A La Carte - Est. 1976

A La Carte

During the mid to late 1970s, pockets of Los Angeles were buzzing with hard rocking bands looking to break through to a national level. Van Halen, Quiet Riot and the Runaways were three that got signed and sent on tour, while dozens of others carried on, playing backyard parties, colleges and clubs like the Starwood, the Troubadour and the Whisky. They all had a hand in sustaining an underground scene that ultimately opened the floodgates for 80s bands like Motley Crue, Great White, Ratt, Poison, Warrant and Guns N' Roses. One of the pioneers that opened for Van Halen and didn’t quite make it to the big-time was A La Carte. Now, 40 years later, they have released an album called A La Carte - Est. 1976.

Put this disc on and the first thing you notice is that A La Carte doesn’t sound like other LA bands. They’re more aligned to blues-based rock power trios like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Grand Funk Railroad and ZZ Top. There’s a wily swagger, a swig of boogie, and plenty of swing in the 10 tunes that fill their CD. If anything, Van Halen might have copped a thing or two, in terms of attitude and approach, from A La Carte. Guitarist K.K. Martin, bassist Craig Miller and drummer Brian O'Brian launched A La Carte in late 1976 and went on to play to crowds of up to 2,000 all over Southern California. Every gig was a party, which most certainly embeds itself into the music.

Indeed, A La Carte - Est. 1976 captures the spirit of the band in the throes of youthful hedonism. If songs like “Old #7,” “No Tell Motel” and “Pink On The Inside” don’t curl your toes, quiver your lips, and drive you to drink, nothing else will. And those simple, infectious riffs that propel “Ride Of Your Life,” “Leave The Back Door Open,” “Where Angels Dwell” and “Ace” forward will have you reaching for the sky. As a tightly wound three-piece unit, it’s hard to believe A La Carte, who broke up in 1984 and reunited specifically to make this album, didn’t take it any further. It just goes to show that timeless rock and roll isn’t limited to what the record labels deem worthy. Hidden gems often live and breathe in crevices only a few are privy to experience. How sweet it is to go back and relive what a missed opportunity like A La Carte was and is all about.

~ Shawn Perry

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