The release of "A La Carte - Est. 1976" is the first-and-only album from the Southern California power trio that ceased performing in 1984. After four decades, hopefully it was worth the wait.
Barely out of their teens, guitarist K.K. Martin, bassist Craig Miller and drummer Brian O'Brian had years of performance experience in previous bands prior to launching A La Carte on October 12th 1976. An auspicious, boisterous kickoff, the band played to a drunken mob of 2000 at an annual Seal Beach block party which resulted in the ban (to this day) of unlicensed amplified live music. The commotion was observed by a few savvy rock promoters who saw the band's potential to fill up their hall parties. By December 1976 A La Carte was playing the 2000 capacity Queen Mary, the 1500 capacity Lafayette (Fender's) Ballroom and soon thereafter the 1500 capacity Edgewater, increasingly sporting more amps, bigger road crews and ever-gaudier custom-made stage attire. Between gigs the band did what all 70's bands did: rehearse in the afternoon, write songs in the evening, and party all night long like they would never die.
Adding to the band's buzz was their friendship and mutual respect with The Runaways, the world's first internationally famous all female rock group. The bands played gigs, traded licks and hung out together. The Runaways had become a major headliner and A La Carte could deliver a crowd that would help pack the shows.
After having gigged with all the more prominent local talent (Smile, Snow, Wolfgang, Stormer, Eulogy, Max Havoc and many others), A La Carte set their sights on playing with the longest-standing local band, Van Halen, and were offered a slot just nine months after their October '76 coming-out. The results were hilarious......more about that someday.
By this time, A La Carte had firmly established their own sound. Guitarist K.K. Martin described it as "ZZ Top meets The Who and talks about the J. Giels Band". With two distinct lead singers, spot-on harmonies, a dynamic, peerless bass player, an accomplished show-drummer with barely any clothes and too much makeup, and a searing, slashing blues-infused lead guitarist, A La Carte easily stood apart from the crowded field. Writing and performing songs that were alternately heavy thunder and ferocious boogie, the band enhanced their live appearances with outrageous humor and outlandish showmanship. The crowds seemed pleased.
Fast forward... Hollywood beckoned.
Randy Rhoads-era Quiet Riot, a band who had opened for A La Carte on several occasions in Long Beach and Orange County, called to invite A La Carte to play a weekend with them at the Starwood. So began A La Carte's two-year residency at arguably the best-ever venue in Hollywood, sidestepping occasionally to play the Whisky a-Go-Go and the Troubadour. With an unlimited guest list and a bottomless bar tab, A La Carte and all of their best friends and fans were living the dream.
When the Starwood was forced to close in 1981, A La Carte went back to playing their favorite Orange County venues: the Golden Bear, Radio City, and the Woodstock. Life was good and the gigs were still hot but time took its toll and the band parted as friends in 1984.
Featured in Bob Nalbandian's 2015 rockumentary "Inside Metal: Pioneers of L.A. Hard Rock and Metal", A La Carte clearly left its mark on the Southern California musical landscape. Although many scratchy recordings and half-melted cassette tapes of the band are still floating around, A La Carte never took the opportunity to release an album of their material. The new disc is a reflection of good times past: very new recordings of very old songs, 80% of which were written between 1976 and 1979. The record is a no frills representation of the way A La Carte sounded during that wonderful era, designed to please old friends, and hopefully make a few new ones.
From friends and colleagues:
Gene Hoglan - International Drum Superstar - Testament , Dethklok, Galaktikon, Meldrum, Strapping Young Lad, Death, Dark Angel:
"A La Carte helped mold my teenage rock sensibilities, as they were the most entertaining, explosive three-piece in LA. Their powerhouse boogie & blues was an absolute influence on the entire LA scene, and lemme tell ya, I've made no bones about their obscenely-talented drummer Brian O'Brian's complete influence on my entire life. From ZZ Top's swagger, to the Isley Brothers' strut, like Rolling a Stone down a Mountain, A La Carte has all bases of boogie covered, and their rock is timeless and ageless. Bow and thank the rock gods for A La Carte. I know I do."
Bob Nalbandian - journalist/filmmaker:
"Inside Metal: Pioneers of L.A. Hard Rock and Metal"
I was 15 and attended my first local rock show. It was A La Carte performing at the original Golden Bear night club on PCH in Huntington Beach. And needless to say, I was just FLOORED! I’d already attended a few major concerts at the Long Beach Arena, AC/DC, Rainbow and Judas Priest, and after witnessing A La Carte live, I had that same feeling of “What the fuck just hit me?!"
