“Let’s face it, we all grew up with the Partridge Family on MTV and ‘Nick at Nite’”. Being musicians, there was nothing we wanted more as kids than to be in a band, and that band, that family was perfect. Not in a plastic phony kind of way (at least not at the beginning of the series run) but in a very real way, dealing with real families problems and the logistics of being a road band” Leslie says. “And we were positive we didn’t want to form a Partridge Family ‘tribute’ band as some friends in LA had already done. We thought the music had more potential and more relevance than that. So when we finally got the studio done and started recording, we thought at first we’d just put the stuff out there on the internet and sell it off a website, donating the profits to various children’s charities. No way in a million years was any record company going to ever be interested in a band of guys our age recording 30 year old stuff, even with a newer sound. It was a labor of love, for the music, plus I felt it still resonated with today. We were in an unpopular war then, and we’re certainly at war now. People were looking for answers and not finding them. Those feelings, those yearnings, are in the music.”
“No way... was any record company going to be interested” indeed. Until the entrance of one Miss Shirley Jones, Oscar-winning actress, yes, eternally (to her sometimes chagrin) “Mama Partridge”, and still an extremely vibrant, healthy, immensely talented actress and incredible singer that had just come off of a hugely successful run on Broadway in the revival musical “42nd Street” with son Patrick, and in tow, irrepresible husband-manager and hilarious comedian in his own right, Marty Ingels.
Her first reaction? “You’ve got to be crazy” she laughs, “I’m not a pop singer. I never was.” The closest she came was a Bell single released in the Partridge years called “Ain’t Love Easy” that was performed on the TV show but never got the promotion it warranted. Produced by Bones Howe, who engineered all the Mamas and Papas records and later produced the Association and the Fifth Dimension, it was, in Les’s words, “a terrific timeless ballad that still had hit potential even today” and so he thought let’s see if Shirley would want to record it and give it another shot. And then they decided, just for kicks, to throw it around to the record companies to see what would happen. “We all knew that if only one company took interest, that record company would truly ‘get it’; any others we wouldn’t want to be dealing with anyway; let the rest of them chase after the next ‘Ashlee Simpson’ or ‘Britney Spears’.”
From that simple meeting after a concert in Laughlin, NV., formed an unlikely musical partnership that’s resulted in the first “Forever Family” CD, titled “The Forever Family ‘Light’” Shirley sings lead on three of the eleven songs while Leslie handles the rest, and the result is much better than it would seem, a fun-filled time warp trip back to a much happier time, yet still strangely current in a disconcerting way. The originals are as good as the covers, and not all the covers are familiar either; Leslie dug into his extensive collection of vinyl to find gems that should have been hits but for some reason, didn’t quite catch on. Leslie’s voice is higher and lighter than David Cassidy’s, although on some songs he sounds like he’s channeling him (not a bad thing for this kind of music!) Shirley, for those of you familiar with her legit operatic-style voice is virtually unreconizable here, sounding like an amazing new Adult Contemporary pop singer with a touch of a Liza Minelli influence, suprisingly soulful! Shirley rocks!! Some of the arrangements are very different, while some are almost note-for-note lifts, while still sounding different... different keys perhaps, a grunge distorted guitar chunking throughout. The end result is a lot of fun, not the kind of music you put on when you want to open a vein, but when you want to “Snap out of it!”
As was the Partridge Family before them, The Forever Family’s music is “augmented by other performers” although, unlike the Partridge Family, they’re 99% self-contained and the talent pool they’ve had to pick from (very good friends among the best of Las Vegas) is truly extensive. Michael Feldman is a brilliant basssist in his own right. Drummer Ken Greene was performing on the Vegas Strip before he was born (his mother is a lounge singer that performed in all the casinos.) Jimmy Tuuk on guitars, another Las Vegas veteran completes the lineup, along with lovely R&B rocker Avis Ellis, as well as luscious 20-something singer Stephanie Calvert, veteran of many top Vegas rock bands. Real horns, real strings, all the real vintage keyboards, guitars, sitars, and percussion gear (their condo/studio is wall-to-wall instruments and vintage gear, while the decor is kind of Mr. Brady’s formica Mondrian Partridge Family bus nightmare, with a worldclass collection of vintage Mid Century Modern furniture from “MTV Cribs”; it has to be seen to be believed). They duplicated to the inch Hal Blaine’s (the most recorded drummer in the world) monster drum kit with nine concert toms and the result is astounding!
Have they recorded hits in today’s Marilyn Manson, hip-hop, gansta rap, goth, rave-techno, Lady Ga-Ga world? Time can only tell, but if there is a rock and roll heaven, they’ve recorded (and will continue to record) zillions of ‘em.