Brief History / Discography - Orleans (2024)

From their earliest days as a favorite at colleges and clubs in the Northeast US … to studio and live collaborations with great artists, includingBonnie Raitt,Jackson Browne,Little Featand many others … to Top 10 successwith bona-fide classics such asStill the One”, “Dance With MeandLove Takes TimeOrleans is now celebrating 50 years of creating musical history.

Although the makeup of the live band has seen many incarnations over the years, their oldest fans are amazed at the fact that the band still sounds as good as (or even better than) ever … especially their vocals! Younger fans are simply impressed. Everyone agrees – these guys “still have it”.

Formed inWoodstock, NYin February 1972 by John Hall, Larry Hoppen and Wells Kelly,Orleans became a quartet when Lance Hoppen joined in October of that year. Hall’s “Half Moon” was in the first batch of original song demos but, to fill out live shows, they played lots of covers. Some were Alan Toussaint,Neville Brothers /Meters tunes (hence the intended-to-be-temporary choice of name) as they went about perfecting a delicious recipe of eclectic material, incorporating rock, R&B and reggae with vocal harmony. That ledRolling Stone magazine to christen them“the best unrecorded band in the country” in early 1973.

Soon after, a round of showcase performances inNYCgave rise to a recording contract withABC Dunhill Recordsand the release of the eponymously titled first album. Later signing withAsylum Records, they produced chart-topping hits includingLet There Be Music”,Dance With Me”,Reachand, of course, their American standard,Still the One(withJerry Marottalending his drumming skills to theirWaking and Dreaming album). Adding to each other’s strengths, John (with his then-wife and songwriting partner, Johanna) was the most prolific songwriter while Larry supplied the lead voice for the radio hits. Orleans’ classics have been played on terrestrial radio countless millions of times since they were first released and now stream constantly on all the major platforms.

AfterOrleansestablished national radio popularity, Hall left in the fall of1977to pursue a solo career, while Still the Oneplayed ceaselessly as theABC TV network theme song.He recorded his solo album,“Power”,as well as 2 albums withThe John Hall Band.WithBonnie Raitt,Jackson BrowneandGraham Nash,he co-foundedMusicians United for Safe Energy(MUSE)in1979and co-produced theMadison Square Gardenconcerts andWarner Brotherstriple album,No Nukes”.That same activism resulted in John’s election to theUlster County (NY) Legislature, Saugerties Board of Educationand, later, theUS Congress.

Orleans(the Hoppens and Kelly), addingBob LeinbachandRA Martin, continued to tour and record, scoring another hitwithLove Takes Timein 1979.1981saw the departure of Bob, RA and Wells, as the Hoppens forged on. FollowingWells’ untimely death in 1984,a memorial gig reunited the Hoppens with Hall. Larry confides, “It was at that turning point and with the perspective it brought that we started to refer to Orleansas a perpetual ‘work in progress’“.

By1986, a reunited Hall/HoppensOrleanshad cut theGrownup Childrenalbum under the direction of famedNashville Producer/MCA label chief,Tony Brown.1990saw the group’s double live CD anthology release, first inJapanand later in the states. Two tours of Japan, an appearance atWoodstock ’94and theCan’t Stop Rockin’ TourwithFleetwood Mac,REO SpeedwagonandPat Benatar in ’95 were highlights of the 90s, as were the releases of both theAnalog MenandRidealbums.

OrleansDancin’ in the MoonlightCD was released in2005to fans eager for the band’s first new studio recording in ten years. It includes a great version of that song, which Larry first recorded with its writer,Sherman Kelly(Wells’ brother) back in 1969, before their friendsKing Harvesthit with their own version in 1973.

When John announced to Larry and Lance in late 2005 that he intended torun for Congress, no one was surprised. All 3 made contingency plans:Orleanswould play shows with Hall as schedules allowed while simultaneously reintegratingDennis “Fly” Amero,who had played guitar in the band when John had gone solo earlier on. The band then filmed its first-ever live concert DVD. Released in November of 2006, it features an expanded roster including both John and Fly, performing much ofOrleans’ musical legacy from its then three and a half decades. Some of that audio comprises the2007SONYCD releaseWe’re Still Havin’ FunandOrleans, including Hall, recurrently appears onPBS’ ‘My Music: The 70s Experience, (filmed in May 2006).

