Album ‘Introducing Darlene Love’ Shows She’s Not ‘Twenty Feet From Stardom’

Darlene Love - Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott Hoynes
Darlene Love – Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott Hoynes

‘Power of Love’ Going Strong

Photos and Words By RICH HOYNES

Darlene Love is every bit the gracious loving woman that she appears to be on stage.   The 74-year-old living legend, Oscar winner, and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is at the top of her game.  Could the reason be the “Power of Love?”

With a loving husband working behind the scenes, an accomplished musical director, and a devoted team, Darlene has made a remarkable resurgence in the last year.

On September 12, 2015, Darlene launched her new album with the help of longtime friend, the legendary Steven Van Zandt at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park, N.J.

Van Zandt produced and penned songs for Darlene’s latest record Introducing Darlene Love.  He also found the best of the best songs from musicians including Elvis Costello, Bruce and Jimmy Webb to round off the new-millennium wall of sound this record encompasses.

On The Road with Darlene Love

In November and December alone, Darlene delivered more than 30 shows in a Nationwide and Canadian tour, performing her Christmas classics and songs from her new album, Introducing Darlene Love.

Steven Van Zandt with Darlene Love - Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott Hoynes
Steven Van Zandt with Darlene Love – Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott Hoynes

Darlene has had a remarkable career and was the subject of the hit documentary, “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” which won accolades on the festival circuit and won a Best Documentary Academy Award two years ago.

But capturing the hearts and loyalty of the fans is no easy feat and Darlene’s team is top notch.

She’s supported by a team of great background singers.  These include singer Ula Hedwig, Darlene’s friend for more than 30 years.  Ula sang with Bette Midler’s The Harlettes and she was also in the original musicals Hair and Godspell on Broadway. Darlene’s other singers include, Milton David Vann, Baritone Williams and Darlene’s niece, Candace Wright.

An evening of friends - Photo © 2015 Rich Hoynes for California Rocker
Marc Ribler with Darlene Love – Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott  Hoynes

Milton has been singing with Darlene for more than five years. He’s also the choir director at the church that Darlene has attended for many years.  He’s a fabulous solo artist in his own right and is now in the process of completing his third solo record.

Milton’s rendition of “O Holy Night,” arranged for the Christmas show by Steven Van Zandt brings tears of joy to your eyes.  His warm nature adds a welcoming presence backstage with the band.

Darlene’s band is tighter than ever under the supervision of her new musical director Marc Ribler.  Marc is a well-known Jersey Shore singer, songwriter, producer and guitarist, and can be heard playing guitar on Darlene’s new album.  In September, Marc was asked by Steven Van Zandt to create a brand-new band that would take Darlene to the next level of her success.

A performance for the ages - Photo © 2015 Rich Hoynes
A performance for the ages, Darlene Love with Marc Ribler – Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott Hoynes

The core band members are Tony Mason on drums; Lee Nadel on bass;  John Deley on keyboards;  Steve Salcedo on saxophone; John Martin on trumpet and saxophone; Keith Cotton on piano; and Dave Anthony on percussion.

Not enough can be said of Alton Allison, Darlene’s husband and the man behind the woman.  I asked him when and where did their romance begin, and he shared with me that he and Darlene met about 32 years ago on a cruise ship.

Alton, born in Jamaica, was the head steward on the cruise ship where Darlene was performing.  He  is a kind, easy-to-talk-to gentleman and he’s perfectly happy being behind-the-scenes managing and supporting his lovely wife.  He clearly knows how to go with the flow.

Musical director Marc and I are good friends.  He’s a demanding talent magnet.  He has an eye and ear for greatness and everyone he brings into any musical situation is top notch.  Marc is a multi-talented musician, producer and songwriter who has had several songs on the charts in the U.S. and Canada and among other things has written songs for national TV Ads including Activia Yogurt, V8, Office Depot and The HIV/ STD awareness commercial for Trojan Condoms, “1 out of 4” .

Terrific horn section - Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott Hoynes
Terrific horn section – Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott Hoynes

In 2010, I was producing a music festival fundraiser in Bedminster, N.J., called BEDSTOCK in support of four schools for children with autism.  I asked Marc to write a song about autism.  Marc wrote a great song called “You Teach Me How to Love” and performed the song at the event to an audience of 2,000 attendees.  It was a resounding success.  We wanted to nominate the song as the national anthem for autism.  Joan Jett, John Sebastian, and Daryl Strawberry also showed up to support the cause.

After Hurricane Sandy, Marc wrote the song, “Our Spirit is Strong” in support of Sandy Relief, and produced a music video with the George McMorrow (Cinecall Productions) that featured  a who’s who of legendary Jersey shore musicians. All the proceeds went to help victims of Sandy.

I welcomed the opportunity to help Marc create a photographic memory of life on the road with Darlene Love and meet these amazingly talented performers.

An unforgettable evening – Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott Hoynes

I had the pleasure of photographing several of Darlene’s shows where I chatted with Darlene and her husband Alton, along with the rest of the band.   I came in during sound check in the afternoon to capture the behind-the-scenes experience, get a feel for the show, and meet the performers.

Sometimes it seems like Marc is herding cats as he leads this amazing and eclectic team of artists to deliver the best performance of their lives every night. And they deliver every time. Each member of Darlene’s team is an accomplished professional in his or her own right.  But these artists come together to make an A-plus ensemble — all with Love.

Darlene is touring through 2016, her show is a must-see. For more information: