I first met guitar composer Tom Salvatori way back in 2002 when I reviewed his then released nylon string guitar classic Late Night Guitar. What I didn’t know back then was that earlier in his career, Tom had played double neck guitar and bass in a prog-rock band centered around music composed by his older brother Michael. The brothers had a band called Apocalypse and recorded a one off ‘live in the studio’ album, which was essentially a demo of the band recording the music Michael penned for The Castle. Recorded in 1976, a tape of the Apocalypse album, The Castle, although presumed lost in a studio fire, was actually rediscovered in Michael’s archives in 2021, and was finally pressed by Guerssen Records (Spain) on their Out-sider label for an LP release in early 2022 in what the prog rock world is discovering as a great find resulting from a wonderful twist of fate. The album is also now available as a CD version that can be purchased though the Salvatori Productions website.
Although with a story not quite as heavy, much the same could be said about the one and only Michael Salvatori solo album, Waiting For Autumn. Pressed as a black vinyl album in 1982, just 2 short years before the music industry started releasing music solely on compact disc, Waiting For Autumn was sadly overlooked upon its release, and so it barely registered a blip on the music industry radar, which makes its discovery today that much more rewarding.
Waiting For Autumn is a long-lost prog classic co-produced by the brothers and featuring Michael’s original compositions backed up by Tom Salvatori (classical guitar), Michael’s wife Gail (backing vocals), Henry Bahr (drums, percussion), Gary Polkow (keyboards) and a number of other musicians. Waiting for Autumn sounds as equally if not more impressive as the one and only Apocalypse album.
When the two brothers started their Salvatori Productions record label in 1995, a trove of Tom’s solo nylon string guitar compositions were recorded and released. Then in 2002, when Waiting For Autumn was first reissued on CD, it was also somewhat overlooked and, according to Tom, it wasn’t promoted or reviewed at the time as he was focused on a growing Ad Agency career and raising his family along-side Mike’s now too. Flashing forward 20 years later in 2022, following in the footsteps of the Apocalypse archival CD release, Waiting For Autumn was reissued to the public again on CD, marking the third time as the charm.
Although recorded 40 years ago, Michael’s 1982 debut solo album hasn’t aged a bit and listening to it on CD, it’s a rediscovery of an album that should have been much better known. Listeners lucky enough to have heard the Apocalypse album, The Castle, will note some stylistic similarities in Waiting For Autumn and both albums dovetail together very nicely, with both highlighting the early-in-the-career compositional genius and guitar expertise of Michael Salvatori.
Musically, the six-cut, 40-minute Waiting For Autumn starts off with a sense of upbeat jazz-infused rock urgency in “When I Look In Your Eyes”, a track that perfectly sets the scene and features remarkable instrumental performances by all players. It also features memorable, wistful lyrics. Both Michael’s vocals and the band really click together on this first track that absolutely cooks. Of note on this track, and in fact on the entire album, are key contributions of Gary Polkow’s keyboards and the jazzy-rock drumming of Henry Bahr, featuring a sound that interlocks with the smoking electric guitar leads by Michael Salvatori along with other featured guitar soloists.
Following with the contemplative if not haunting acoustic-meets-prog-rock procession of the title track, Waiting For Autumn really takes off for the stratosphere with a powerhouse track called “Throw It To The Wind”. With its McCartney-esque pop-meets-prog late ‘70s Genesis style, the 7+ minutes of “Throw It To The Wind” closed out the first side of the LP (it’s track 3 on the CD) with 20 solid minutes of music. Speaking of Genesis, fans of Steve Hackett would find much to like about this track and in fact all of Waiting For Autumn.
In its entirety, track 4, “Letter From The Front”, is a nearly 8-minute, 3-part prog-rock suite that combines Hackett-era Genesis-inspired rock, with a middle part that merges a nylon string guitar piece performed by Tom Salvatori call “A Place Of Solitude”, all of which morphs into the track’s part 3, an early King Crimson/ELP-influenced acoustic-rock culmination called “The Final Entry”.
Another interesting aspect of Michael Salvatori’s composing strength can be heard on track 5 “A Matter Of Time”. This all-instrumental prog-heavy rock song sounds fully explored and would easily find a home on any classic rock radio program. The 9-minute multi-part symphonic prog closer, “Epilogue” begins with a kind of Greg Lake/ELP-era inspired acoustic intro. “Epilogue” fits into the album’s prog sound with anthemic themes that perfectly suit Michael’s acoustic and electric guitar and vocal proficiency.
Of course, as fate would have it, this would be Michael’s final solo rock album to date, as post-1985 he went on to work in the world of composing for commercials and jingles (Flintstone’s Kids Vitamins, etc.) and is still making music history composing and recording Video Game soundtracks, including with wildly successful HALO in the 2000’sand now the Destiny series in the 2010s through today.
