Thursday, February 23, 2017

DONNIE IRIS: Ten Reasons...


TEN REASONS Why You Should Love:


 Donnie Iris – born Dominic Ierace - was already a seasoned pro by the time he released his debut solo album, BACK ON THE STREETS, in 1980. He had previously fronted The Jaggerz, who scored a 1970 hit with “The Rapper” before taking a slight detour in 1978 by playing guitar with Wild Cherry (post-“Play That Funky Music”). His stint with Wild Cherry lasted roughly a year, but his time in the band introduced him to keyboardist Mark Avsec, with whom he began writing songs with. The two set about recording tracks and putting a band together.  With the addition of guitarist Marty Lee Hoenes, bassist Albritton McClain and drummer Kevin Valentine, Donnie Iris & The Cruisers were born. And no, not the same Cruisers that backed Eddie

     When you listen to a Donnie Iris album, you immediately notice at least four amazing things.  They hit you all at once but let's pretend, for a moment, that they hit you in a certain order, OK? And if they were to hit in a certain order, I imagine it would be something like this...
     The first thing you notice when listening to Donnie Iris albums is that amazing falsetto scream.  Like a crazy mix between Frankie Valli and Rob Halford, Iris’ voice is an amazing instrument indeed. However, he only uses that falsetto when he needs to. When he’s using his normal range, he’s fantastic but when he slips into that falsetto, it is a powerfully emotional tool. And again, he uses it sparingly, so it brings chills each and every time.
     The second thing you notice when listening to Donnie Iris albums is that the songs are gifts from heaven:  hook-filled, dynamic and pure. Sometimes classified as an AOR artist, Donnie’s music reaches all the way back to his ‘50s influences and brings everything bang up to date ( and by ‘date’, I mean whatever year the album was released).

     The third thing you notice when listening to Donnie Iris albums is the amazing vocal arrangements courtesy of keyboardist/producer Avsec. There is so much depth in the production of Iris’ records and that is most apparent in the vocal department. Layers upon layers of vocals. In fact, his vocal arrangements might even be more inventive than Brian Wilson’s work with the Beach Boys.  While I’m not implying they are better than Wilson’s vocal arrangements, they certainly are much different than what you’d find on any typical Rock record.  Just sit there with the headphones on and marvel at all those layers….

     The final thing you notice when listening to Donnie Iris albums is that The Cruisers are one hell of a band. Marty Lee’s solos are crisp, to-the-point and melodic. His lead licks can become earworms if you let them.  McClain and Valentine are as solid a rhythm section as you’ll find in any Rock band in the ‘80s and beyond.  And again, no, this is NOT the same Cruisers that backed Eddie…

     With all that being said, no two Donnie Iris & The Cruisers albums are alike. From crunchy Rock to keyboard-dominated Pop and back again, every one of their LPs is a worthwhile addition to your collection. The thing that holds them all together is Donnie’s voice and Avsec’s arrangement and production.  The fact that they aren’t considered Rock and Pop demigods today is beyond me.

For the record, the band’s line-up has changed over the years although Iris, Avsec and Hoenes have stayed put. Kevin Valentine has reappeared on many occasions and McClain remains friends with the band.


     It is hard to choose 10 tracks from their catalog so I’ll pick the first 10 that come to mind… including the hits.  Hopefully, this will inspire you to track their music down.  And if you live in Pennsylvania, maybe you can catch them during one of their rare live appearances.  I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

1. "AH LEAH" (1980)

2. "LOVE IS LIKE A ROCK" (1981)

3. "HOW YOU GONNA MEND IT?" (1997)

4. "DO YOU COMPUTE?" (1983)


6. "TOUGH WORLD" (1982)

7. "LET'S GO" (2006)


(By CELLARFUL OF NOISE - Mark Avsec featuring Donnie Iris)

10. "THE PROMISE" (1981)

1 comment:

Ted_C said...

I almost wonder if someone in the industry saw him as being like Tucker and his three lens car, too good to compete with. What on earth could be another reason Donnie isn't mentioned in the same breath with at least Tommy Tutone and Rick Astley?