Brad Patton

Glass Prism members reunite as classic power trio Shenandoah at Jazz Cafe in Plains on Aug. 27

Glass Prism members reunite as classic power trio Shenandoah at Jazz Cafe in Plains on Aug. 27
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The most powerful incarnation of a local band will be reuniting and performing for the first time in 40 years on Saturday, Aug. 27 at the River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains.

Shenandoah, the trio of Tom Varano (guitar and vocals), Rick Richards (drums and vocals), and Louie Cossa (keyboards and vocals), will present “Take No Prisoners,” a collection of commanding rock songs, including originals recorded and released as “Sessions ’73,” beginning at 9 p.m.

The opening act for the evening will be the Don Shapelle Duo, and Shadoe Steele, who hosted the top-rated “Saturday Night Live at the Oldies” on WKRZ-FM for 25 years, will be the emcee.

The band that played as Shenandoah from 1971 to 1976 can trace its roots back to the early 1960s as the El Caminoes (Varano played with that group beginning in 1960, and Richards joined in 1964).

In 1969, the El Caminoes were rechristened the Glass Prism and were signed by RCA Victor Records. The group’s first album, “Poe Through the Glass Prism,” was engineered and produced by the legendary Les Paul and recorded at his home studio in Nyack, New Jersey. The album and single “The Raven” hit the Billboard, Cashbox, and Record World charts, but soon stalled as the record company withdrew its support due to an issue with the band’s manager.

Following a second album for RCA in 1970, “On Joy and Sorrow,” the four-piece Glass Prism broke up. A few months later, Varano, Richards and Cossa reemerged as Shenandoah.

“It was the day of the power trios,” Varano recently told NEPA Scene. “Bands like Cream, Hendrix [the Jimi Hendrix Experience], and James Gang were popular.

“I had the most fun in those five years [as Shenandoah].”

The trio’s high point came in 1971 when it opened for Three Dog Night in front of 20,000 people at Bowman Field in Williamsport. Shenandoah recorded an album at Bell Sound Studios in New York City in 1973, but it wasn’t released at the time.

“A lot of labels liked what we did, but the music scene was headed toward disco at the time, so that didn’t come out,” Varano noted.

After the trio broke up in 1976, the musicians went their separate ways and did not reunite until 2007, when the Glass Prism did a show for the Friends of Poe Society in Philadelphia. Following local shows in 2008 and 2010, the band recorded a new album, “Resurrection,” which was released by Scranton-based label Debra Records in 2012.

In addition to the new recordings, a second disc of the never-before-released Shenandoah recordings came out as “Sessions ’73.”

Besides a performance in June at a class reunion, the last time the band got together was for “Resurrection: A Rock Opera” at the Scranton Cultural Center in October 2012.

“Last time, we had seven musicians and background singers on stage,” Varano said. “This time, it’s just the three of us.”

Varano said the band has been rehearsing about 26 songs and the show will feature a new arrangement of “The Raven,” songs from the “Sessions ‘73” album, plus some songs the band played “back in the day” but with its own arrangements emphasizing three-part harmonies.

“It’s very challenging to perform as a rock trio, but it will be all live and no tracks will be used.

“We’re going to turn it up and let it rip.”

Shenandoah/The Glass Prism
with the Don Shapelle Duo and emcee Shadoe Steele
Location: River Street Jazz Cafe (667 N. River St., Plains)
Date: Saturday, Aug. 27
Time: Doors at 7 p.m., show at 9 p.m.
Cost: $5-$24

Debra Records will be on hand with copies of “Resurrection” and “Sessions ’73,” and DVD copies of the documentary “On Joy and Sorrow: The Glass Prism Story” will also be available. The band will take pictures and sign autographs following the show.