Very few legendary rock groups boasting a string of seminal 1970s hits contain three original members in their ranks more than four decades later. Even fewer have a brand-new album out that vividly captures the sound and power of their best-known classics. Firefall has both. That’s reason for serious celebration from their legion of loyal fans.“Firefall hasn’t made a new record for a long, long time, since the ‘90s,” says Jock Bartley, the band’s founding lead guitarist and vocalist. “With three of us original guys in the band—myself, Mark Andes on bass, and David Muse on saxophone, flute, and keyboards—we’ve been touring, and it just felt to me as leader of the band, ‘It’s time. We need to start looking at material, writing material, to put a new album out.’” Comet, out December 11 on Sunset Blvd. Records, is that long-awaited release. Their lineup completed by drummer Sandy Ficca and singer/guitarist Gary Jones, Firefall set out to make an album on the same lofty artistic par as their ‘70s classics for Atlantic Records, when they set the pop singles charts ablaze with “You Are The Woman,” “Just Remember I Love You,” and “Strange Way.” They succeeded magnificently. “I wanted to make sure that at least half of the record, or three or four songs for sure, sounded like Firefall from the ‘70s–acoustic-based vocal songs,” says Jock. “The quality of the songs, I think personally, is real high because for years and years, I was looking at songs from outside writers that we might be able to use, and I was writing a bunch of songs. When it came time to try to select what ten songs would be on the record, we really looked at a lot of new songs. Because really, that’s the key: the quality of the songs. And then, of course, the singers and players that play on it.” The band had to overcome a few obstacles along the way. “The problem was that the five members of the band live in five different states,” says Jock, who produced the disc along with the band and a handful of collaborators. “When we’d fly somewhere to a gig, at soundcheck or something, we might look at a new song or talk about recording or whatever. But to get all of us in the same town at the same time to record was really a challenge for me. We’d have a gig in Colorado, and everybody would come out and we’d stay out for a couple of days and record a couple of songs. Same thing when we’d go into Nashville—we’d go stay at Gary’s house and go in the studio and record a song or two.” Conquering those logistical roadblocks was worth all the effort. The rocking opener “Way Back When,” one of four tracks on the set that Bartley wrote or co-wrote, pays tribute to the classic musical era that inspired Firefall. “The first verse and first chorus is set in 1965. The second verse and chorus is ‘67, and the third verse and chorus is 1969,” says Bartley. “The first verse is kind of the Beatles and the Stones sand the Byrds. The second verse is Aretha Franklin and the Young Rascals and the groups that had music out then. I sing the song, but the person singing the lyrics is looking back and remembering how the ‘60s were so vibrant and had such great music. We thought it would never end.” Bartley wrote another driving rocker, “There She Is,” for the disc. “That was a song of mine that I wrote just trying to be kind of positive and happy and an in love kind of guy, singing the song. Because so many songs are depressing or dark or not that well-written these days. So I really took my time and tried to write. And when I finished ‘There She Is,’ I presented it to the band, and I kind of thought it would be more a light rock song, like ‘Just Remember I Love You.’ “But boy, when we started playing it, it turned into a scorching rock and roll song. Which I thought, ‘Hey, we can use a few of those!’” The Bartley-penned “Before I Met You” is a mellower gem, while “A New Mexico,” with guest vocalist Mark Trippensee, is a belated followup to the band’s classic “Mexico” from their eponymous 1976 debut album. “I kept saying to myself, ‘We need a new “Mexico.” We need a new song like “Mexico” that sounds like Firefall that I can just burn on and play my signature guitar stuff on,’” explains Jock. “I kind of took the idea and the groove from our original ‘Mexico,’ written by Firefall co-founder Rick Roberts, and updated it and changed the chords. I didn’t really think about writing a song named ‘A New Mexico,’ but it turned out that way. That was one of my attempts to pretty much sound like some of the old ‘70s Firefall records.” Lead singer Jones penned the powerful “Never Be The Same.” “He’s a singer-songwriter out of Nashville, and he’s been in the band for four or five years now. And I was really pushing him to present some songs,” says Bartley. “It’s basically about his mother passing away. So it’s a really heartfelt song where he talks about his mom.” “Hardest Chain” was co-penned by Ficca. “That’s another one in a modern, kind of different way, but it sounds a lot like Firefall because Firefall used to have a lot of minor-chord, darker songs,” notes Jock. “Not every song we did was ‘You Are The Woman’ or ‘Just Remember I Love You.’” Andes fronts a rousing remake of Spirit’s immortal “Nature’s Way,” paying tribute to the days when he was that band’s rock-solid bassist (he left Spirit in 1971 to form Jo Jo Gunne). “We’ve been playing the song ‘Nature’s Way’ live a lot and getting great response from our fans who love Spirit,” says Jock. “Mark knows Timothy B. Schmit, and he asked him and John McFee from the Doobie Brothers if they’d play and sing on the song, and they did.  