Hall then went on to serve two terms (2007-2010) as a U.S. Representative (D-NY, 19th) as Amero carved out his permanent place in the band, joining youngest Hoppen brother, Lane, on keyboards and drummerCharlie Morgan(best known for his many years withElton John).Hall and the Hoppens agreed that, on the occasions it would be possible, all three co-founders would still gladly reunite. As they headed into 2012, their40th anniversaryyear, plans were being made to do just that in a BIG way … but Fate had other plans.

On July 24th, 2012,Orleanssuffered its biggest tragedy to date. On that day, at his home inSanford, FL, Larry Hoppen succumbed to a “perfect storm” of long-standing, life-draining stresses. Suddenly, he was gone.

“We mourned the loss. We survived the shock. We honored his memory by keeping on keeping on,” brother Lance explains. With the return to the fold of John Hall, Orleanscommitted itself to (at least) finishing the 2012 calendar of scheduled performances with the help of several alumni. That mission ended inNashville, TNonNovember 11thwith an“Orleans & Friends” fundraising concertto benefit Larry’s children. And that might have been the end of it right then and there, if not for the infusion of energy by new management.

With the help and guidance of industry veteran Len Fico, the band signed on to 2013‘sSailing Rocktour, not only playing a set of its own hits, but providing back up for headlinerChristopher Crossand contemporariesFirefall, Gary Wright, John Ford Coley, Robbie Dupree, PlayerandAl Stewart.That year also saw the release ofThe Last Band StandingDVD and the double-disc compilation CD,No More Than You Can Handle“,featuring several previously unreleased recordings. Among them is the title cut, which was the last in which Larry was to participate.

2014and beyond have seen a steady stream of tour dates, including a few Rock ‘n’ Roll cruises.Orleans has often shared the stage with other contemporaries …Poco, Firefall, Pure Prairie League, Ambrosia, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Paul Barrere andFred Tackett (Little Feat), etc. The configuration of Lance, John, Lane, Fly and Charlie remained intact until Charlie’s departure in the spring of2018, succeeded by Nashville-local,Brady Spencer.

When COVID-19hit the world in early2020, the band adapted to the lack of live shows by learning some new audio-video home-recording skills. Working remotely from each of their respective homes, they produced a series of 4 new video tracks, released onYouTube.

Having accomplished that, they set their sights on the creation of an all new Christmas/Holidays album.The material came from various sources with most, but not all, written internally. Some songs were lifted “as is” from previously recorded lives. Some had previous starts but underwent major revisions and upgrades. Some were cut from scratch. Some are purely secular while several center around the Christmas story. With contributions from a handful of musical “ringers” …John Jorgenson, Billy Payne, Dan Dugmore, Andrea Zonn,among others… “New Star Shiningwas released inSeptemberof2021.

The band returned to the road in June of 2021. Unfortunately, Fly Amero had a personal situation that forced him to stop touring that August. After a mad scramble to find a suitable sub/replacement, Nashville-based singer/guitarist Tom Lanelanded the position.

In March of 2022, John Hall decided it was time to leave the rigors of the road behind, instead opting to focus on writing and recording. Fortunately, Fly’s situation had resolved and he returned to the band full-time.

Later that year, John and Lance were invited to host the Time-Life “Summer Breeze Collection” infomercial for their latest 70s/80s “soft rock” CD offering

At the end of February, 2023, Fly once again had to remove himself from the touring band. With not much time to prepare prior to our next Rock ‘n’ Romance cruise gig, longtime friend, Mike Severs, took over the position temporarily. He was succeeded by Tony Hooper, a bandmate of Tom Lane’s for decades. So …

Here in 2023, the working live band, led by co-founder Lance Hoppen, includes brotherLane Hoppen, Brady Spencer,Tom Lane and Tony Hooper. Like all other versions before it, this roster continues to deliver Orleans’ music with the class and integrity it deserves, to the delight of audiences everywhere.

Meanwhile, the band (including John) is threatening to finish what is intended to become a new album. Incorporating the hits, the 2020 YouTube releases and a handful of all-new recordings, this promises to mine more gold for their recent golden anniversary … as the “work in progress” continues for what has become an American musical institution. Stay tuned!

Brief History / Discography - Orleans (2024)
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