Our Top 10 Songs From the band Orleans presents the best Orleans songs like “Still The One,” “Love Takes Time,” “Dance With Me” and more. In January 1972, Orleans was founded as a band from Woodstock, New York, by John Hall, Larry Hoppen, and Wells Kelly. Before the year was over, Lance Hoppen, Larry’s brother, joined the group to turn Orleans from a trio to a quartet. Then, in 1976, Jerry Marotta joined the lineup to make it a quintet. This is the same Marotta that later became an elected member of the United States House of Representatives.
Intros & Inspiration
The inspiration behind Orleans originates from the Neville Brothers, as well as Allen Toussaint. The Nevilles, as well as Toussaint, came from Louisiana. This began after Wells Kelly met John Hall just prior to the release of Hall’s 1970 debut album, Action.
Wells Kelly was part of the original lineup of King Harvest in 1969 before joining Larry Hoppen’s college band, Boffalongo. The band’s home base was Ithaca, New York. This was the same band that first recorded “Dancing in the Moonlight,” a song that was written by Kelly’s brother, Sherman. In 1973, King Harvest turned it into a hit with their version. Boffalongo’s discography had two albums, both by United Artists, that were released to the band’s credit.
It was during this time John Hall, along with his wife Johanna, already made a name for themselves when Janis Joplin’s performance of “Half Moon” appeared on her album, Pearl. This was a song the couple wrote, which they also recorded themselves. These New Yorkers moved from the Big Apple to Woodstock in order to be closer to Bearsville Studios and the music scene that was going on there. Once they moved there, Hall decided to start his own band, starting with Wells Kelly as his first recruit.
When Kelly agreed to team up with Hall, the multi-instrumentalist wanted to play the piano. The first lineup featured Kelly on electric piano, combined with Hall as the guitarist, Bill Gelber on bass, and Roy Markowitz as the drummer. This was a lineup that didn’t last long as Gelber and Markowitz opted out. This prompted Kelly to convince Hall to bring Larry Hoppen from Boffalongo to sign up. As soon as these men became a trio, they chose Orleans as the band’s official name in January 1972. Before the end of October that same year, the younger brother of Larry Hoppen, Lance, also joined the band.
East Coast Heroes
It didn’t take long for Orleans to establish a core audience while performing in clubs and the college circuit throughout the Northeast United States. Along the way, the band members met future recording artists Bonnie Raitt, Hall & Oates, and Tom Waits. As far as Rolling Stone magazine was concerned, Orleans was the best-unrecorded band in America. In 1973, Orleans released its debut album via ABC Dunhill Records. The recording took place in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, which had Roger Hawkins and Barry Beckett as part of the production crew.
In 1974, Orleans II became the second recording by John Hall and his bandmates. However, ABC refused to release it in the United States as it felt there were no hit singles to work with. The label also dropped Orleans, despite the fact the band did have this album released in Europe. Orleans II was the first album to feature the first recordings of “Dance With Me” and “Let There Be Music.” It wasn’t until 1978 that Orleans II would finally be released to the American market, which came in the form of a double LP when Before the Dance was issued.
This was made possible thanks to Asylum Records, which helped Orleans score its first hit as a band with “Let There Be Music,” which came from the band’s third album in 1975. It was followed by “Dance With Me,” another single that would become a hit for Orleans. For the band, its popularity was growing that began to extend beyond the East Coast as its brand of music was gaining ground across the nation.
We Are an American Band
After Orleans recorded and released its fourth album, Waking and Dreaming, in 1976, this earned the band a solid North American fan following. It was also this same year Jerry Marotta joined the lineup as Orleans embarked on a major tour across the United States. From state to state, the popularity of Orleans was growing. The success of Orleans as a band suggested this was a musical act that had the potential to stand the test of time as an elite American band.
Come 1977, the tension mounting among the members of Orleans began to take its toll. It was enough for John Hall to decide he wanted to embark on a solo career. This meant leaving the band he founded behind to carry on without him. However, Jerry Marotta also left, opting to join Hall & Oates before moving on to perform with Peter Gabriel. Some months later, brothers Lance and Larry Hoppen joined Marotta. As for Wells Kelly, he performed with the Beach Boys.
It was also in 1977 that Bob Leinbach and Robert Martin were brought in as replacements so that Orleans could still continue as a band. This new lineup was signed with Infinity Records which resulted in the 1979 release of Forever. This was the album that featured the hit single, “Love Takes Time.” Thanks to this success, Orleans went on tour, performing with artists such as Chicago and Stephen Stills.