Nashville country songsmith Gary Burr is responsible for the wry “Younger.” “Gary sent us that song, and we were going to get together and rehearse in the following week or two, and every one of us just said, ‘Wow, that’s great!’” says Jock. “Ghost Town” hails from outside sources; Tony Joe White was its co-author. “That was a song that David Muse brought,” says Jock. “He lives in Florida, and he has a little club band that he plays with sometimes. Evidently he’s been playing that song ‘Ghost Town’ for a long time.” The late Virginia rocker Robbin Thompson, a longtime friend of Firefall, scribed “A Real Fine Day,” given a thoroughly uplifting lead vocal by Jones. “Robbin’s version is a little bit different than what we did to it, but same melody, same chords, same lyrics,” says Bartley. “How many songs do you hear today that are really happy, really positive, and talking about what a great day it is? Not too many!”  “I was really just looking for really good songs that worked together and showcased Firefall as a band. I think I was pretty successful, and I’m really happy that at long last, even with the pandemic, it’s coming out!” The album title refers to Comet Neowise, which lit up the Western U.S. nighttime skies a few months ago (it’s pictured on the CD cover). That image is reminiscent of the striking artwork on the band’s ‘70s albums, referencing their unusual name. “The name Firefall comes from Yosemite National Park, where for over 100 years, they light a bonfire off on top of a cliff and slowly push it over. And they say, ‘And there was a firefall!’ It was this big tourist attraction,” explains Bartley. “When Rick Roberts, the leader of the band in the ‘70s, when we had to pick a name—it was a lot easier to learn the songs than to pick a name. And Rick said, ‘How about Firefall?’ ‘Firefall?’ ‘Maybe–put it on the list.’ So we had so few names on the list, he went, ‘Okay, we’re Firefall!’” Firefall came together in Boulder, Colorado in 1974. Bartley had crossed paths with Roberts a short time earlier in New York City when Jock was the lead guitarist with revered country rockers Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels and Rick, formerly with Parsons in the Flying Burrito Brothers, was performing there at another club. “We were saying, ‘You live in Boulder? I live in Boulder! Hey, man, we should get together!’” says Jock. “He and I got together in Boulder and started rehearsing on his songs. “As soon as Mark Andes started joining in with us, it became obvious that it could be a band, especially with Rick’s vocals and Rick’s songs. And with me and Mark playing on it, there was magic there. Rick said, ‘I know this guy in Washington, D.C., Larry Burnett, who’s driving a cab. And he’s looking for a gig. We should get him out here!’ We flew Larry out, and the first day of practice we had, we had 30 songs to work out!” The band still needed a drummer. “Rick said, ‘Well, Michael Clarke’s driving around the great Northwest in his VW bus with nothing to do—should I call him and have him come down?’ And Mark and I looked at each other and Larry and said, ‘Sure, get Michael down here!’ Michael was with the Byrds!” Chris Hillman had also been a longtime Byrd. Jock, Rick, and Mark were moonlighting in his self-named band at a New York City gig when Hillman fell ill and was unable to continue. “We told the owners of the Other End, ‘Hell, the three of us are the band Firefall—we can fly the other two guys out and finish the two-night stand!’” says Bartley. “So Firefall went to New York City and played two nights, and that’s right when we were shopping our demo tape. Atlantic Records was quite interested in us, and came and saw us two nights. At the end of the night they got in the dressing room and said, ‘We want to sign you guys!’ And we got our record deal and we were going to make our first album. “We had three guitar players, with me being the lead guitar player. We realized we needed a keyboard or a sax,” continues Jock. “Rick Roberts said, ‘Hey, man, I know David Muse! I grew up with him in high school. He’s great—let’s get him out here!’ And David became our sixth member.” Firefall cut its 1976 Atlantic debut album at Criteria Studios in Miami. It included “You Are The Woman.” “Rick was thinking in his head, ‘I need to write a really happy, positive pop song that’ll be in the Top Ten!’ And he wrote ‘You Are The Woman,’” says Jock. “Some of us in the band didn’t really like it, because it was really different. It wasn’t like ‘Mexico’ or ‘Livin’ Ain’t Livin’’ or ‘Cinderella’ or any of that strummy, fast, ballsy stuff that Firefall was becoming. But boy, most everybody, including the producer and then Atlantic Records, they heard that song, and they went, ‘That’s what we want!’” “You Are The Woman” crashed the Top Ten. 1977’s “Just Remember I Love You” and “Strange Way” the next year cemented their stardom. “Boulder, Colorado became this hotbed for music, and Firefall was kind of the shining light out of that,” says Jock. “A lot of people have called Firefall ‘the Colorado Sound.’” Now Comet is poised to rocket into the cosmos, the latest chapter in Firefall’s amazing saga.   Firefallofficial.com | facebook.com/FIREFALLofficial  |  instagram.com/firefallofficial/

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