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AOR and A Tribute To The WestCoast Spirit

AOR and A Tribute  To The WestCoast Spirit

AOR and A Tribute To The WestCoast Spirit

AOR is the project of mastermind Frederic Slama, whose all-star guest lineup features some of the finest musicians in the business. The Best Of The Westcoast Spirit is the name of AOR’s latest release. a collection of earlier remastered selections now available via Perris Records. In addition to the multi-talents of the maestro Slama, The Best Of The Westcoast Spirit also includes appearances by Steve Lukather of the legendary Toto, Bill Champlin formerly of Chicago, and a whole lot more! In addition, Mr. Slama has authored several books about the legacy of AOR / West Coast style music. Highwire Daze recently caught up with Frederic Slama to find out a whole lot more about this artist and his passion for all things AOR and Westcoast. Read on…

How long has the AOR project been in existence and where are you currently based out of?
The AOR project was created in 2000, already 20 years ago. Based between L.A., London and Paris, what started as a simple album with just a few guests became over the years the biggest project of the genre with as many as 50 guests on some albums including members of Toto, Chicago, The Eagles, Rainbow, The Storm, Talisman and so many others, without counting the best studio musicians in the world!

How did The Best Of The Westcoast Spirit come about and what made you select these particular songs to spotlight on this album?
My 7 first AOR albums were more Westcoast oriented, and the latest 15 albums were more Melodic Rock with often a cool song or two on each CD. So I thought it was time to reconnect with the fans who really loved my cool Westcoast side, and offer them a remastered “Best Of Compilation” with the best songs of my discography. Though The Best Of The Westcoast Spirit is a cool album, you’ll find songs reminiscent of Toto and Chicago, played and sung by the best musicians of this style of music. So there’s never a boring moment due to the fact there are many different singers and different arrangements, always in the AOR style of course.

What was it like working with Bill Champlin on his songs for this particular album and do you still keep in touch with him?
Yes I always keep touch with Bill who sang in 6 or 7 of my albums. He’s one of the best singers around and it’s always an honor to have him on board the AOR project. He’s always a perfectionnist and comes up with great ideas for backing vocals, though I exactly know what I want on all my songs.

Steve Lukather of Toto makes an appearance on this album as well. What was he like to work with at that time and how did he become involved?
I knew Steve since the late 70’s in Los Angeles, and met him many times over the years. When I recorded one of best selling albums from 2002 L.A Reflection, I offered him to play on a couple of songs and he kindly agreed. He’s a fantastic player, maybe the best one out there! He was back on a couple of more songs of mine later on other albums, and every time it’s an honor to have someone like Steve onboard, always so nice and professional !

The AOR album covers are always so imaginative and inspirational. Who did the cover art for The Best Of The Westcoast Spirit and how much input did you have on it?
I did all the artworks myself on my 22 albums (if you include the Best Of CD’s , that makes 22!) except just for a couple (more than a decade ago). Usually I start working from pics I took myself (mostly in L.A.) and I work them around a little bit with Photoshop. I do all the booklets and promo pics myself to ensure the quality I want and to keep the same style with Californian sunsets and beautiful girls. That’s also part of the AOR success over the years.

Have you ever become star struck by any of artists who have appeared on your albums?
I love absolutely every musician and singer that appears in my albums. I’m usually a big fan of theirs, that’s why I asked them to be part of my CD’s. I’ve grown up listening to the music or solos from many of them, so it was an honor to have them all in my albums. For each of my new CD’s, I ask myself “Hummm.. Who do I really like and not got on any of my albums yet?,” so I complete my “Chrismas shopping list” that way ha! ha! That’s why I have recorded with over 200 different musicians and singers and I would say that 150 of them are pretty famous in the AOR / Westcoast / Melodic Rock community.

You have quite a few books out on the subject of AOR and West Coast music. How rewarding and intensive has it been to write about such a massive genre?
Yes I’ve always been a big music collector with over 20,000 CD’S & LP’s, including the rarest ones ever, like some private pressings released by the artists themselves in the 80’s. I listen to may genre like Blues, Hard Rock, Contemporary Jazz, Country – but my specialty is of course AOR music, Melodic Rock, and Westcoast from the 70’s & 80’s. At that time I was also a music journalist specializing in that genre and I wrote more than 5,000 reviews and did more than 1,000 interviews of the biggest rock stars like Queen, The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, Cheap Trick, Status Quo, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, The Eagles, Toto, The Doobie Brothers, The Cars, Foreigner, Blue Oyster Cult, Paul McCartney and hundreds of others as famous. It was a lucky time to access and interview all these big stars, but it’s true I worked for several famous magazines, so that helped a lot ha! ha!.

Concerning the books, I decided a couple of years ago to self publish with Amazon a music guide with some rare AOR / Westcoast stuff inside. The Westcoast Bible was born, and I had a huge, huge success with it (though volume 1 was the least complete of them all). So I published a second one about CCM Music (Contemporary Christian Music – AOR Style) then one about the women in AOR, another one with the AOR classics and others with the rarest stuff. So now 12 volumes are available on Amazon worldwide, just type my name there! Though I’ve been recently aware that Amazon U.S. didn’t always carry all of my titles, all the time. So maybe it would be a good idea to check out some other Amazons too to complete your collection.

A lot of great music stars and friends did forewords for most of these books and they talked exclusively about the recording of their masterpieces. There is also never seen before pics and all the albums are compared with at least 2 other artists to know how it sounds like. It’s a real database with some of the most obscure great albums recorded by Westcoast / AOR artists. In a way these books are the memory of this great music past, but of course you’ll also find the classics and the “must have” albums every serious collector should own!

Your last album of new material was the wonderful LA Darkness in 2016. How close are you to writing and recording all new material?
I’ve finished many songs and I could record 2 albums in a row. The problem is that I’m waiting for specific singers (huge stars, and I mean huge!!) so I’m depending on their schedule. I’ve already recorded 5 songs with incredible singers but I’m still missing at least 5 more. I want for this new album only legendary names and I’m in no hurry of releasing it anyway, so it might be hopefully next year!

When you look back on the first two AOR albums LA Concession and Next Stop: L.A., what do you think of them now?
These 2 albums were Demos albums that helped me pitch my songs as a songwriter to famous artists. Strangely there is a big following of fans who loves this sound and style, that’s why you can find several tracks of these 2 albums in my new best of “The Best Of The Westcoast Spirit” on Perris Records. After these 2 CD’s the sound was much better on the next ones, and the guests way more prestigious, but there are songs among my favorites in these 2 albums !

What’s up next for you and AOR?
Well I had a couple of concerts scheduled in Japan that will be postponed in 2021 – of course if I still can get the same team of famous musicians who agreed playing with me. I’m finishing several productions and of course finishing the next AOR album before 2050 if possible ha! ha!

Any final words of wisdom?
As long as the fans support their favorite artists by buying their albums, and not illegally downloading them, there will be good music out there! Please check out The Best Of The Westcoast Spirit for a cool evening with cool melodies and fabulous singers. And don’t hesitate to say hi on Facebook or to visit my website: www.slama101!

(Interview by Ken Morton)

AOR on Facebook
Perris Records Official Home Page

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