Music Review: Steve Conte – ‘International Cover Up’

By Richard Marcus.


“In some ways, Steve Conte is the quintessential rock and roll musician. He lives in New York City (well, he summers in the Netherlands with his wife’s family), has played with everyone from the New York Dolls to the late Willy DeVille, released his own work, and is an unabashed admirer of rock and roll in all its many forms and genres. The latter fact is made completely obvious by the choice of material on his latest CD, International Cover Up.


As the title suggests, the disc’s eight tracks are all covers. The international bit of the title comes from the fact he recorded it in Holland with his European touring band – save for the solo acoustic versions of “Playing with Fire” and “Working Class Hero” which were recorded in NYC. Now, I’m not normally one for cover albums (I think the last one I liked was David Bowie’s Pin Ups) but this recording is an exception.


Not only does Conte manage to invest each song with his passion and enthusiasm for rock and roll, he brings his own interpretations to each of the tracks. However, this doesn’t mean he ignores the original recording; he is, after all, honouring the folks who first brought the songs to our attention. What he does is use their versions as a springboard for creating something which combines his talent for performance and their songwriting.


What I also like about this disc is his choice of material. Instead of songs people are going to be automatically familiar with, he’s selected tracks which are from all over the rock and roll canon. For example, the first selection is an older, and I mean 1960s (not 1970s Rumours era) Fleetwood Mac tune, “Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked in Tonight”. Now I don’t know the original, but Conte and company play this as the hard rock song the title implies and makes it work.


That’s the other thing about Conte. The fun he has playing music – any music – is damn infectious. Even the harder stuff I wouldn’t normally enjoy, like the aforementioned Fleetwood Mac cover, he makes hard to resist. He and his band – Jeroen Polderman drums and Jozz Verhijen bass – are having such an obvious good time, it’s nearly impossible not to be swept up in the moment.

However, what really blew me away about this release was his cover of John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero”. Now I’ve heard just about everybody cover this tune from Marianne Faithful to bar bands and I’ve yet to hear someone do as good a job as Conte. Sparse, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, he allows the words to speak for themselves. Imbuing them with the right level of scorn and anger, he allows the underlying pathos of the song to be heard.


Being a long time lover of the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street album, his inclusion of “Happy” from that release was greatly appreciated. For some reason, even though it was one of their most critically acclaimed releases, the songs from this album don’t always get the recognition they deserve. Conte’s version captures the rawness and energy of the original and is a reminder of what made Exile such a great disc.

It was also nice to see he included fellow New Yorker, the late, Willy DeVille’s “Venus of Avenue D”. What’s nice about Conte’s version is that he manages to capture its spirit without being a slave to the original version. Those familiar with DeVille’s style will hear echoes of how he performed it, but they’ll also notice how Conte has expanded on that base to give the song new depth.

It takes a special calibre of rock and roll musician to pull off an album of cover tunes – somebody whose love of the material and love of the music allows that person to throw his or her body and soul into the songs. Like an actor who brings a new interpretation to a much loved role, musicians have to be willing to surrender themselves to the original writer while still finding a way to bring something of themselves to the material. Steve Conte is one of those rare musicians who can do this, and International Cover Up is a sheer listening pleasure for that reason.








Witness Steve’s LIVE Recording Of Song From The New “International Cover-Up” Album….

One afternoon in NYC renowned record producer Steve Lillywhite (Rolling Stones, U2, XTC, Johnny Thunders, etc.) invited Steve Conte on his East Village Radio show, “The Lillywhite Sessions”. During an impromptu moment, this is what happened….and it’s on the album!!


Click Here To See Steve Perform “Play With Fire” LIVE On East Village Radio, Steve Lillywhite’s Show

“INTERNATIONAL COVER-UP” – The Long-Awaited New Album By Steve Conte Released on July 5th!!


Available NOW on (downloads & CDs) – and in the coming weeks, on iTunes, Amazon and all your favorite online retailers.


As a 13 year old live performer, Steve Conte looked to The Rolling Stones, The J. Geils Band, Black Oak Arkansas, The Beatles & Jimi Hendrix for both musical inspiration and how to give “good show”. Cut to 2016 – Conte releases his “COVERS” album featuring many of the songs he & his band have played on tour – and captures that LIVE spirit in the recordings!


