There are certain songs from the 1970s that will forever live in our memories because they touched our hearts so deeply the first time we ever heard them. Songs that forced us to stop whatever we were doing, turned our heads as we asked “who is that?” Songs that were fueled by a quality that there are simply no words to use to describe them. You just knew it when you heard one. Henry Gross released a song like that back in 1976 entitled “Shannon.” The song was released in 1976 on Henry Gross’s fourth solo album entitled Release. The album has just been reissued on 180 gram vinyl by Renaissance Records. Upon the news of this fabulous reissue, we thought we would take a look back at this fabulous album and the career of Henry Gross. A career that may surprise some readers.
While many classic rock fans will obviously remember the hit single “Shannon,” it’s probably safe to say that not many realize that Henry Gross had actually been one of the founding members of the 1950s revival group Sha Na Na. If you were a teenager or twenty something in the 1970s, chances are you had the band’s mega selling two record set live album The Golden Age of Rock ’N’ Roll. The double lp had originally been released in 1969 but was reissued in 1973 and heavily promoted on tv and sold in the discount racks in records stores. It was a two record set housed in a single sleeve that drove some of us crazy because the records scratched easily in that type of packaging.
Henry Gross served as the band’s lead guitarist and worked with the band from 1969 to 1970 while having the chance to perform with the group at Woodstock. A feat that only a very small handful of musicians in the history of rock and roll can proudly say they were a part of. In 1970, Henry Gross left Sha Na Na to pursue a solo recording career.
In 1970, Henry Gross signed a deal with ABC Records and began doing session work as a guitarist, One of his most noted sessions would be playing lead guitar on the legendary Jim Croce album entitled I Got A Name. Henry Gross released his first solo album on ABC Records in 1972 called Henry Gross. After working for ABC Records for three years, Henry Gross signed with A&M Records in 1973. His second solo album also titled Henry Gross was released on A&M Records in 1973. The album is often referred to as the “Yellow Album,” because of its bright yellow cover.
Two years after the release of The Yellow album, Henry Gross released his great record Plug Me Into Something in 1975. His third studio album had begun to generate some great reviews which helped the album reach all the way into the top 30 of the Billboard album charts in 1975. It would become the highest charting solo album of the career of Henry Gross. There was some heavy rock and roll guitar playing and singing on the record. Check out the song “Southern Band,” with some killer singing and guitar playing that reminds us a bit of Joe Walsh. It’s hard to believe that this is the same artist who sang the loving and tender song “Shannon,” and also played in the 50s tribute band Sha Na Na. It’s clear as to why he was hired as a session player by ABC Records because the man’s talents are just off the charts as a musician.
After the release of his third album, Henry Gross would switch record companies. In 1976 Henry Gross signed with Lifesongs Records. This was a relatively new label that was distributed by CBS Records. The signing of Henry Gross would become a blessing and a huge commercial win for the label as the first Henry Gross album for the label entitled Release would turn Henry Gross into a household name. The Release LP spawned the biggest hit of his career with the song “Shannon.” The single release of the song broke into the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 peaking at number six. The song hit number one in Canada and New Zealand.
There was incredible competition for the Billboard Top 100 yet alone the top 10 in 1976. This was a year in which legends like Elton John and Paul McCartney were tearing up the charts with huge hit albums and singles. Others musical groups such as Hall & Oates, KC and The Sunshine Band, The Four Seasons, Peter Frampton, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie and Queen were releasing some of the biggest hits of their careers. It was battle conditions for even superstar artists and yet Henry Gross and his spectacular single “Shannon,” stood pretty tall among the legends of rock.
The Release LP
Even through the song “Shannon,” was the album’s only major hit, the fact of the matter was that the Release LP was also a spectacular album. Anyone who purchased the album back in 1976 would probably agree with that point. The album opened up with the rocking number “Jukebox Song.” This was a perfect album opener with its Jerry Lee Lewis pumping piano groove and Bob Seger style guitar riffs and chord changes. Henry Gross knew how to rock hard and he made sure to let everyone know that from the album’s opening notes.
The album’s second track “Lincoln Road,” steered more towards a Elton John Tumbleweed Connection sound than the album’s barnstorm opener. I always thought that “Lincoln Road,” would have been a great single. However, it does sound very different from the albums huge hit single “Shannon,” It’s possible the record company may have thought it would not have been accepted. That’s a mistake because music audiences will always accept great songs no matter what the style of the song falls under.
The album’s next track “Overtone Square,” is fueled by a great bluesy somewhat Southern groove that surrounds a brilliant falsetto vocal by Henry Gross. This is such a special track. The album’s fourth song “Springtime Mama,” is a great pop sounding song that always reminded me of Elton John’s “Grey Seal,” especially on the introduction. This is great 70s pop music. The song was released as the follow up single to “Shannon.” The fun Harry Chapin style sounding track “Moonshine Alley,” closed side one of the record.
In the 1970s, many record companies loved to feature the album’s hit single as side two’s opening track. That’s exactly what Lifesongs Records did with the song “Shannon.” When the song was first released, not everyone knew that the song was about the death of The Beach Boys Carl Wilsons’ dog, although the line about finding a shady tree in the backyard kind of gave it away to many. Still, there was no internet back then and so people interpreted songs the way they wanted. The melody and chorus of the song was so extraordinarily powerful that for some it was almost a letdown to discover that the songs was about a dog. But of course to others especially dog lovers the emotional impact of the song could be quite striking, In the end it’s such a special song that is one of those rare 70s gems that will always take you back to the place you were when hearing the song again.
It’s tough to follow up a song like “Shannon,” on an album. The great grooving song “One Last Time,” was placed as the second song on side two. The song just felt right following up “Shannon.” “One Last Time,” had more of a Pablo Cruise meets Boz Scaggs feel with some great horn lines and of course another spectacular vocal by Henry Gross in a completely different voice from the one he used on “Shannon.” The song featured a great cast of musicians including Steve Gadd on drums and the legendary David Sanborn playing that saxophone solo. The third song on side two has always been one of our favorites on the record. The party style song “Something In Between,” shows off the great guitar playing of Henry Gross as the tune rocks hard in a sort of Joe Walsh meets Foghat sort of vein. Turn this one up baby!
Henry Gross takes it down a bit on the next track entitled “Someday.” This was another spectacular song with a melody to just die for. This one has the same lyrical tenderness that was showcased in the song “Shannon.” The sound of the 1970s are so defined in this one. The album closes with another rocker with some great slide guitar playing entitled “Pokey.”
Henry Gross composed all of the songs on the Release album. That in itself is very impressive because all the songs on the record are so unique and different from each other. In many ways its sounds like they were all written by different song writers, so the fact that he was able to release and album of such distinctive songs is really a testament to his songwriting ability. It certainly makes one want to search out the rest of Henry Gross’s massive body of work which includes close to thirty album releases. Henry Gross has continued to release albums and perform since he first broke into show business with Sha Na Na in 1969.
This great Henry Gross LP Release was just re-issued by Renaissance Records on July 20th 2021. The album comes in a gatefold just like the original but also includes rare photographs and a trading card. Renaissance Records took great care in the reissue printing it on 180 gram vinyl. To order the Release LP just click on the link or picture below.
Henry Gross 70s Release LP Featuring Shannon Gets New Release article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
Classicrockhistory.com claims ownership of all its original content and Intellectual property under United States Copyright laws and those of all other foreign countries. No one person, business or any organizations is allowed to republish any of our original content anywhere on the web or in print without our permission.