The Ides Of March may not have garnered the commercial success of Blood, Sweet, & Tears or Chicago but back in the early 1970’s, they were one of the leading practitioners of the brass/rock sound that was so popular at the time.
Guitarist/vocalist Jim Peterik, guitarist/keyboardist Larry Milas, bassist Ray Herr, and drummer Michael Borch began in the Chicago area as the Shon-Dels in 1964 before changing their name in 1966. They were a garage type band who managed to have a huge local hit single with “You Wouldn’t Listen” that went on to become a moderate national hit.
The band added a brass section of Bob Bergland, Chuck Soumar, and John Larson in the late 1960’s and that made all the difference. They signed a contract with Warner Brothers and their first release “Vehicle” became the fastest selling single in the company’s history to date. They quickly released their first album, which was also commercially successful and has now been reissued with bonus tracks.
The album was patterned on the sound of Blood, Sweat & Tears but veered from that style on several extended tracks, which were a little grittier and more improvisational than the slick pop of B,S,&T.
“Vehicle” was a perfect radio song. It has an opening blast of brass, a passionate vocal by the 20 year old Peterik, and a melody that grabbed your attention. They traveled in a very different direction with “Home” and “One Woman Band,” which were delicate ballads. They ramp the energy back up with “Factory Band,” which could have been right out the Creedence Clearwater catalogue.
The seven minute cover of “Wooden Ships/Dhama For One” and the almost ten-minute “Symphony For Eleanor (Eleanor Rigby)” are symbolic of their stage act, which relied more on improvisation.
The album was reissued a decade or so ago with a less than adequate sound. That issue has been corrected as the sound is now clear and crisp. A booklet gives a fine history of the band and album.
Sometimes bonus tracks add little to an album but the four extra tracks here not only fit in well with the original release but enhance the overall experience. The single version of “Vehicle” is required listening for any fan of the era. The non-album single “Melody” is almost as good and why it failed to receive any chart action remains a mystery. Add in two Jim Peterik compositions, “High On A Hillside” and “Lead Me Home Gently” and you have a much stronger album.
The Ides of Match split in 1973. Peterik went on to become a member of Survivor, penning and singing such tunes as “Eye Of The Tiger,” “The Search Is Over,” and “High On You.” In 1990 all seven original members reunited and continued together until the deaths of Herr and Larson in 2011 from cancer. Peterik, Milas, Bergland, and Borsh, with some new additions, are still out on the road today.
Vehicle remains one of the great lost albums of the early 1970’s. The music has held-up well and remains fresh.