band with multiple past lives (Little Joe & the Ramrods, The Strollers, The Smoke Ring). Fergie got his break in MSFunk when Tommy Shaw (a longtime friend) jumped ship to Midwest rising stars Styx.

Trillion singed with Epic Records and recorded their first album at the Caribou Ranch, a converted barn facility in the Rocky Mountains outside Nederland, Colorado, built four years earlier by music mogul James William Guercio for his main client, Chicago.


Trillion

Trillion released their self-titled debut album in December 1978 on Epic.

Side A features one song composed by guitarist Frank Barbalace with lyrics co-written with singer Fergie Frederiksen (“Give Me Your Money, Honey”); and two that Frederiksen co-wrote with keyboardist Patrick Leonard (“Big Boy,” “Never Had It So Good”). The trio group-wrote the bookends: “May As Well Go” and the flooding opener “Hold Out.”

Side B features one Barbalace lone-write (“Hand It to the Wind”) and the trio-composed “Fancy Action.” The last two tracks form an epic medley: “Bright Night Lights,” a trio-composed, Frank-worded flash-rocker; and “Child Upon the Earth,” a Barbalace-sung opus co-credited to Leonard (music) and Frederiksen (words).

A1. “Hold Out” (3:27)
A2. “Big Boy” (3:37)
A3. “Give Me Your Money, Honey” (3:27)
A4. “Never Had It So Good” (4:50)
A5. “May As Well Go” (3:17)
B1. “Fancy Action” (3:50)
B2. “Hand It To the Wind” (4:39)
B3. “Bright Night Lights” (3:29)
B4. “Child Upon the Earth” (6:06)

Trillion recorded the album at Caribou with producer–engineer Gary Lyons, an English soundman with credits on 1977–78 albums by Foreigner, Lone Star, Nutz, Wet Willie, and Crawler, whose second post-Paul Kossoff album (Snake, Rattle and Roll) was another Ranch recording.

Trillion sports graphics by CBS designer Gene Greif with art by Paula Bard, whose illustration depicts a mountain top morphed into a three-headed snow lion. The back cover shows the extended mountain range under a large crystalline moon. The lyrical inner-sleeve has a back-lit monochrome blue group-shot by Kwasniewski, also credited on Hounds’ concurrent Unleashed. Greif’s visuals also appear on covers to 1978 albums by Billy Cobham, The Clash, Flash and the Pan, John McLaughlin, Lonnie Liston Smith, and Woody Shaw.

Epic lifted “Hold Out” as a single (b|w “Big Boy”), followed by “Give Me Your Money, Honey” (b|w “Fancy Action”). Trillion opened bills for the biggest current rock acts, including Styx (2|23|79: Checkerdome, St. Louis) and Angel (3|9|79: Tower Theater, Upper Darby, Penn.). Frederiksen roused audiences with on-stage backflips, a highlight of their live set. When promotions wrapped on Trillion, he cleared out for singer Thom Griffin.


Clear Approach

Trillion released their second album, Clear Approach, in 1980 on Epic.

Clear Approach features eight songs composed by Pat Leonard with lyrics by Frank Barbalace, including “What Can You Do?” and the title track. New lead vocalist Thom Griffin made writing contributions on four songs: “I Know the Feeling,” “Make It Last Forever,” “Cities,” and “Love Me Anytime.” The last of those includes lyrical input by bassist Ron Anaman.

The opening track, “Make Time for Love,” is a harmony rocker composed by outsider Michael David Black.

A1. “Make Time for Love” (3:22) is a song by actor Michael David Black, first recorded by Columbus pop singer Gene Cotton for his 1979 Ariola release No Strings Attached.
A2. “Love Me Anytime” (3:38)
A3. “I Know the Feeling” (4:46)
A4. “Make It Last Forever” (5:11)
B1. “Promises” (3:54)
B2. “Cities” (4:26)
B3. “What Can You Do?” (4:05)
B4. “Clear Approach” (3:46)
B5. “Wishing I Knew It All” (4:34)

Trillion recorded the album in Chicago (CRC) and LA (Record Plant, Westlake Audio) with Little River Band producer John Boylan, who co-produced Boston‘s debut.

Clear Approach sports an image of a large full moon over a barren valley, where a road leads to hills in the distance. Epic lifted “Make Time for Love” as a single, backed with “You Clown,” a non-album exclusive.

B. “You Clown” (3:28)


Post-Trillion

Fergie Frederiksen adopted the name David London for the 1980 single “Samantha” (included in the 1980 Village People musical comedy Can’t Stop the Music) and a 1981 self-titled album, both on Metronome. In 1982, he demoed material with Gregg Giuffria for a possible Angel reboot; auditioned for Steve Walsh’s vacated role in Kansas; and sang backing vocals on the multi-Platinum third Survivor album, Eye of the Tiger. He joined Le Roux for their 1983 fifth album, So Fired Up, and replaced Bobby Kimball in Toto for their 1984 release Fahrenheit.

Patrick Leonard joined Software, a Chicago jazz-funk band with saxophonist Marc Colby and the early rhythm section of Chase and Survivor: drummer Gary Smith and bassist Dennis Keith Johnson. They cut one album, Marbles, in 1981 on the MCA-subsidiary Headfirst. As a sessionist, Leonard played on 1983–85 albums by Evelyn “Champagne” King, Stephanie Mills, Hiroshima, and the Stanley Clarke Band.

In 1986, Leonard began a 12-year collaboration with Madonna on numerous hits, including “Live to Tell,” “La Isla Bonita,” “Like a “Prayer,” and “Oh Father.” After multiple late-Eighties production credits (Jody Watley, Bryan Ferry, Sheena Easton), he teamed with songwriter Kevin Gilbert in Toy Matinee, which cut an acclaimed 1990 album on Reprise. When Gilbert focused on the career-launch of his then-girlfriend, Sheryl Crow, Leonard formed 3rd Matinee with singer Richard Page (Pages, Mr. Mister).

Frank Barbalace surfaced in Wild Blue, an AOR|hard-rock band that released the 1986 Chrysalis album No More Jinx.

Thom Griffin did backing vocals on albums by Dennis DeYoung (Back to the World, 1986) and Peter Cetera (One Clear Voice, 1995).


Discography:


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