While recording a cover version of "Nature's Way" for a solo project a few years ago, Night Ranger bassist Jack Blades asked his friend and fellow Damn Yankee alumnus Tommy Shaw to record some vocal tracks. Shaw came into the studio, did his parts and the "discarded" idea of doing an album of cover songs was reborn.
"That session rekindled the idea of doing a covers album," Shaw says. "I went home and started thinking of songs for such an album. The first two I came up with were 'I Am a Rock' and 'For What It's Worth.' I did a demo of those two songs and sent Jack an MP3 recording of them."
According to Shaw, it got to where he and Blades were asking friends for suggestions of songs to put on the album, including a legendary A&R representative for numerous rock music acts.
"One friend of ours, John Kalodner, suggested songs that we probably wouldn't have thought about, like 'Summer Breeze,'" he says.
Influence is a collection of songs that Shaw and Blades consider to be just what the CD's title says - ranging from the Mamas & Papa's "California Dreamin" to Orleans' "Dance with Me" - all done with nothing but respect for the original versions and artists.
"We didn't want to go so far with the songs that the original artists wouldn't want to listen to it," Shaw says. "We've heard back from several of the original artists, and they seem to enjoy our version of their songs."
After a summer spent touring the sheds with their other bands, Shaw and Blades are back on the road, playing small, indoor venues, with their friend and fellow musician Will Evankovitch. A Shaw Blades show, which features songs from Influence, as well as material from the catalogs of Styx, Night Ranger and Damn Yankees, is tougher for the musicians in at least one aspect. "It's the most demanding thing of all for us," Shaw says. "You won't get lost in the [sound] mix if you make a mistake."