In 1980, despite the success of Forever, Ininifty Records became bankrupt and was acquired by MCA Records. The new label failed to promote Orleans’ self-titled follow-up album, which was recorded in Woodstock. Shortly after this, Bob Leinbach left the band and was replaced by Dennis Arnero. Leinbach left to join the John Hall Band.
Unfortunately for Orleans, the band members discovered their accountant misappropriated the funds that put them into debt. Picking up the pieces to somehow keep Orleans going was Lance and Larry Hoppen, along with their younger brother, Lane. There was also Wells Kelly until he decided to leave in 1981.
In 1982, Orleans signed with Radio Records before releasing the next album, One of a Kind. The band’s lineup at this time included new band members Michael Mugrage, Don Silver, and Ben Wisch. Jerry Marotta did join them when they were recording in Florida. After One of a Kind was released, he was replaced by Nicholas Parker.
Unfortunately for Orleans, Radio Records suffered the same fate as Infinity Records. As a result, Orleans was without a record label again. Because of this, the financial struggles of the band continued. In order to at least make ends meet, the Hoppen brothers performed at a variety of clubs that included their side group, Mood Ring. However, in 1984, Larry Hoppen lost his voice due to air quality issues that compromised his ability to sing. This latest chapter of misfortune had the Hoppens debate whether or not the career run of Orleans was worth continuing.
While the Hoppen brothers and Jerry Marotta were busy with their own music careers, Wells Kelly did the same from 1981 until 1984. From 1983 until, he was part of Meat Loaf’s Neverland Express before his body was found dead while he was staying in London, England. According to the post-mortem examination, it was revealed Kelly’s cause of death came from his own vomit. It was also discovered he had high levels of cocaine and morphine, as well as heroin.
The shock of Kelly’s death prompted John Hall, Bob Leinbach, as well as Larry Hoppen, to reunite. They met in Ithaca, New York. Lance Hoppen wasn’t able to join the band to perform at a memorial for Wells Kelly as he was committed to another event at the time. However, as the reunion of John Hall and Larry Hoppen took place, the two rediscovered the Orleans magic that first made the band tick.
In 1985, John Hall used the connections he had in Nashville, Tennessee, to bring Orleans back together as a band again and record the album, Grown Up Children. The album was released in 1986 with John Hall, Lance Hoppen, Larry Hoppen, and Bob Leinbach as the core lineup. There were guest vocal appearances made by Chet Atkins, Bela Fleck, Ricky Skaggs, and Steve Wariner.
While in Nashville, it was realized by Hall and Larry Hoppen that it was a great place to serve as songwriters but not so great for Orleans as a band. This resulted in the group falling into a dormant state until the group slowly earned back its musical presence in the American Northeast. This resulted in a 1990 opportunity to cut a live album for the growing fan base that was taking place in Japan. Orleans responded by performing two shows at Woodstock’s Bearsville Theater that featured John Hall, Lance and Larry Hoppin, and Bob Leinbach. Paul Branin was a member of the band’s lineup at this time Serving as special guests for the live performances were Lane Hoppen, Rob Leon, Jonell Mosser, and John Sebastion.
Orleans Live became a double CD set that was released in Japan in February 1991, a few months before the band performed live in that nation for what would be the first time. This was followed in 1993 by the American release of the band’s live recording as two separate releases. It was also during a time when Orleans didn’t have a label in the United States so the band was signed to Japan’s Pioneer when Analog Men was released as an album in 1994. Due to the popularity of Orleans at the time, the group returned to Japan to perform more shows.
When Woodstock 94 was proposed as a concert for Saugerties, New York, this was an opportunity too good for Orleans to turn down. A year later, Orleans was tourigg as a trio with Hall and the Hoppins brothers. The majority of the venues they performed in clubs but the band also toured with Fleetwood Mac, Pat Benatar, and REO Speedwagon. In 1996, Ride became the latest album released by Orleans but the independent label they dealt with at the time failed to promote the album properly in order for its single, “I Am on Your Side” from receiving more radio airplay.
Second Split and Reunion
In 1997, the members of Orleans opted to take another break from each other as a band. This came at a time when John Hall was spending more time as a songwriter in Nashville and Lance Hoppin was touring various country artists. A remarried Larry Hoppin wanted to spend more time at home and start a family. However, his love of music had him become with the Voices of Classic Rock starting in 1997. In 2000, he also formed his own band so he could perform again. In 2003, he joined Rock & Pop Masters (RPM) as part of a supergroup that featured lead singers from Rainbow, Santana, Survivor, and Toto.
