Soft country rock gets its week at Down by the Riverside with a concert by Firefall at 7 p.m. Sunday at Mayo Park.
The band, which had hits in the 1970s with “You Are the Woman,” “Just Remember I Love You,” “Strange Way” and others, built its signature sound on acoustic guitars, tasteful electric leads, the occasional woodwind and Eagles-like harmony vocals.
All of this was in evidence in the first song, “It Doesn’t Matter,” off the first Firefall album, “Firefall”: uptempo, melodic, mellow and sounding a bit like a laid-back Stephen Stills.
Too many references to other artists? Perhaps, but Firefall found success with a formula that radio and audiences loved.
Surprisingly, despite the band’s somewhat wimpy reputation, Firefall’s founding members came from some of the more respected bands in rock. Lead vocalist Rick Roberts had been with the Flying Burrito Brothers, guitarist Jock Bartel played in Gram Parsons’ band, bassist Mark Andes had been with Spirit and drummer Michael Clarke had done a stint with the kings of country rock, the Byrds.
Maybe that’s why it all came together so quickly for Firefall after Roberts and Bartel formed the band in 1974 in Colorado. By early 1975, they had recorded a demo produced by Chris Hillman (Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers). The debut album, “Firefall,” released in 1976, included “You Are the Woman,” which went to No. 9 on the Billboard Top 40 chart, and “Cinderella,” which also made the Top 40.
A second album, “Luna Sea” (1977), followed the same relaxed country rock formula and also produced a hit single, “Just Remember I Love You.” The band’s third album, “Elan” (1978), also had a hit, “Strange Way.”
At that point, with soft rock pushed to the side by the arrival of punk and new wave, Firefall began to lose steam. It wasn’t long before members started to depart, and by the early ’80s, Firefall had disbanded. Bartel reformed the band in 1994 and has been touring with Firefall since then. In 2006, Roberts, who had opted for a solo career, suffered a brain injury and spent the next four years learning to walk without crutches, according to his website. He how has his own band, the Winter Rose.
Opening the show will be the Jason McKenzie Band.