"When I was typing out the lyrics for 'KING OF
HEARTS,' I realized the songs were all about the ups and
downs of relationships. I wasn't going for any formula;
I just tried to put as much feeling into my singing,
playing, and writing as I could, and that only comes
from personal experience."
With his Modern/Atlantic debut, "KING OF HEARTS," ex-Fleetwood Mac lead vocalist/lead guitarist/songwriter Rick Vito has delivered a blazing, blues-rooted collection. With its passionate vocals, stellar songs, ace fretwork, powerhouse rhythm section, and stripped-down production, "KING OF HEARTS" displays the many talents that have fueled Rick's rich musical career.
Hailing from Philadelphia, Vito's earliest musical influences were Elvis Presley and Dick Clark's American Bandstand, which
broadcast from the City Of Brotherly Love for its first decade. "A lot of people would come into Philly to appear on Bandstand," Rick remembers, "and I'd watch it every day. I felt like I was right in the middle of things."
Rick first picked up the guitar as a child and went professional in his teens, playing with the doo-wop group Johnny
And The Inspirations. "I was the lone guitar player on stage," he recalls, "playing with five guys in leather jackets and Cuban heels." Vito went on to hone his guitar and vocal chops in a series of gigs backing national R&B, rock, and pop acts that came to play Philadelphia.
"Next, I really got into the blues and rockabilly," Rick states. "While I was in college, I became quite enamored of the group Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, who had some great records out on Atlantic. They had a blues and R&B background, but they were doing rock'n'roll, and getting the point across."
While Delaney & Bonnie were on
tour, Rick seized the opportunity to introduce himself. "I lugged
along some tapes that
I had made," he relates, "and they were very encouraging to me. They invited me to jam with them on stage, and it made the local papers and all that." It was Delaney who advised Rick that if he really wanted to get into the music business, he should move to Los Angeles.
So it was that Vito "summoned up enough courage one day to just pack my stuff and go out to L.A." He initially moved in with Todd Rundgren, with whom he had done a session in New York, and who had placed one of Rick's tunes on a James Cotton album. After a couple of weeks in California, Rick made contact with Delaney & Bonnie. "They offered me a gig, and I went right out on the road."
After the tour, Vito ploughed full bore into the journeyman phase of his career, working next with ex-Derek & The Dominos member Bobby Whitlock. "I did a short stint with Little Richard," Rick states, "and it was wild; Richard's quite a character. I worked with Steve Cropper on John Prine's 'COMMON SENSE' album for Atlantic, and I did four albums with John Mayall."
Meanwhile, Rick made the first moves towards developing a solo career - writing, playing clubs, and recording demos. "I
started trying to get something together in about '76 or so, but I kept falling back into good-paying jobs and sessions," Vito comments. Among those "jobs" were stints with such artists as Roger McGuinn, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and Bob Seger.
After playing on Seger's "LIKE A ROCK" album and tour, Rick turned again to his own career, making tapes and gigging at local Los Angeles clubs. "One night, Mick Fleetwood and Billy Burnette came into a club where I was playing, and we wound up having a great time, with everybody sitting in," Rick recalls. "About three weeks later, Mick called, saying 'Lindsey Buckingham's left the band; are you interested in learning a dozen songs or so and coming down and playing?' I said, 'Yeah, you bet,' hung up the phone and told my wife, 'I'm going to be in Fleetwood Mac now.' I Just had a feeling it was going to happen."
A few days later, Rick found himself on a Los Angeles soundstage rehearsing for Mac's 1987 "TANGO IN THE NIGHT" tour. Everything clicked, and, as his instincts had told him, Vito was invited to join the band. Following the tour's conclusion, Rick sang and played guitar on two new tracks for Mac's "GREATEST HITS" compilation. Another tour ensued, after which the group began recording "BEHIND THE MASK," released in 1990. Rick wrote or co-wrote four songs on the album, singing lead on three of them.
"I wrote one group of songs for 'BEHIND THE MASK' that were in a bluesy rock direction," Rick notes, "but that turned out not to be the direction of the album. Almost the same day I got the thumbs down from Fleetwood Mac for this kind of song, (Atlantic Records Co-Chairman/Co-CEO) Doug Morris and (Modern Records President) Paul Fishkin heard the same songs quite by accident up at Stevie Nicks's house. They really liked the tunes, and that is when my association with Modern/Atlantic began."
In 1991, with Stevie and Christine McVie having bowed out of touring with Fleetwood Mac, and Mick and John McVie working on solo efforts, Vito decided it would be a propitious moment to depart Mac and begin working at long last on his first solo album.
On "KING OF HEARTS," Rick produced one track by himself ("Walk Another Mile"), co-producing eight of the other songs with Terry Manning, whose work with ZZ Top and The Fabulous Thunderbirds had knocked him out. Most of the album was recorded in Memphis at Mannlng's Studio Six, with an additional cut ("Poor Souls In Love") co-produced by Vito and his old friend Lance Qulnn, who had worked on Bon Jovi's first two albums.
"The type of song on 'KING OF HEARTS' is really what I like to do best," Rick enthuses. "It's guitar driven, blues-influenced rock'n'roll with a close-to-the-roots kind of feel." A prime example of this is the strutting "Walk Another Mile," which instantly kicks the album off in high gear. "It's about achievement, and how it comes only after you've put a great deal of time in, made many mistakes, and faltered," Vito explains.
The album's first single, "Desire," is a blistering duet between Rick and Stevie Nicks. "It's not entirely about Stevie, but let's say that she was the main inspiration for the song," explains Rick. "She's got a magic about her, a presence that always generates excitement."
Other outstanding songs include "Intuition," which also features Ms. Nicks; the lusty, rockabilly-tinged "Honey Love"; the pleading "Poor Souls In Love"; and the powerful "I Still Have My Guitar."
Rick concludes, "I'm just hoping people will pick up on an artist who has spent time observing life, who loves his guitar, and who delivers music from the heart and from the soul."
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