Despite going their separate ways for a second time, John Hall, the Hoppin brothers, and Bob Leinbach reunited again as Orleans and opted to remain together as a band from that time forth. In the lineup at this time was also Peter O’Brien. However, the lineup changed again after John Hall ventured into politics in 2006 and became a congressman representing the Democrats until he was defeated by Nan Hayworth in 2010. Replacing Hall was the return of Dennis Amero. Replacing O’Brien was Charlie Morgan. A year later, the band released another live recording, We’re Still Havin’ Fun.
As a group, Orleans continued to perform music. However, on July 24, 2012, Larry Hoppin ended his own life just before Orleans was scheduled to perform in concert. However, Lance Hoppin rose to the occasion by setting his personal mourning for the loss of his older brother aside so that Orleans could continue the tour. It was assumed at this time once the touring was over, Orleans would cease as a band and the men would go their separate ways again.
However, this was not the case as 2013 was a year that featured Orleans’s record and release of The Last Band Standing, as well as the double-disc compilation recording of No More than You Can Handle: A 40 Year Musical Journey.
Orleans still continues today as a band with Dennis Amero, Lance and Lane Hoppins, Tom Lane, and Brady Spencer. In 2019, then again in 2022, John Hall retired. After retiring the first time, Hall felt he wasn’t quite done yet but complications from the COVID-19 pandemic put the concert tours on hold until the summer of 2021. In the meantime, Orleans recorded a video performance of “No More Than You Can Handle” in memory of Larry Hoppen as a means to boost public morale as the world felt like it was in the middle of its darkest hour.
Top 10 Orleans Songs
#10 – I Am on Your Side
If you want a song that makes you feel like a superhero, “I Am on Your Side” from the 2017 release Love Takes Time 10 Authorized Hits By Orleans is the one to do it. The guitar solo featured in this awesome song served as a reminder of why Orleans was so heavily favored as a band by fans who were fortunate enough to come across the band’s musical material. This is simply a beautiful song. If you feel as if the world is against you, listen to “I Am on Your Side” so you are reminded that it’s no more than you can handle.
#9 – Don’t Throw Our Love Away
From the album, Forever, “Don’t Throw Our Love Away” earned critical acclaim as a witty pop song. The main highlight came from the guitarwork, which demonstrated not even the departure of John Hall was enough to thwart Orleans from putting forth quality music that could win over and maintain a solid fan base. Unfortunately for Orleans, Infinity Records wasn’t able to give Forever, nor “Don’t Throw Our Love Away” the amount of attention they deserved for the musical masterpieces they were at the time.
#8 – Forever
On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart, “Forever” became a number twenty-four hit in 1979. It was the title track from Orleans’ fifth studio album. After Larry Hoppen ended his life on July 24, 2012, the surviving members of Orleans performed this song. It was written by Hoppen, along with Bob Leinbach, and it was about a friendship that stood the test of time no matter what fate decided to throw at it. The acoustic guitar starting the song set the tone of a heartfelt number that still makes a great tune to listen to when you feel the urge to take a trip down memory lane. Be careful if you do as you may need a tissue before the song is over.
#7 – Reach
In 1977, “Reach” became a number fifty-one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as a number forty-seven hit on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart. In Canada, it peaked as high as number thirty-one on its Top Singles chart. Musically, it shared similar characteristics as “Still the One” but with less funk and more groove. If you’re looking for a good cheer-up song to get out of a bummer mood, “Reach” is it. As a band, Orleans had a knack for delivering cheery material that could take someone from feeling dumpy to feeling groovy as if without effort.
#6 – Spring Fever
The appeal behind “Spring Fever” came from the saxophone as it gave the song from Orleans’ Waking and Dreaming album a pop sound that made it an easy fan favorite. Unfortunately, as a single, “Spring Fever” failed to chart but this song demonstrated Orleans at its finest as a group that earned its place as a world-class talent. This is a cool, fun, and sexy number that’s perfect for a fan of easy-listening music. The beauty behind Orleans was the easygoing style their songs had which also doubled as a great mood booster.