The album features songs written and/or recorded by Eddie Cochran, Willy/Mink DeVille, Tom Waits/Ramones, John Lennon, Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and Jason And The Scorchers – all delivered in pure Conte-style.


In addition to playing original songs from his studio albums on tour, Steve would always add a few well-chosen covers. Conte says: “This album contains some of my favorite songs to play live; road-tested in Europe with my band, The Crazy Truth International. I kept the album production sparse to showcase the band’s live energy. All songs were recorded live, in a few takes. Most guitar solos were played live, a few tracks have a guitar overdub, one has horns, there’s one with organ, and another with piano. There’s even a “one-take” vocal performance on there.”


INTERNATIONAL COVER-UP was largely recorded at Labtones Studio in Dordrecht, The Netherlands by Wilco Minderhoud & Jasper van Dorp. It features 6 studio recordings with Conte’s European version of The Crazy Truth – plus a pair of solo acoustic tracks recorded in New York City; one in his own Manhattan studio, The Joint NYC and the other recorded live on renowned record producer, Steve Lillywhite’s program for East Village Radio, The Lillywhite Sessions.


The band tracks, with Conte on guitars/vocals, Jeroen Polderman on drums and Jozz Verheijen on bass were previously only available as an “exclusive” during Conte’s 2013 Pledge Music campaign for his release, The Steve Conte NYC Album. The tracks have since been re-mastered and the running order re-sequenced to accommodate the acoustic songs. This is the first time that the tracks are available on CD – and only 500 copies were pressed!

***NOTE*** Physical CDs will only be available at live shows, on CDbaby and in the coming weeks, through The digital album is available on CDbaby but individual songs can not be purchased there.

Reflections On The Death Of Prince.


R.I.P. * P.R.N. One of my few heroes who was of my own generation. I’m flooded with feelings and memories right now. He was always the standard I held myself to as a singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer, musician and performer. This album changed my life. In 1986 I got the gig as Guitarist/Musical Director for Jill Jones, one of the singers in The Revolution. Prince had produced, written & played most everything on her debut album and the word was that we’d be opening for the man himself in the USA on his “Sign ‘O’ The Times” tour. But then he decided not to tour America and only played shows in Europe (he filmed a Paris concert and released the “Sign ‘O’ The Times” movie in the US instead of touring.)


The Jill Jones band rehearsed 8 hours a day, 5 days per week for 2 solid months at Top Cat studios on West 28th St in Manhattan. It was a killer band with members who went on to play with Little Steven, Meatloaf & Joe Cocker – and we had a back-up singer who was just starting out by the name of ANGIE STONE!! Every night video tapes of the day’s rehearsals would be sent out to Prince for approval. The players got critiqued and some got fired but I remember Jill saying that Prince told her, “The guitar player’s cool, keep him”. I had all these visions of being out there on tour with him, maybe at some point even getting to make some music with him, but the closest I got was meeting him at Nell’s on 14th st one night. He was standing by the dance floor in a white suit and platform heels and I swear the top of his head still only came up to the middle of my face. The band ended up playing 2 gigs with Level 42, (one in Sag Harbor and the other at the old Ritz on E 11th St) and then, the band dissolved.


But before that, I went into the studio for a remix of one of the album’s songs with Jimmy Destri of Blondie doing the honors, and got to hear the genius shit that Prince had laid down at Paisley Park; the funkiest bass, backing vocals & keyboards plus a gorgeous string arrangement that was never used on the original record and a a weird noisy guitar that he had only brought in right at the fade. I learned a lesson in restraint at that moment.


This album is a logical choice to be my favorite Prince album because it is the most like The Beatles White Album; a double album full of different styles & genres all done to perfection. The poetry of “The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker”, “If I was Your Girlfriend” and “Starfish And Coffee”, the melodicism of “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man” and “Slow Love”, the dirty funk of “It” and “Hot Thing”, the heart and soul in the title track and “The Cross” and the general weirdness of it all, even in the single “U Got the Look”.


Man, you will be missed by millions – but it really stings for someone like me who always looked to you as some kind of beacon in this dark business of music. I guess there’s nothing to do but carry on and to keep holding you up as an example of true talent – old school. The Real Shit. I can barely believe I’m typing these words…but as I reflect on all the greats who have left us too early; Bowie, Michael Jackson, Jeff Buckley, Willy DeVille, Chris Whitley, etc. I wonder…what kind of cruel coincidence is it that the greats are taken from us so early and that we are left with a whole lotta crap music and marginally talented artists?

