And so the story continues...
As most Savatage fans already know, Jon has always been plagued with the dilemma of trying to choose which songs to put on the next Savatage record, simply because there has always been too many songs to put on 2 cds, let alone one. Between the collaborations and the material Jon writes on his own, this daunting task has often left great songs in the closet. Hence, "Jon Oliva's Pain"! The Mountain King has been stockpiling songs for many a Savatage record and some of those songs, while not appropriate for the record at hand, were destined none the less to be brought to life.
With the break between a new Savatage recording and the current 2003 TSO tour, Jon finally had the time to pursue the goal of bringing some of those songs to life. It was clear to him from the beginning that these songs were going to be a departure from the style and sound of the Sava-records of the past, and that was truly the point.
Jon took his ideas into Audio-Lab recording studios in Tampa, Florida. With the help and expertise of engineer Greg Marchak, Jon began the process of recording the first seven songs to be featured on his solo release. He recorded every instrument on these demos, with the exception of the lead guitar solos, which were laid down by Matt LaPorte. The result was a compilation of songs that has been described as a cross between John Lennon and "old school" Savatage. Considering the fact that Jon is a HUGE Beatles fan, that comparison is a compliment to say the least. The music is bluesy, rich and full of the aggression that only Jon Oliva can deliver. The result was a great start to a potential solo release that Jon has wanted to do for a very long time.
The Criss Oliva Memorial Concert was quickly approaching. Thoughts and memories of Criss are clearly evident throughout this collection of great new songs, and it was only fitting that they be debuted at Criss' benefit concert. Fans would attend this anniversary event from Japan, Greece, Germany, Holland, Norway and a host of other countries, as well as from across the US. All would be there to pay tribute to Criss' legacy and the music that he created with Jon and the members of Savatage both past and present.
Since Circle II Circle was already scheduled to perform, Jon quickly seized the opportunity to recruit these seasoned musicians to join him on stage to deliver this new sound and his new songs. Joining Jon on stage that night were Matt LaPorte (guitar), John Zahner (keyboards), Jason Jennings (bass), and Christopher Kinder (drums). The set would consist of 6 songs from Jon's solo catalog plus "In the Dream" from Power of the Night, "Hey Bull Dog" by the Beatles and a classic cover of "Wishing Well" by the band Free.
The Memorial concert was a once in a lifetime event. Everyone in attendance (almost 1000 fans) piled into The Masquerade and prepared themselves for this historic tribute to one of the greatest guitar players of our time. An incredible show in which no words would adequately describe the energy level, would take Savatage fans on a "walk down memory lane" and become one for the history books...never to be repeated again.
Jon and the band took to the stage following the performance of Circle II Circle. You could feel the energy in the air and the excitement of the audience to hear something new. They would not be disappointed. The band performed as if they had been playing together for years, and frankly most of them had. Matt and Chris have been playing together for nearly 10 years and were friends with both John Zahner and Jason Jennings. The relaxed, yet aggressive, mood on stage translated Jon's new material perfectly to the hungry ears below. Everything went as planned and now it was time to focus on what to do with this music and its future.
Soon after the memorial show, the band members parted ways with Circle II Circle. Realizing that he had a ready-made band, Jon quickly moved in on the opportunity to bring his solo material to the masses. The band embraced the opportunity without hesitation, and brought in former Circle II Circle bass player Kevin Rothney, to solidify the line-up. Rehearsals began immediately and within 4 short weeks 'Tage Mahal was hitting the stage in the Tampa, Florida area. The set included Jon's solo material and more than an hour of classic Savatage, some of which had not been performed live on stage in a very long time.
Jon's voice has once again emerged as one of the most original and powerful voices in rock music. Response from the fans has been nothing short of exciting and the band continues to play with determined intensity. Delivering the new material as well as the old, has to be done properly and judging by the response, they've done just that!
After the 'Tage Mahal recording was finished, it was realized that a second guitarist would be needed and it would have to be someone who was very similar in style to Matt to actually reproduce the new material live. Having known Matt longer than anyone in the band, Jerry was very familiar with Matt's style of playing. Matt and Jerry are from the same old school of metal guitar. They harmonize beautifully and their styles are absolutely complimentary of one another so, expect exciting things in the future from this awesome guitar team. Matt and Jerry are intent on bringing back the shred guitar team approach.
The future of Jon Oliva has taken on a new and profound direction. His ability to write one great song after another present boundless opportunities. Whether it is Jon Oliva's Pain, Savatage, TSO, or any other form, Jon's music will continue to flow from him... to all of you!
We hope to see you all very soon.