Taste
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Taste

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The opening lines say it all: “Hello, can you hear me/Hello, can you see me/ You want love, you got it/ You want sex/You got it/You want blood/You want it all.” 30 years after they split, Melbourne glam kings TASTE are back, and it’s 1977 all over again.

The sound is Queen meets Zeppelin, with just the right amount of Spinal Tap. Thundering riffs, grandiose production, and dramatic vocals. Close your eyes and you can see the pyrotechnics and props. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore. Rock is Dead – long live the rock. Goset/MGM
- MAG


MORE than 30 years ago, the glam band Taste were doing concerts on the banks of the Yarra for thousands of people and backing names such as Queen, AC/DC, Midnight Oil and Suzy Quatro. They toured with Ted Mulry, Skyhooks, Hush and Sherbert.
The band were regulars on Countdown and released three albums, producing four top-10 hits including Boys will be Boys, the song adopted by Queen.
On the edge of success, Taste were negotiating a US record deal with Seymour Stein, the co-founder and chairman of Sire Records, the label that brought us the Ramones and Madonna, not to mention such synth-pop classics as M’s Pop Muzik, and Plastic Bertrand’s Ca Plane Pour Moi.
There was just one problem. They were the youngest recording artists for Warner Music and their average age was 15. To get to gigs with all their equipment, they had a driver.
Now, success might have many parents but when there are too many, it becomes a problem. The folks were concerned that their boys were not making enough money, particularly after they had left school to go full-time and work five or six nights a week.
They brought in a new manager who fell out with Stein. Meanwhile, the boys were pushing in different directions. So as happens with every band, Taste folded.
But they had been on the brink of something big.
Now Taste are back together.
The band members, now in their late 40s and early 50s, have decided they want to continue where they left off. It has just been too painful to let the dream die.
Bassist Michael Tortoni, 53, sums it up thus: "To me, Taste was just unfi nished business. From that day that we walked out, it was careless, it was immature and it was inexperienced.
We were young so we didn’t appreciate the value of management. We were too young to appreciate the subtleties.
"So I just wanted to go back and tie up all the loose ends. Bill Clinton said that at 50, it’s a good idea to sit down and write a book. For me, this has been much better than writing a book."
Songwriter and vocalist Ken Murdoch says the reunion was inevitable. "I always felt we had another great album in us. I just knew one day we would do it, we were just too young. And we are older now so we don’t have so many emotional blockages in us."
Murdoch and Tortoni go back a long way. Both grew up in Brunswick and started gigging together in their early teens, playing in the band Cloud Nine that backed John Farnham.
The revamped band has three of the original members — singer Tortoni, Murdoch, 50, on keyboards and vocals, and lead guitarist Joey Amenta, 47. Add the "kid" drummer, Joel Witenberg. At 22, Witenberg brings the average age of the band down to 43.
Over the past 30 years, Murdoch and Amenta have stayed in the music scene. Amenta has worked as guitar for hire and teaching guitar. Murdoch plays piano in bars, writes jingles for commercials such as the Yakka ad and teaches vocals.
Tortoni spent years living a double life. After Taste, he studied classical bass at the Victorian College of the Arts, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in music. He then went to Rome to continue his education, but returned to Melbourne in the mid-’80s, convinced that he was not cut out for a musical career.
He landed a job with a criminal lawyer and started dabbling in the stockmarket and became a stockbroker.
But his passion for music continued. When the property market collapsed in 1991, Tortoni bought the building that is now Bennetts Lane jazz club. He no longer works as a stockbroker. Instead, he has devoted himself to his club.
"Stockbroking was just a means to an end. I had this plan to make lots of money to secure myself. Eventually, Bennetts Lane won out," he says.
Tortoni has also been appointed artistic director of Melbourne International Jazz Festival. Not that there is any conflict between jazz and rock music. "I love classical, I love chamber music," Tortoni says.
"Unless it swings and moves, it’s just not happening. To me, playing music is all about communication."
Both Murdoch and Tortoni say Taste is stronger now as they are more confident in their music. And in an echo of 30 years ago, the band have signed a publishing deal with the United States and Japan, and are in the middle of negotiations for the album’s release in Japan.
Still, they concede it might not be as easy. The music scene now is a lot tougher. Venues have stopped hiring bands. And there are so many choices now that people are not buying CDs and they are less likely to turn up at gigs.
"We could play to 1000 people every night without even thinking about it," Murdoch says. "Now, you would be lucky to play for 20 people.
"You don’t even have a cover to look at any more if you download the music, which means you don’t really get the feel for it that you used to get."
But he says music has its own momentum that makes it a powerful force, impossible to resist. And they just wanted to be part of that again.
Tortoni adds: "Bands will still succeed. We want to throw our hat - Leon Gettler, THE AGE 23/6/08