New Project – STEVE CONTE & BLUES DELUXE: The Musical Tree of Classic ROD STEWART, Performing music from: The Jeff Beck Group, Faces, Rod solo & more…

The Musical Tree of Classic ROD STEWART
Performing music from: The Jeff Beck Group, Faces, solo Rod & more!
featuring, Andy York, Rich Pagano, Andy Burton and John Conte


Friday, June 3rd
Doors: 7PM – Show: 8PM
The Cutting Room, NYC

The Musical Tree of Classic Rod Stewart:

An evening of music devoted to the British blues and prolific songwriting period of Rod Stewart and his musical career from ’68 – ’72. This was the era where Rod forged his way as a compelling frontman and vocalist with the masterful ability to react with the band and its groove, while lyrically being on par with the likes of Bob Dylan and John Lennon.

From The Jeff Beck Group to The Faces and onto an incredible run of solo albums, his material includes some gigantic hits that still sound fresh today because of the loose nature, breath and honesty of the performances.

Steve Conte (New York Dolls) and Rich Pagano (The Fab Faux) have assembled an extraordinary and impressive group of players featuring Andy York (John Mellencamp), John Conte (Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes) and Andy Burton (John Mayer) to realize the sway and pulse of tunes like, “Beck’s Bolero,” ”Maggie May,” “I’m Losing You,” “Stay With Me,” “Gasoline Alley” and early influences like “Twisting The Night Away,” to name a few.

Steve branches out on the tree a bit further by acknowledging the fruit of the Small Faces (the group that eventually morphed into Rod’s ‘Faces’) led by another incredible vocalist, Steve Marriott. When Rod replaced Marriott in that band he brought along his pal Ron Wood from the Jeff Beck Group, adding their formidable presence to the remaining Small Faces and – voila – The Faces were born. You can expect to hear a few classics from that era as well, such as “Itchykoo Park” and “My Mind’s Eye.”

Classic Rod. It doesn’t get much better, especially with Steve Conte & Blues Deluxe tuning in the musical picture and telling the story.

Thoughts On The Passing Of David Bowie….


We think these artists are gonna be around forever – because they’re a part of our daily lives & so important to us. Even though you might have never have seen them perform live, you just know that they are with us – and it’s comforting. But when they leave us there’s no chance for new music from them or an opportunity to see them perform live ever again. There’s a hole left in our lives – like when Lennon left. But after 30 years we have somewhat gotten used to the reality that John isn’t here and are just happy that he left us all the music, the films, the cultural events, etc. And that’s the place we’re going to have to get to with Bowie – eventually. But for now….


But Bowie has been with me since my adolescence; It was his shag haircut – not Keef’s – that I was always after in high School…Rebel Rebel & Suffragette City were a staple on the setlist of every rock n roll cover band I was ever in…Ziggy Stardust & Diamond Dogs – the soundtrack to my rock n roll teenage years…


More memories – I was thrilled to get a hello and a smile from him when opening 2 shows on the Glass Sipder tour in ’87…back when I was 16, New York Dolls drummer Billy Murcia’s brother Al told me how David mentioned his bro in a lyric as “Billy Doll” on the Aladdin Sane album…and there’s my brother John’s story of hearing that voice right in his ear when playing bass for him in the studio w/ producer Tony Visconti…. 


He is a part of the world – like the Eiffel Tower…the Grand Canyon….the Red Sea…the Empire state building…the Twin Towers. RIP David.

Happy New Year!

Our 1st show of 2016 is gonna be a good ‘un…



The Steve Conte NYC Band: SC – vocals/guitar, John Conte – bass, Phil Stewart – drums

Supporting Richard Lloyd, founding member/guitarist of Television


At Bowery Electric – Saturday, January 16th

Steve Conte NYC @ 8:00 PM Richard Lloyd Group @ 9:15 PM

This will be some serious New York Guitar Rock y’all – don’t miss it! 


Click here to purchase tickets:

We hope to see some of you there! And thanks again for all of your support over the past year – may your 2016 be happy, healty and prosperous…


Steve Conte