The phrase ‘Ivory Tower’ has long been a metaphor for a place of refuge from the rest of the world. For singer/songwriter Mark Regula of the critically acclaimed modern vintage rock band Ivory Tower Project, this figurative ideal resonates deeply. The New York City-based band has functioned as a safe haven for its members to process and, ultimately, triumph over trying times.
The group’s greatest victory is its rousing and emotive latest album; ‘How Much More?’. It’s an album that bids farewell to a key collaborator, co-founder and dear friend while it also welcomes a new era as Ivory Tower Project gears up for more recordings and fresh creative partnerships.
“For me, the name Ivory Tower always conveyed a feeling of escapism,” reveals singer, songwriter, co-founder and multi instrumentalist Mark Regula. “The music has been where my heart and mind can live when everything around me goes wrong. It’s been my savior.”
Ivory Tower Project specializes in the majestic power rock of the 1970s and early 1980s. The songs burst with stirring vocal melodies, soaring vocal harmonies, polished musicianship, heartfelt lyrics, and imaginative arrangements. The band is part of a new breed of classic rock purists preserving the traditions set forth by masters such as 1970s Styx, Queen, Foreigner, and Boston. ITP has garnered praise from a variety of sources, including The Entertainment Bank,The Ripple Effect, Mossip, Indie-Musician.com, and Boom Boom Chick, among others. The group’s debut: 2008’s ‘Red Hot’ (Guerilla Records), has received rave reviews and airplay on over 600 radio stations in 32 countries. As a result, tracks from that CD earned them nominations in a few categories in both the 2015 and 2016 Nashville Universe Awards.
Much like Boston and Steely Dan, and other purveyors of exquisite pop-rock, Ivory Tower Project is not so much a band as it is a collective ofsongwriters. Mark Regula and lyricist Johnny Jace have been the creative core since the 1980s. In 2003, Johnny passed away, and the lyrics on ‘How Much More?’ are some of the last he’s written. In 1983, original drummer Sal DiAngelo also passed away. And in 2009, Mark Regula survived a car accident that has since left him barely able to walk, and currently battling chronic pain. In the face of it all, Regula has valiantly upheld Ivory Tower Project.
In the wake of all the loss, longtime collaborator and, hotshot studio guitarist, Tony Novarro has emerged a central creative force. Currently, Ivory Tower Project is: Mark Regula on vocals, keyboards, guitar, bass, and percussion, with Novarro functioning as recording engineer, guitarist, backing vocalist, and co-songwriter.
The title of ITP’s latest CD; ‘How Much More?’, references the band’s own challenging journey.“In life, you sometimes find yourself waiting for a good thing to happen or a bad thing to end,”Regula says. “It’s like ‘How much more can we take?’ That sentiment resonated with me and Johnny [former songwriting collaborator].” He continues: “The struggle can be tough, but it can also be important in that, if you don’t give up, you learn something.”
‘How Much More?’ posits a query and provides a comforting prescription of answers in song. The album manages to be soothing, seething, and stirring. The title track unfolds from a boldly vulnerable piano ballad with smoldering emotionality to an anthemic climax with burly classic rock guitars. “That’s a song about being frustrated with a friend. In it, I ask, ‘How many times must I be a victim of your lies?’ The feeling is how much more can I take or should I take,” Regula says.
On "The Ides of March (Et tu Brute)" ITP manage to create their own niche of Shakespearian rock through melding classic texts with classic rock in the grand theatrical tradition of Queen. Guitarist Tony Novarro turns in the touching soulful rock gem, “Please Tell Me,” a tribute to a long lost friend, original drummer Sal DiAngelo. The tracks “Ring Around Rosie” and “Way Too Late” are visceral and uplifting. “Ring Around Rosie” is a stately love song overflowing with amorous vibes and lush production touches. The invigorating “Way Too Late” is a hard driving pop-rock song with galloping guitars that evoke 1970s Styx, Billy Idol and Survivor.
Up next, Ivory Tower Project is working on new music. Reflecting back on ITP’s journey thus far, Regula says: “Music is what has kept us going. It’s been our light during the darkness of loss. This album is a memorial to those no longer here with us. I hope this music is as healing and cathartic for others as it has been for us. I hope it gives people a chance to escape their pain and fears, and feel hope.”
Written by: Lorne Behrman