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Randy Coven 5/2014

randycovenMay 20, 2014 – Randy Coven was born on Long Island New York in 1958. His neighborhood must have been a breeding ground for musical talent on guitar, sprouting superstars such as Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. The ’80s saw the emergence of quite a few technically accomplished hard rock bassists – tops being Billy Sheehan(RIP) and Stu Hamm — as well as several lesser-known (yet just as skilled) players, including Randy Coven. Word has it that another renowned player, bassist Jeff Berlin, lived nearby as well, and offered Coven some pointers early on. Learning bass by playing in local cover bands that specialized in the top hard rock names of the day (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, etc.),

Coven packed up his bags after high school graduation, and enrolled in Boston’s Berklee School of Music. The old adage ‘it’s a small world’ came into play, as it turned out Vai had enrolled in the same school as well.

It wasn’t long before the two formed their own local band, Morning Thunder, and while the band never issued any recordings, quite a few band compositions would later turn up years later on both Vai and Coven’s debut solo albums.

Randy left Morning Thunder to join the Canadian fusion band Orpheus, were he got his first road experience by touring nonstop throughout Canada. Orpheus also recorded their second record in New York and featured two of Randy’s songs. At this point Randy felt the need to have his own band so he returned to New York, the Randy Coven Band. Joined by guitarist Jim Hickey and drummer Todd Turkisher, the trio recorded their debut, Funk Me Tender, in 1985. The title track featured a guest spot by Coven’s old pal Vai, and when Vai achieved stardom a year later when he joined David Lee Roth’s band, interest in Coven’s debut peaked amongst guitar players.

A deal with Guitar Recordings soon followed (run by the magazine Guitar for the Practicing Musician), which resulted in such subsequent recordings as Sammy Says Ouch! and C.P.R., the latter of which was an album that saw Coven teamed with Alice Cooper/Megadeth guitarist (and another fellow Long Island native) Al Pitrelli, and drummer John Reilly, as well as a host of special guests — Zakk Wylde, Vito Bratta, and Steve Morse — among others.

Coven also appeared on a host of compilations put out by Guitar Recordings around this time, and began penning his own monthly column for the magazine as well.

The ’90s saw Coven team with a pair of renowned guitarists, Leslie West (touring as part of a reunited Mountain, and also appearing on West’s 1994 solo release, Dodgin’ the Dirt) and Yngwie Malmsteen (1999’s Alchemy and several supporting tours).

Coven was a specialist in neoclassical and heavy metal styles perhaps best known for having toured with Malmsteen from 1999-2001, a period chronicled on the 2009 concert recording ‘Live in Korea.’ The guitarist’s over-the-phone audition of Coven reportedly went something like this: “Do you drink beer?” “Do you play with a pick?” “And do you play a Fender bass?” Coven was said to have answered “yes,” “yes” and “yes,” securing the job.

The early 21st century saw the release of a 16-track compilation, The Best of Randy Coven, while Coven issued his first true solo album in a decade, 2002’s Witch Way, as well as guest on the sophomore release by Norwegian prog metallists, Ark (2002’s Burn the Sun). Additionally, Coven hoped to get a new project off the ground, M.C.M., a band comprised of Coven, guitarist Alex Masi, and drummer John Macaluso.

Coven was almost 56 when he died from cardiac arrest on 20 May 2014.

Randy Coven was a rich soulful and jazzy musician, who played awe-inspiring bass solos. He played rock and fusion equally well and even though he collaborated in dozens of albums, he only had time to record four solo albums, all worth checking out. “Sammy Says Ouch” was recorded like the musicians were playing in a club. It was recorded and mixed in two weeks and gained global interest from many great musicians and instrumental fusion fans. Listen to his great “Funk Me Tender” album which was nominated for best independent instrumental record of the year at the 1985 New York Music Awards, and C.P.R.’s “Coven, Pitrelli, Reilly” album.

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