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WILD BLUE

Country USA

Style Melodic Rock / AOR

Wild Blue were originally from Chicago, and were previously known as Jinx. As history would have it, there appeared to be a lot of hi-jinx with this version of the band. Let’s take a history lesson. As mentioned, Wild Blue formed as a springboard from the band Jinx which performed locally in clubs in and around the Chicago area. Their most formative period saw keyboardist Joe Zanona, bassist Terry Curtain and former Trillion member Frank Barbalace as key players; though the trio were still looking for a female vocalist and a drummer. On board came drummer Mike Netf and Vlfisconsin raised singer Renee Varo. Wild Blue raised their profile locally, with gigs and then record deals. The first (and ultimately the best) deal came from Chryalis Records, a label better represented in the UK with a strong roster over there.

The history books would show that this band was nothing more than a vehicle for singer Renee Varo, but this was not the case, as she was a late addition to the band lineup. The band however struck problems when Chrysalis decided to take only Varo and Zanona to London to record one half of the ‘No More Jinx’ album with a spate of hired guns being used instead, leaving the other band members behind. As a consequence, Curtain and Neff quit, leaving Barbalace to hold the fort back Stateside. Varo and Zanona rejoined Barbalace and some local hired guns, including drummer Ken Harck previously from Off Broadway. The resulting material though strong, was not cohesive. It certainly wasn‘t what Chrysalis were looking for, as the whole thing came off sounding overly slick.WILD BLUE is band that had a hard time settling on a name. I guess that this is something of a sequel to the article on last month’s UARB, Tina and the Total Babes, since this band is a part of the scene that T&TB’s were saluting in their 2001 album. The Wild Blue album showed up just as the New Wave was ebbing, and that might have been the reason that it was overlooked.Wild Blue grew out of a Chicago group called Jinx that toiled in the local club scene beginning in the late 1970’s.

The core members of this band were Joe Zanona (keyboards), Terry Curtin (bass guitar), and Frank Barbalace (guitars). They had been looking for a female vocalist, and they found one in Renee Varo; Mike Neff was also added as the drummer. A few years later though, they got a dreaded call: There was a cabaret singer from California who had been using the name Jinx for some 15 years. They tried to work out a deal with her, but to no avail, so they started calling themselves Wild Blue. Thus, the name of their first LP, No More Jinx is basically an inside joke. The band had already been signed to a two-album deal with Chrysalis Records, and they began laying down the tracks for their first album in 1985. Chrysalis caused unnecessary friction in the band, however, by flying Renee Varo and Joe Zanona over to London to record half of the album with other studio musicians. (They were also the only two bandmembers to make the front cover). About this time, Terry Curtin and Mike Neff quit; they were replaced by Mike Gorman (bass) and Ken Harck (drums), two members of a late 1970’s Chicago power-pop band called Off Broadway (Mike Neff had also been in that band).

Also, Chrysalis decided that they wanted to try to find a new name for the band – they had liked Jinx, but not Wild Blue – and they delayed the release of the album until early 1986, leaving the band in limbo for several months. By October 1985, it had been over a year since their last live date. Frank Barbalace is also a member of a well-regarded progressive-rock band (also from Chicago) called Trillion. I won’t say anything more about that for now, because they will likely be a future UARB before the end of the year. Anyway, Frank Barbalace is ambitiously advertising on his website a two-CD collection of most of his recorded works – Wild Blue, Trillion and other material, including some that he did with who I gather is his wife Rebecca Barbalace in a band called Ondavon – for a $50 tab. Oddly, there are only three tracks from the No More Jinx album that are listed.

He was one of the bandmembers who was left behind when most of the recording was done across the pond; and these are the songs that he co-wrote, though he also played guitar on one of the best songs on the album, “Fire with Fire”. But what is interesting about this offer is that this is the only reference on the Internet that I have been able to find of a second album by Wild Blue called Primitive Prayer. Primitive Prayer is evidently the new name of the band as well, since the name Wild Blue had been dropped according to several newspaper and magazine articles about the “upcoming album”, and it was to come out on a different label called Pasha Records. Besides these various articles though – and there were quite a few of them, which tells me that Wild Blue had a lot of fans, at least in the Chicago area.

– No More Jinx [1986]

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