Angel: Hard Rock Messengers

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As smoke bombs erupt and taped choral music and canned applause pour out to an audience of 10,000, an announcer bellows the name of the night’s second-billed group.

Angel’s five members, adorned in flowing white robes, leap onto the stage of Detroit’s giant Cobo auditorium. Launching immediately into a tune culled from their debut LP, they evidence a considerable flair for their brand of modified heavy metal, but also a notable lack of performing polish.

Though Frank Domino flames with Robert Plant-styled vocal gymnastics, a bad mix muddles his work; and he toys with his microphone in a frustrated display of histrionics. Guitarist Punky Meadows unleashes nimble, often biting riffs but bassist Mickey Jones, who awkwardly stomps his terrain, plays into an inadvertently dead amp.

“Good evening, Detroit!” howls Domino, when the number ends. “Welcome to Angel!”

“What is this?” someone whispers, as a smattering of polite handclaps echoes in the dark area. “Their first gig?”

Well, almost. Formed last June in Washington, D.C., Angel has been preoccupied, throughout much of its short existence, with rehearsals and recording. When the group took the stage in Detroit, its previous performing credits consisted of just one Chicago concert and a handful of gigs at Bogles, a modest-sized club in D.C.

“We started playing there only a couple of weeks after we got together,” explains Punky. “And wtihin another month, we had people banging on our door, wanting to manage and sign us. We knew right then that we had something.”

Garnering an album contract from the Casablanca label, the quintet made a beeline for a Hollywood studio and went to work on its first LP, Angel. The attractive, recently released result,  which variously proves redolent of discs by Queen, Led Zeppelin, the Moody Blues, and Uriah Heep, has been getting much airplay and racking up strong sales. Consequently, after less than a half year of life, Angel suddenly finds itself flirting with the bigtime.

“The pressure on us is so great,” admits keyboard player Gregg Guiffria. “Especially in front of 10,000 people when you’ve never played for that many before. So our moves are still awkward; we’re still a bit uncomfortable up there.

“Another thing that hurt us in Detroit was that Roxy Music [which topped the bill] didn’t give us enough time to do a sound check. In Chicago, where we opened for Sparks, we weren’t able to do a sound check, either. So we’re really getting a faceful of what opening acts have to put up with.”

Undaunted, however, Gregg expresses optimism about the aggregation’s future. “We recorded our album flat out, like we play live,” he explains. “What you see is what you get. That’s why we’re confident about our music, because we did it in the studio; we know we can play it and we know it affects people.”

Punky, too, exudes faith in Angel’s potential. “We would like to be an American group that influences English groups,” he says. “You know, at one time, Britain was influenced by people like Elvis and Chuck Berry. Then came the Beatles and now we’re bombarded by English bands. And there’s not too many American groups that are successful over there. I wish for once a band from the States would show England a thing or two. And not a Suzi Quatro, who stays there all the time. We’re gonna hang out here and say we’re from here. But we want to be monstrous in both countries.”

“It’s gonna take time,” Gregg emphasizes. “And that’s OK with me. I mean, if we suddenly woke up as headliners, who would I invite on my new yacht or take for a ride in my new car? I don’t even know enough people yet. So we don’t want to be famous tomorrow.”

Punky laughs. “That,” he says, “is a lie.”

[Originally published in Circus magazine in 1975. Angel, which formed that year, disbanded in 1981 but subsequently regrouped and remained active as of 2013.]

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