Archie Blue reunites for First Night

Locals and out-of-town visitors will be able to ring in 2013 to the sounds of a hometown band that has reunited for the first time in more than two decades. Archie Blue, a rock band based out of State College, will perform at 3 p.m. Dec. 31 at University Baptist and Brethren Church as part of First Night State College.

Originally formed in 1979 by pianist and lead vocalist Arthur Goldstein, Archie Blue began as an experimental band, centered around Goldstein’s songs and lyrics. Performing mostly in the State College area, the band also played college concerts, art festivals and some prestigious clubs, most notably the Decade in Pittsburgh.

Goldstein said the forming of the band was sort of like being in the right place at the right time. He was playing solo jazz piano at a restaurant under the alter ego Archie Bleu when he had a fortunate encounter.

“I was in the position of having a patron actually who was interested in funding some demo recordings of things I was writing and about to write,” he said. “So I assembled the band, and we basically got into a basement for about a year before we played out and formed a body of original material. I was just sort of cast in the role of- ock author, so to say.”

In early 1982, Archie Blue released their first album, “New Day Comin’.” The LP was produced by music industry legend Van Dyke Parks, known for his work with artists such as Brian Wilson and Little Feat. The album is a collection of songs with a jazz rock-based sound, a style similar to Steely Dan. But Goldstein said the band has incorporated many other styles into their music as well.

“When we were recording our record I was writing some reggae-influenced things, for example the title cut, ‘New Day Comin’,’ ” Goldstein said. “There are a number of pieces on the record that certainly reflect reggae, blues, and rhythm and blues.”

After the album was released it wasn’t long before it started to receive considerable airplay in the Northeast, while also gaining some national exposure on the soundtrack to the film “Magic In the Afternoon,” which won the Golden Cine Award for best American documentary film in 1984. By 1987, the band had broken up and each member had gone their separate ways, but they remained in contact and occasionally performed together informally.

In recent years, a growing number of requests came for the re-release of “New Day Comin’,” sparking an interest from the public in the possibilities of the band to perform again live. After 25 years out of the public spotlight, Archie Blue reappeared at State College’s Summer’s Best Music Fest in June.

“When people buy your LP or CD or whatever and take it home, it’s just the most gratifying sort of thing,” Goldstein said. “It becomes part of their lives in a way; something they usually will return to.”

The band includes Goldstein on piano and lead vocals; Barbara Reeves Neumuller on keyboards, clarinet and background vocals; John Raiser on drums, percussion and background vocals; Harry Werner on bass and background vocals; and Christopher Younken on electric guitar and background vocals.

As an instructor at Penn State, Goldstein teaches music history and classical piano courses, and piano at The Music Academy. As a performer, Goldstein has appeared in concerts and festivals throughout the East as a soloist, chamber musician, as leader of a jazz quartet, as well as with Archie Blue. Werner, who lives in Baltimore and is an “A” list player in the Baltimore-D.C. area, has played with various bands and opened for several well-known acts, including the legendary Buddy Guy. Besides being a guitarist, Younken is also an accomplished cellist, who along with Werner, founded the recording company, Sunrise Records.

Goldstein hopes this current reunion will give the band exposure to a larger audience and help to increase its popularity.

“We’re still local and regional,” Goldstein said. “What might happen at this point after reuniting we don’t know. We’re very much open to touring. We’re starting at home base, so to say.”

Goldstein said he’s also interested in recording again and looking to follow the independent route for the time being: “We have a manager who’s really helping us; so we’ll just have to sort of take it one day at a time. I’m writing new music as we speak and the future looks very bright.”

This will be Archie Blue‘s first time performing at First Night, though Goldstein has performed before with his jazz quartet and also solo classical recitals. Goldstein said the show will consist of 80 percent original material, but will also feature covers of artists including Procol Harum, Steely Dan and Talking Heads. He said the audience will get a few other surprises as well.

“We’re going to have the ability to use a pipe organ there which Barb, the second keyboardist will play,” Goldstein said. “We have the Steinway grand, and we’re adding a cellist on a couple of tunes. We’re terribly excited; I think it’s going to be a really fine performance.”