A La Carte was a huge part of the underground rock movement in Los Angeles and Orange County in the late 70s. We're talking bands like Van Halen, Y&T, Quiet Riot with Randy Rhoads, Snow with Carlos Cavazo, Smile, Xciter with George Lynch, Dante Fox, who later turned into Great White. Even though they played more blues-inspired rock, A La Carte led the way for the LA Glam Rock explosion that soon followed…Bands like Motley Crue, Ratt, WASP and Black n Blue. A La Carte’s music is hard to describe, it’s sort of like the bluesy side of Aerosmith and AC/DC mixed with early ZZ Top. A La Carte was also hilarious live; drummer Brian O’Brian was like a comedian on stage and the whole band had that magical charisma you just don't see anymore at local clubs. I remember the Golden Bear had tables and chairs all the way to the front of the stage and everyone in attendance was standing up, with girls dancing on the tables and chairs.
Fast forward to 2017. A La Carte just put out a new CD, their first in over 40 years. And you know something? It was damn well worth the wait! Awesome production, fantastic performances and great song selection from their original live repertoire…This is classic A La Carte! Nearly a half a century later, the three original members of A La Carte haven’t missed a beat...These guys totally nailed it!
Steve Roman - Stage Manager Lady Gaga 2017; Stage/Production Manager Kiss, Pink, No Doubt, Gwen Stefani; Lighting Crew Chief Guns and Roses; Lighting Designer Red Hot Chili Peppers:
"As a kid growing up in L.A. I went to see this band called A La Carte at The Starlite Ballroom in Orange County. The first time I saw them it was like "What the fuck did I just see?" It was the best unsigned rock band that I had ever seen. Their music was original and they were a power trio which I had never seen before. The music that came from them was toe tapping and catchy and all the girls loved them(which was another reason to go see them). After I saw them I said I have to work with this band. Which it turns out I did. I owe them for my career in the music business because if I never saw them I wouldn't have wanted to work in the business....and by working with them it opened doors for me which I will be forever grateful. Be Bop Boogie and Jive....One of my favorite bands of all time."
Philip Ealy - 2015 CMA SRO Awards winner/2016 CMA Awards nominee Lighting Director Of The Year - Kenny Chesney, 2016 Parnelli Awards winner Lighting Designer Of The Year - Guns N’ Roses. Lighting Director Britney Spears 2013 - current, Lighting Director Kenny Chesney 2015 - current.:
"A La Carte to me represented everything that the LA/Orange County rock scene had to offer. A power trio that had an original sound with explosive in-your-face rock to down-in-the-gutter dirty blues. I was fortunate to experience the sights, the sounds, the smells of the era. I truly enjoyed working with them, ultimately remaining life long friends. The release of this newly recorded music is an epic opportunity for their old fans, and the new ones to come."
Scotty Waller - Lead singer/Rock Star Extraordinaire - Smile:
A La Carte is absolutely one of my favorite bands from the day. Loud, rowdy rock and roll, and this record sounds just like they always were, with all the power and excitement of our day!
Steve Gaines - Anger as Art, Abattoir Bloodlust, Bitch, Tactics:
"As a youngster going to see bands play, A La Carte was the first one whose performance was like a punch in the face!"
Mark Caro - Abattoir, Evil Dead, SHARK, Cap'n Billy:
"A La Carte was one of the giants on the Hollywood circuit - Three guys that put out more sound and energy than full five and six piece bands. No band was more influential on my early music career than A La Carte."
Timothy Gaines - Stryper, Stormer:
"We all have influences that helped shape us into who or what we are to be in life. A La Carte was one of those bands that would influence this young aspiring musician to carry the torch throughout the eighties and Beyond. Such great musicians and showmen. I've seen A La Carte at so many great and historic venues in the 70s and early 80s... The Starwood and The Whisky a Go-Go. The music was always the best... Bones Them Bones Them Skin and Bones... Good Old Number 7... I love A La Carte. Such a great group."
Blake Hastings - Vocals & Guitars for hIPNOSTIC
"Outstanding Review Bob Nalbandian! A La Carte was my band...so many incredible memories and was a huge inspiration and influence on me as a young musical lad growing up in HB...the raw power of KK, Craig and Brian showed us you only need 3, plus the sheer entertainment value of KK and Craig interacting and of course Brian's stage antics left a huge impression on me growing up...I'm so grateful I had that early influence of Ala Carte because in some way I try to channel it in my own 3 pc band hIPNOSTIC...Thank you so much K.k. Martin, Craig Miller and Brian...What you did mattered so much and I can close my eyes and still imagine Brian walking up to his kit and counting off Old #7...Bad Ass All The Way!"