Now in 2022, the time is right to re-experience the sonic wonders of Waiting For Autumn, a symphonic prog rock classic that will go down among the truly rare and ground-breaking musical adventures in the world of prog rock history.
mwe3.com presents an interview with
mwe3: I was reading the lyric sheet for Waiting For Autumn and Michael’s lyrics to “When I Look In Your Eyes” were somewhat lovelorn, but then I saw the original LP liner notes I see Gail Salvatori sang back up on that track, nice to see the family all together on this release as it was on The Castle. Great to see Waiting For Autumn is coming back into focus, albeit 40 years later!
Tom Salvatori: Yes, thanks Robert! To frame 1982, Mike and Gail were married and had 2 kids already, and I was just completing my college years. They went on to have 4 kids and now count 19 Grandchildren! Gail was quite busy raising the family and teaching music when Mike started his basement studio called MCS Recording in Wheaton, Illinois. Back then, we would work on the music for Waiting For Autumn whenever we had time. I was going back and forth to college in Milwaukee and Mike, who was always composing, was working on the music as a personal studio project…a labor of love. We had a lot of fun focusing on and developing Mike's songs whenever I was home from school.
mwe3: Clearly from listening to Waiting For Autumn 40 years later, it’s evident that Michael was really reaching for something special on this album, it even has a kind of
Tom Salvatori: We of course were heavily influenced by Euro-prog from the 1970's, Yes, Genesis, Renaissance, ELP, Gentle Giant, PFM…and for us, Waiting for Autumn was a natural extension and evolution of our band and a clear next step from the Apocalypse band demo tape for The Castle, although we had much more studio control in its development rather than us just playing live in the studio when we recorded The Castle - if that makes sense! We had the time, energy, studio resources and enthusiasm to make the songs on Waiting for Autumn excellent both in compositional structure and on tape through the recording process.
Tom Salvatori: Thanks so much Robert. Mike was at a high point in his talent and very focused on the quality of writing/composing and we were not in a rush at all - so we had the time to do it right... and we worked with the best players we knew at the time.
Tom Salvatori: We recorded the various parts in Mike's MCS Studio in Wheaton, Illinois over a two-year period, and yes, it was recorded on reel-to-reel tape. It was a project that we nudged along a little bit at a time, whenever I was in town from college and Mike's studio wasn't booked, and most importantly, when Mike and Gail’s kids were sleeping because the studio was in his basement…we could hear footsteps above us in the headphones if the kids were still up!
Funny story - on one late night session while recording the track “When I Look In Your Eyes” we had the creative idea to use the bottles from a case of Molson Golden beer for an extra percussive effect and we found that we could “tune” the pitch of each beer bottle by taking sips and leaving them filled to various capacities and then playing them with drum mallets to create the sound sequence we wanted. So, technically, it was my first foray into being a percussionist and as official beer sipper, a slightly inebriated one at that… but not only was it an uncredited percussion feature on the song, but it has never been mentioned until now that I am sharing the story with you Robert - News Flash - you and mwe3.com have earned an exclusive as a “beat” reporter (shameless pun, sorry)! And yes, I over-committed to one heavy-handed mallet hit and smashed one of the bottles, which made quite a mess that we had to stop and clean up. We discussed long into the mix and mastering process whether we should keep the actual breaking bottle sound on the album. It was well recorded and quite dramatic!... but Mike made the executive decision to edit it out.
Tom Salvatori: Mike and I co-produced the album ourselves, and it was one of the only times in our lives that I was ever responsible for suggesting a composing edit for Mike – who, by the way, is much more well known for editing me! There was a bit written into “A Matter Of Time” that sounded to me like another song that had been popular a decade earlier, so I stepped up and asked him to take it out. And he agreed and complied - for the greater good as we like to say. And there’s no one I trust more with my work than Mike to edit my music and guitar pieces – also for the greater good. Sometimes a composer/writer can get too close to a piece to understand it from an unbiased, unemotional place and that’s why editing is such an important part of the mix and the mastering stage – if something doesn’t fit properly into a project…or worse, if you find yourself spending a lot of time trying to rationalize why something should fit into a project – you need an editor. Our rule is never to take the editing request personally – and thankfully, our parents taught us a golden rule – don’t shoot the messenger!
Getting back to reviews and promotion though… I know this sounds funny, but when an album is recorded and finished, some composers just move on to the next project. It is not uncommon for an artist to completely bypass the promotion and review stage and jump into the next project! And Mike moved on to growing his family and he also stepped into the commercial and jingle music stage with both feet and was very busy. So I’m happy to see the album finally receive some press attention - albeit 40 years on thanks to you, Robert!
Thanks again for bringing Waiting For Autumn to the attention of your readership, we really appreciate it and hope that your readers enjoy discovering the album.