#5 – Love Takes Time
“Love Takes Time” became a number eleven hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 after it was released as a single in 1979. It also became a number thirteen hit on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart, and a number twenty-three hit on the Canadian Top Singles chart. From the album, Forever, this dynamic tune also became a minor hit in Australia as it peaked as high as number ninety in that nation. While the critics felt “Love Takes Time” sounded too much like “Dance with Me” and “Still the One,” fans still loved the soft rock melody enough to consider it a favorite.
Personally, as a fan, whenever I hear a song that comes with great piano performance, it’s usually a winner. It’s even better when the guitars and vocals can accommodate a performance that’s every bit as entertaining, not to mention uplifting.
#4 – No More Than You Can Handle
“No More Than You Can Handle” immortalized Larry Hoppen as a songwriter. This Orleans classic was one of the best tunes the band ever performed in its career. If you want a good song that motivates someone from “I can’t” to “I can,” this is it. In a memorandum of Larry Hoppen, “No More Than You Can Handle” became one of Orleans’ signature songs. 2017’s Love Takes Time 10 Authorized Hits By Orleans featured this incredible song that was written and performed by such incredible talent.
In 2021, when this song was performed as a video to lift the spirits of music fans during the COVID-19 pandemic, “No More Than You Can Handle” became an anthem among the fortunate listeners who took the time to take the song’s message in. If you feel as if the world around you is giving you more than you can handle, listen to this beautiful song and use it as a tool to lift your spirits so you may reconsider your line of thinking. When placing faith over fear and in a constructive manner, this is when you become the best version of yourself.
#3 – Let There Be Music
“Let There Be Music” was the debut single Orleans hoped would earn it the recognition it deserved as a world-class talent that would win over a nationwide audience. It was enough to become a number fifty-five hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as a number ninety-six hit on the Canadian Top Singles chart. However, the song didn’t receive enough airplay at the time so it wouldn’t be until the stretch of time before more listeners were treated to the soft rock delight it is.
The guitar riffs of this song were simply amazing. If you want that great tune that’s perfect as you’re on the road, “Let There Be Music” is it.
#2 – Dance With Me
On the US Billboard Hot 100 and the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart, “Dance with Me” became a number one six hit after it was released as a single from the album, Let There Be Music, in 1975. It also became certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. This was actually a second release for “Dance with Me,” but featured a melodica solo that was performed by Larry Hoppen. A melodica is a small keyboard that is blown into a tube.
Previously, this song was released as a single in 1974 from the band’s second studio album, Orleans II, but failed to make the same kind of impression as the newer version did. This was a song that John Hall wrote with his wife at the time, Joanna. While he came up with the melody, it was she who came up with the title and the lyrics. “Dance with Me” still has the infectious appeal as a soft acoustic rock number that could easily encourage the listener to take the song up on its offer. It appealed the Canadian fans enough to chart “Dance with Me” as high as number five on its Top Singles chart, as well as the Australian fans for the song to peak as high as number thirty-three.
#1 – Still the One
“Still the One” was a 1976 release that became a number five hit for Orleans on the US Billboard Hot 100. From the album, Waking and Dreaming, this became the band’s signature single that continues to be a crowd-pleasing favorite. In 1977, Bill Anderson turned this song into a US Billboard Hot Country Singles favorite at number eleven with his cover version.
As a love song, “Still the One” addresses his feelings for his significant other as someone who was still just awesome to him now as she was when they first met. For Johanna Hall, the lyrics behind “Still the One” was deliberately written as a contrast to the flurry of breakup songs. As soon as the lyrics were handed to her husband at the time, John Hall, it took him only fifteen minutes to put together the musical composition. It didn’t take long for Orleans and the record label they had at the time to realize they had a hit single on their hands.
It was more than just some hit single. In 1977, it was used as a jingle to promote the American Broadcasting Company’s 1977 television season, as well as its 1979 television season. This came at a time when ABC earned the highest ratings in the United States. The song’s lyrics were also altered on occasion as a means to promote some kind of product or service by a variety of advertising agencies. In 2004, Republican George Bush played the song as part of his campaign until Democrat John Hall forced him to stop. This happened again in 2008 when Republican John McCain did this for his presidential campaign. Hall, however, had no problem with a version of the song’s chorus to be played during the 2008 Democratic National Convention after Senator Ted Kennedy made his speech.
“Still the One” also became a number nine hit on the Canadian Top Singles chart, as well as a number thirty-one hit in New Zealand, and a number sixty-one hit in Australia. It also became the second certified gold seller with the Recording Industry Association of America, playing an instrumental role in what became Orleans’ most successful album.
Feature Photo: Brettalan, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Orleans Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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