THE A’s – A Woman’s Got The Power – (Arista) – 1981

The As - A Woman's Got The Power

I've had the The A's self titled debut album (not this one) from 1979 for many years. I'm pretty sure I found it in an op shop in the mid-80s for $1.

I tried selling it a number of record fairs for $3 without any luck.

I then realised it's probably better in my collection as there are a good half dozen songs on it.

From cut out bin, to op shop to record fair bargain.

Fame is fleeting that's for sure but The A's were hardly famous.

Allmusic's biography : "Philadelphia's the A's were a rock & roll band whose music combined the edgy energy of new wave with the muscle and attitude of East Coast rock. Formed in 1978, the A's featured Richard Bush on lead vocals, Rick DiFonzo on guitar, Rocco Notte on keyboards, Terry Bortman on bass, and Michael Snyder on drums. The band's powerful live show and hooky but aggressive tunes quickly earned them a loyal following in Philly, and they scored a contract with Arista Records. the A's self-titled debut album, produced by Rick Chertoff, was released in 1979, and it received enthusiastic reviews as well as plenty of local airplay. However, the album didn't sell well outside of Philadelphia and a few other strongholds on the East Coast. In 1981, the A's issued their second album, A Woman's Got the Power; with Chertoff again producing, the album polished off the sharper edges of the group's approach and embraced more of a heartland rock approach, as well as a stronger R&B influence, especially on the title track. Despite its more accessible sound, A Woman's Got the Power didn't sell appreciably better than the debut, and Arista dropped the band. In 1982, the A's self-released an EP, Four Dances, but it didn't do much to boost the band's fortunes, and once the A's paid off the recording bills, they split up".

The often perceptive dude from Badcat records had this to say about their debut album: "Formed in 1978, Philadelphia's The A's featured the talents of bassist Terry Bortman, singer Richard Bush, lead guitarist Rick DiFonzo, keyboardist Rocco Notte, and drummer Mikey Snyder.  The band's live shows quickly garnered them a loyal local following (you can still find a slew of fawning on-line reviews from folks who saw the band's early shows).  That in turn captured the attention of Clive Davis' Arista label which was on the lookout for new wave talent.  While The A's weren't really a new wave act, they were close enough for Arista management which quickly signed them to a recording contract.   They were quickly teamed with producer Rick Chertoff  going into New York's The Record Plant Studios to record 1979's cleverly-titled "The A's".   So leave it to a city like Philadelphia to spawn a bunch of guys who thought they were punks, but had a repertoire full of songs that were creative, lyrically intriguing, funny, and highly commercial.  Judging by the leather jacket drenched album cover, Bush (the only one member not wearing Ramones-styled leather) and company seemingly thought they were channeling English new-wave bands like The Boomtown Rats, or The Undertones (I know they were Irish), but the fact of the matter is The A's were really a first rate power-pop band.  Yeah, there wasn't a great deal of originality spread across these ten original numbers, but propelled by Bush's tawny, raw voice tracks like 'After Last Night', 'Teenage Jerk Off' and 'Grounded' had far more energy and enthusiasm than virtually all of the competition – imagine The Hooters with a new-wave edge, or a more urbane, jittery version of The Dwight Twilley Band, or a tougher version of The Cars and you'd have some idea of what to expect" http://badcatrecords.com/BadCat/As.htm

Now that a fair chunk of quoting. I know I could re-write that in my own words but why bother?

Both of those quotes describe the debut album (and band) accurately… energetic, enthusiastic power pop. But, I recall them being quite quirky  with a fair bit of humour.

And just to be sure I have listened to it again … yup, and it still works (albeit over 5-6 songs).

Not knowing anything about this second album I approach it with some trepidation. Commentators have alluded to the record label smelling a dollar and their encouragement for the band to move to broader commercial acceptance with the sound of the day.

It's hard enough to keep the momentum going on a second album without changing direction.

It doesn't bode well but …. I have to give it a listen.

Produced by Rick Chertoff  (Englishman Nick Garvey of pub rockers The Motors handling three tracks 1, 4, and 5), the album goes for more of a heartland rock sound (as if sung by an Englishman, at least on the Nick Garvey produced tracks)  with a fair chunk of new wave pop added to the mix … covering the bases.

The sound is big and the edginess, immediacy and having fun on the streets sound of the first album has gone.

This album sounds like it is purely the product of the studio. Of course I know it as recorded in the studio (as are most albums, derr) but some albums sound like they were born on the streets and then brought in for recording. This sounds like it was actually conceived in the studio.

This is slick US new wave – think The Hooters (also from Philadelphia and also produced by Chertoff), The Call, The Nails and others.

Having said that I don't mind a this sound in medium sized doses.

