There were many people who loved the music of Sunup in the 1970's. It was an intense period of time that was reflected in the music. But Sunup’s music wasn't available then.
So why would Sunup release that music over forty years later? Simply put, many of the songs are timeless and unfortunately, too many of society's challenges and disturbances from that time period have not disappeared. In fact some have even festered. For example, new stories, books and classified documents are still being rolled out about the Attica uprising. We're also still debating about legalizing pot and discussing the unfair practices in the criminal justice system, that have caused the incarceration of so many black males. And in regard to the live recording of the song Open Up, which is about the Nixon presidency, that continues to be an unraveling piece of history as well, and one that irreparably damaged the country, having drawn similarities to what we are now experiencing.
Even the tune Old Wooden Barns brings voice to environmental concerns and the disruptive nature of housing tracts and mini-malls replacing the old wooden barns in the countryside. The dialogue around environmental concerns remains as heated now.
Sunup performed mostly in western New York, but also opened shows for Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Eric Anderson, Johnny Winter and others. Some of the best gigs were at college campuses and small coffeehouses throughout New York and Vermont. In Rochester, they performed regularly at the Bungalow Inn (formerly on Mt. Hope Ave.), The Wine Press, Steak Stockade and area schools.
The Passion & Politics recording preserves the historical context of the early 1970's, while also uncovering the ups and downs of the group’s personal relationships, further adding to an already volatile time period. Unsettled times often provide a wealth of songwriting material for artists.
Over the past couple years Garry Manuel took a great number of reel-to-reel tapes in storage and had them converted to digital files, otherwise, they would have soon disintegrated. The backing carbon on the majority of the tapes had begun to break down and had to be baked (yes baked!) in order to play properly while passing across the tape heads of the tape deck. John Schroth, from Media Transfer, did an incredible job in the conversion process, and all the material on the reels was saved. Some of the recordings were not particularly well recorded to begin with.
Garry's son, Marshall, began the process of remastering the tunes. Many of the songs were recorded live on WCMF-fm. At the time the station was a progressive rock station in Rochester, NY. Not only were many of the live concerts performed at the station, but also some were recorded at clubs, like the Wine Press, that once was on the corner of Norton and N. Goodman Streets in Rochester. The bottom line was that the majority of the recordings were done live to 2 track, so you’re not able to go into individual tracks and tweak the audio in a precise manner. Instead, some of the changes you attempt to make can influence the entire track and compromise other important aspects of the recording.
The core of Sunup was James Wilson (Goon), known in Connecticut as Ethan Carey (his radio name on WRKI) and Garry Manuel. Charlie Castilano was the bassist in the early days of Sunup, who also did much of their graphic design, and can be heard on numerous tracks of this CD. Around 1974 Kerry Peterson (RIP) replaced Charlie on bass. Some of his shining moments can be heard on this album. Kerry, in fact, would remain as part of the three phases of Sunup over the decades.
Sunup also brought in special guests, like Benny Grammatico (Ben Gramm), Dee Carstensen and many others to perform at concerts and live shows. They can also be heard lending strong support on some of the studio tracks as well.
The early studio tracks were done at PCI Studio, once on Culver Rd. in Rochester. The engineer was the incomparable, Mick Guzauski. He was doing amazing things with his talents then and continues to do so now, like recent projects with Daft Punk. Mick's resume is impressive and reads like a who's who in the music business. His engineering talent was evident in these early studio tracks. Keep in mind that Attica and Old Wooden Barns were recorded on an 8-track machine! Mick’s talents became more widely recognized after recording the Friends and Love Concert with Chuck Mangione.
What transcends Sunup’s music is the lifelong bond of friendship that remains as strong, if not stronger, since the 1970's. The group is preparing to record with their sons, Marshall and EJ, who are terrific songwriters and artists in their own right. The group is appropriately being called, Sonsup! So, the Sunup story will live on.
David Crosby offers a great example of how older musicians can continue to write and record great music and mix with younger musicians (Snarky Puppy). Manuel and Wilson, both in their 60's, continue to create and record. Sunup followers will be able to reflect on the memories that Passion & Politics offers up as well as the new material that will be released in the coming years.
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