What do you get when to take industry powerhouses and tee t hem up with new rock royalty? A newly invigorated supergroup - that's what. TASTE is back and so is directional solid pop rock that you will just get down to. A solid production melds the four members of the group, including Ken Murdoch (writer/producer); Joey Amenta (guitar hero), Michael Tortoni - who if you don't know - plays a killer bass but is also responsible for your favourite Melbourne Venue Bennett's Lane! & last but not least, Joel Witenberg - the new drummer...all these guys kick ass when it comes to rock and TASTE is a breath of fresh air in a stale and somewhat contrived rock market. - Joel Manser, Poprepublic.tv


Discography

ROCK IS DEAD - album songs - currently securing radio interest and airplay.

Band
Cloud Nine “Where all Good Friends Rock On” Warner Music 1975
Taste “Tickle Your Fancy”

Taste “Knights of Love”
“Boys will be Boys”

Photos

Bio

Driven by Murdoch's poignant lyrics Melbourne rock band Taste has structured a powerful collection of hard hitting classic rock songs with meaningful lyrics which are consistently direct and relevant. There are no pretty boy prancing songs in this lot. All songs, except 'Same Old Story' which has been lifted from their first album, were written within the last 12 months and recorded at Melbourne's Sing Sing Studio.

In much of today's new music it is not difficult for the vintage listener to find familiar a riff here or an identifiable rhythm there, it seems quite common in modern music to regurgitate sounds from the past…But this album serves up original sounds while still managing to reincarnate the big sound of last century's super rock production.

This truly is an iconic album by an iconic band.

"Hello Can You Hear Me" the opening track is cunningly mellowed by the sound of Tortoni's Jazz double bass which is awakened by the echoing sound of Murdoch's reverberating vocals. A statement of what most fans seem to expect from their rock idols. " Hello can you hear me? Hello can you see me? You want love you got it. You want sex you got it, you want blood, you want it all,” this is perhaps an unmarked response by the hype created idols referred to in the title track.

The deeply haunting "Sanctuary" provokes a frantic adrenalin rush of anxiety as the racing guitar riff provides the haunting backbeat that condemns the horrors of child abuse. Originally written as a short story, the narrator tells of revisiting the orphanage to get a job as a gardener. Unrecognised by the priest he waits for the 30th anniversary of his mistreatment to seek revenge.

The title track "Rock is Dead" incites feelings that ever since Bill Haley did it around the clock Rock Music has always been a powerful medium to express the voice of youth culture and in this track Murdoch protests the lack of traditional rock in popular music of today. "Rock is Dead, it died last night on your TV ……… Rock is Dead, voted off by you and me." he claims as the musical voice of a half a dozen generations become packaged and franchised to increase the wealth of the corporate greedy.

The meaningful "Kyle" with it's darker sound tells a story about some of the choices we make while growing up combating peer pressure. Constructed like a rock operatic monologue this is a reflective tale of decisions and regrets.

Still marketing a social conscience the pounding "Don't Wanna Be Like You", the only track by Amenta is an unpolished ruby in a buck full of diamonds truly a compliment to his obvious talents and could very well become an anthem of our time. With it's cutting lyrics it promotes individuality and condemns our social complacency. A made to order track for every air-guitar virtuoso which will certainly come alive when it gets a chance to explode in a live performance.

"Breathe", a beautiful rock ballad by anyone's standard is dedicated to Murdoch's brother. It tells of the agony of losing someone to the devastating disease of cancer. "Remember what you said to me. It's all the strength I need" Mellower than the other tracks on the album, it is an uplifting track inspired by a devastating situation.

"Elizabeth Makes Me Smile" is another social statement that talks about the many troubles of the world today as it expresses the comforting escape one can find in the innocent smile of a child, namely Murdoch's daughter Elizabeth.

"Same Old Story", any original Taste fan would be sure to remember this live favourite which has been lifted for the '….Fancy' album…….. over thirty years old it's revitalised treatment brings it's old story of conflict between parent and child into the new millennium with it's sharp and punchy sound bought alive by Witenberg's strong rhythm.

"Crazy Mother*" is perhaps the rawest track on the album with an ultra-modern lyrical approach. Musically it is primal and infectious although it's questionable chorus' lyrics may prevent it from being a contender for the song of the year even if no one can get that damn melody out of their head. Another contender for being a favourite live anthem.

"All The Good Things" the longest track on the album is credited to longtime friend Susan Turner. This is a nice track which once again seems to be an operatically inspired rock ballad. Soft and flowing it shows a gentle side to this many times seasoned group of rock stars… who close the album with a reprise of the Tortoni double bass

Rock may very well be dead but great guitar licks are alive and well electrifying the fingers of great guitarists like Amenta, Murdoch and Tortoni.