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VALLEY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

Recording Artist Is Part Van Halen and Part Van Cliburn

Trained as a classical pianist, Tony MacAlpine later began playing guitar and heavy-metal licks. He plays both instruments on his CDs.

February 29, 1996|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If you're into rock guitar, you might want to stop by Bourbon Square in Van Nuys this weekend to check out Tony MacAlpine.

MacAlpine, who is sure to provide some guitar pyrotechnics accompanied by bassist Tony Franklin and drummer Mike Terrana, is hesitant to describe his music.

"It wouldn't be good music if I could describe it in words," MacAlpine says. "I always say it's kind of classical rock."

The fact is, MacAlpine is a musical schizophrenic. Although he's a classically trained pianist, he learned the guitar by playing heavy-metal rock tunes and listening to the likes of Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads and jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty.

This split musical personality has forged a string of eight CDs in the last 11 years, starting with "Edge of Insanity" in 1985 and culminating last year in "Evolution." MacAlpine plays both piano and guitar on the CDs, but it's the guitar work that stands out.

"I surround myself with these musicians who really understand guitar music," he says. "Each of the records has a classical number."

MacAlpine's music is strictly instrumental. Although not having vocals may limit his commercial potential in the eyes of major recording companies, he doesn't think having a singer in the band is in his future.

"We experimented with having vocals, but it didn't fit," he says.

MacAlpine remains confident about his future. He says audiences are becoming more sophisticated and are frustrated by the one-dimensional playlists of MTV and top-40 radio. He has his own home page on the Internet where surfers can download a musical sample from any of his CDs. He says now is the right time for him.

"I try to do only what I can truly believe in," he says. "It's important for me to have something that I'm really comfortable with."

* Tony MacAlpine plays Saturday night at Bourbon Square, 15324 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys. $5 cover. Call (818) 997-8562.

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Speaking of Schizophrenia: The Sun Lions, who play Saturday at Coffee Junction in Tarzana, are also musically schizoid, but in a completely different way.

The band successfully switches from being an acoustic act, playing smaller clubs and coffeehouses like the Coffee Junction, to being a fully electric rock band that has opened in bigger venues such as the Strand in Redondo Beach for bands like Iron Butterfly, ELO, Great White and Molly Hachett.

Jeff Bryan, the lead vocalist and guitarist, says the band's strong material allows it to change its presentation. "We try to allow the songs and the vocals to take center stage," he says.

Besides Bryan, the band consists of Russ Foreman on lead guitar, Scott Jehlik on bass and Lenny Greene on drums. All members of the band write songs and have extensive musical experience. Bryan and Greene were formerly songwriters at Almo/Irving music and Motown, respectively. Jehlik, a self-described "book freak," contributes lyrics and Foreman is a CSUN music grad.

"What keeps the band together is we all love the same kind of music," Bryan says. "It's good old American no-frills rock."

The band says its music is in the regular rotation of over 20 radio stations in the Western United States. The band's first CD, "Inertia," is scheduled to be released in April.

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* The Sun Lions play Saturday night at the Coffee Junction, 19221 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. No cover. Call (818) 342-3405.

Leap Year Party: It only happens once every four years, so the leap year party tonight at Cowboy Palace Saloon in Chatsworth will feature an all-star group consisting of members of the country bands that play at the club regularly throughout the year.

Chad Watson, Mark Marino, J.D. Wilson, Paul Akins, Larry Dean, Dean Dobbins, Katie Oyler, Chris Cook, Dan Hulgart and others will be playing together for the first time, and probably not again for at least another four years.

All that music plus a complimentary buffet, drink specials and no cover. What more could a Valley cowpoke ask for?

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* Leap year party starts with free dance lessons, 6-8 tonight at the Cowboy Palace Saloon, 21635 Devonshire St., Chatsworth. No cover. Call (818) 341-0166.

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