I have no idea about the cover art – a album called "A Woman's Got the Power"  with a "spunky" chick (80s style) , in leotards, drinking a glass of milk.  Perhaps it has something to do with the lyric to the title song "A woman's got the strength, A woman's got the power, Keep a man up, never let him down… yeah" … leotards equals exercise, milk equals strength? Perhaps I'm reading too much into the cover art. In any event the current PC police would ban the cover art on the basis that it must be offensive even if no one knows what it means.

All songs are by band members Richard Bush and Rocco Notte except where noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • A Woman's Got the Power –  a bit naff but actually quite catchy
  • Electricity –  lyrics about the "electricity" of passion would be better suited to a blue eyed soul song.
  • Heart of America –  horns!  (overdubbed?) banjo!!. This is heartland rock …With a title like "Heart of America" this could only be a heartland rock song, right? Think John Cougar Mellencamp.
  • How Do You Live –  big sounding new wave pop. Hooting with The Hooters.
  • When the Rebel Comes Home –  (Tom Jans) –  Folk singer/songwriter Tom Jans is most famous for writing and recording ‘Loving Arms’ in 1974 which was originally done by Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge (1973), before becoming a hit cover for Dobie Gray (#61US, #81US R&B, #7US Adult Contemporary 1973). It was also recorded by Elvis Presley (1974) and subsequently by some 30 other people. Watch those royalties come in …well until he died in 1984. This song is from his 1982 album Champion (which was recorded in 1978). How The A's got hold of it I don't know. It does sound like another Hooters reject though.
  • Johnny Silent –  This one is power pop harkening back to their debut though quite produced. It's catchy though.
  • Little Mistakes –  yes, here, on this song – too much Clarence Clemons / Bruce Springsteen type horns.
  • Working Man –  This is a little naff but quite catchy ..and it would fit nicely in one of those Hollywood teen films from the 80s trying to be "punky"
  • I Pretend She's You –  Quite Elvis Costello like though bigger
  • Insomnia  –  power pop like The Plimsouls though with quirky, slightly bizarre, keyboards over the top. This is a treat.

And …

Not as good as the debut but with this I have their entire catalogue.

The sound is big but it is a testament to the band that their quirky power pop come new wave  personalities still come through the gloss and (80s style) bombast …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1981  A Woman's Got The Power  Mainstream Rock  #18   

Album

1981 #146

England

Zip

Australia

Nothing – though this album (and the debut) were pressed and released locally.

Sounds

http://recordlective.com/The_A's/A_Woman's_Got_the_Power/b3b3422e-3828-3ad2-afcf-a89c221a4654/

A Woman's Got the Power

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtVxZMUbwOU

Johnny Silent

mp3 attached

Insomnia  

Mp3 attached

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnSFcNYuSjc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84gZXGdtz1o

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IBirFXX2Y8

2007 reunion

ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yXEWkeydx8

2013 reunion

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40Nbz6JSx1Y

2014

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otrYlRrj83U

Review

http://badcatrecords.com/BadCat/As.htm

http://www.pajiba.com/music/the-as.php

http://citysound.bohemian.com/2010/02/22/on-the-stereo-devon-rumrill/

http://chairshotrecords.blogspot.com.au/2008/08/as-womans-got-power-lp-arista-1981.html

Bio

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-as-mn0000037539/biography

Website

Trivia

  • After the bands break-up Bush and Notte briefly played together in The Candles. Guitarist Rick DiFonzo went on to a career as a sideman and session musician, working with Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, Roger Waters (he was a member of The Bleeding Hearts band (he's on "The Wall" video)), and Joan Osborne, and also leading his own band the Rick DoFonzo Band. Singer, Richard Bush, remained a fixture in the Philadelphia music scene with his band The Peace Creeps.
  • apparently Bruce Springsteen recorded "A Woman's Got the Power " live on tour in 1984 and 2011! http://www.brucespringsteen.it/DB/sd3.aspx?sid=11
  • Personnel: Richard Bush, Richard Bush (vocals); Rick DiFonzo (guitar); Rocco Notte (keyboards); Terry Bortman (bass instrument); Mike Snyder , Michael Snyder (drums).
  • The band had a reunion where they opened for the Hooters on two dates (11/21/07 & 11/23/07) and more recently in 2013. The followed with anew EP…http://articles.philly.com/2014-07-05/entertainment/51078396_1_rocco-notte-richard-bush-band
  • Their entire catalogue is 2 LPs,  2 EPs  and a few singles

About Franko

Hi, I'm just a person with a love of music, a lot of records and some spare time. My opinions are comments not reviews and are mine so don't be offended if I have slighted your favourite artist. I have listened to a lot of music and I don't pretend to be impartial. You can contact me on franklycollectible@gmail.com though I would rather you left a comment. I also sell music at http://www.franklycollectible.com Cheers
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