NEW YORK (July 20, 2018) ― As Yussuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens turns 70 this weekend (July 21), Jimmy Ryan of THE HIT MEN, who played guitar on 1974’s multi-platinum Buddha and the Chocolate Box album, recalls how Stevens’ voice back then had a “transformational” ability in the recording studio to turn a track into “instant magic.”
A primary example of Stevens’ wondrous studio flow, Ryan explains, was during the session for the song “Sun-C79”. Ryan wanted to write out a rough chart of the song’s multiple chord and mood changes.
Stevens had other ideas.
“He wouldn’t have it,” recounts Ryan now lead guitarist of THE HIT MEN, the popular “real deal” musicians who’ve separately delivered dozens of hits to the classic rock superstars of the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. “He kept saying ‘just follow along,’ as he loosely wandered from half singing/speaking it, sometimes with a guitar, often while holding a guitar and not playing. His approach was for us to ‘get’ the song emotionally first, then work out the details later. “
Jimmy Ryan of The Hit Men, left, and Cat Stevens
‘Real Deal’ Musicians to the Classic Rock Superstars
Resume ‘Don’t Stop’ Tour in August
After quite a few rounds of this, recording began and a coherent track eventually emerged. Not amazing, by Ryan’s standards, but OK. Ryan discretely whispered that opinion to Jean Roussel, the keyboardist, who knowingly smiled back and said to just “wait for it.” Stevens then stepped up to the mike, the track started rolling, the engineer pressed “record,” and …
“… I was a witness to instant magic,” says Ryan. “His voice brought the song up to a whole new and unexpected level, creating that amazing sound and sung story telling he is so famous for. I’ve never seen a track transformed so quickly and thoroughly by anybody since! For me, that summed up the artistic genius that is Cat Stevens…and the Billboard charts agree.”
In the ensuring months, Buddha and the Chocolate Box was Certified Platinum (over 1 million units sold), and the artist known now as Yusuf/Cat Stevens cemented his place in music history as a Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer!
After decades performing or recording with Paul McCartney, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, The Who, Carly Simon, Cat Stevens, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Cheap Trick, The Ramones, and dozens more, THE HIT MEN have become a Supergroup unlike any other.
What the Wrecking Crew meant to the pop music revolution of the ‘60s, THE HIT MEN have meant to some of the most indelible hits of the ‘70s, ‘80s and beyond. It’s only now that the evolution of THE HIT MEN’S story – fueled, in part, by their countless first-hand experiences as eyewitnesses to rock history – has become a revelation.
From transistor radios, vinyl, 8-track tapes and cassettes to the Sony Walkman, CD's, digital downloads and the Apple iPod, THE HIT MEN ― Jimmy Ryan (lead guitar/vocals, and Carly Simon’s former musical director), Lee Shapiro (keyboards/vocals, and Frankie Valli’s1970s musical director), Jeff Ganz (bass/vocals), Russ Velazquez (vocalist/keyboardist/percussionist), and Steve Murphy (drummer/vocalist) ― have seen and heard it all. And they have the stories to go with it! The Don’t Stop U.S. Tour, having already criss-crossed the U.S. with an all-new production featuring the most recent chapters in THE HIT MEN’s “Hits-tory,” resumes in August.
THE HIT MEN recently took another major step toward stardom on their own terms, with the release of their first original music video from their first original single, “You Can’t Fight Love,” off the DON’T STOP album.
THE HIT MEN “DON’T STOP” 2018 TOUR DATES
August 9: Clayton Opera House, Clayton, NY
August 15: Cape May Convention Center, Cape May NJ
August 18: West End Cruise Night & Classic Car Show, Long Branch, NJ
September 29: Friends of the PAC, Middleton, WI
October 12: Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT
October 13: State Theater, Easton, PA
October 20: Vinegar Hill Music Theater, Arundel, ME
October 27: Honeywell Center, Wabash, IN
October 28: The Holland Theater, Bellefontaine, OH
November 10: GSU PAC, University Park, IL
November 15: Cox Performing Arts Center at Dixie State Univ., St. George, UT
December 2: Katherine Hepburn Theater, Old Saybrook, CT
More dates to come!