Sound Check: Ripper Owens plans new restaurant; Rita Coolidge in Kent

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Tim Ripper Owens

Akron’s own Tim “Ripper” Owens — former Judas Priest singer, world-traveling singer-for-hire and solo artist — announced plans this week for his new restaurant and live music venue (please say it loud like one of those deep-voiced, overexcited radio announcers): Ripper Owens Rock House, which will open in May.

The old Ripper Owens Tap House on Waterloo Road is dead (though there is still a restaurant there that Owens calls “great”); long live the Rock House. Owens, 45, and his former business partner, Randy Arehart, split amicably as Arehart wanted to spend more time with his family. Owens’ new partner is local businessman Micah Posten, who owns and operates Impact Landscaping, and the two plan to make the Rock House, 2727 Manchester Road, bigger and better.

The headbanging grandpa said he learned a lot in the two years at the Tap House and quite a bit more from his new partner. Owens promises the Rock House will have some of the best live sound in Akron and the stage will be “as big as we can make it … looking at around 23 by 14 [feet] with a nice drum riser as well. It should really be nice. This will be the perfect place for a show.”

In the past year, the Tap House played host to many of Owens’ rock buddies, including Sebastian Bach who hung out during the Super Bowl, and Queensryche singer Geoff Tate, and he plans to continue calling on his buddies.

“We are a restaurant during the week that just happens to rock out on the weekends,” he said by email. “I would like to have a national act once a month; I plan on playing there a lot as well!”

There will of course be the World Tour of Wings (Owens’ favorite is the Metal Gods Vindaloo) as well as an expanded menu that will include some vegetarian options. “This isn’t bar food,” Owens said.

As for his other career, Owens said he played more than 100 shows around the world in 2012 and just returned from a solo show in Tunisia. The always-busy Owens is a classic power-metal vocalist in the mold of Rob Halford (obviously), Tate and Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson. He performs solo and as part of the Ronnie James Dio tribute band Dio Disciples, featuring former Dio band members (Owens’ manager is the singer’s widow, Wendy Dio).

His band Beyond Fear, which also features John Comprix, Matt Sorg, Ed Stephens and Eric Elkins, incorporates other strains of metal such as thrash and a dash of nu-metal. They’re working on a new album and Owens will be doing short tours in Russia, South America and Mexico in the coming months.

Benefit show at Musica

Friday night at Musica, you can check out some bands and help out your fellow man and woman at the OPEN M benefit concert.

OPEN M (Opportunity for People Everywhere in Need Ministry) has been helping the citizens of Akron for nearly 45 years and operates a free medical, dental and eye clinic serving Akron and Summit County. It also has a food pantry and family development programs to help low-income families become self-sufficient, logging more than 3,300 free patient visits in 2011.

This will be the third OPEN M benefit concert and will be broken into two parts, with mostly acoustic sets from Johnny G, the “sardonic string band” the Cuyahoga Valley Frackers and the old-timey Brick Road Ramblers. The second half will be a bit louder with the House Popes, Freez-R-Burn and Version: Mary.

There is a $10 donation at the door for folks who have employer-sponsored health insurance, $6 for those who pay for their own insurance or don’t have any. I’m guessing we’ll be on the honor system, and besides, do you really want to cheat a free clinic?

Rita Coolidge in Kent

On Sunday evening, a songbird will fly through Northeast Ohio. Assisting the Kent Stage in celebrating its 11th anniversary — no easy accomplishment in these difficult economic times — will be singer Rita Coolidge with singer/songwriter John Ford Coley opening.

Coolidge is acknowledged as a versatile interpreter of songs who has been recording as a solo artist and a guest on other folks’ records since the early 1970s. Her honeyed, relaxed voice and style is nearly the auditory definition of “easy listening” and “soft rock,” and she can be heard on records by Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell and Stephen Stills.

Her career includes beloved duet albums with her ex-husband, singer/songwriter/actor Kris Kristofferson, including the Grammy-winning 1973 album Full Moon featuring the song From the Bottle to the Bottom, and their second recorded coupling, Breakaway from 1974, which also produced a Grammy-winning song, the lightly grooving Lover Please. Coolidge had hits on her own, too, such as a cover of Jackie Wilson’s (Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher, Boz Scaggs’ We’re All Alone, and the Temptations’ The Way You Do the Things You Do.

Though the hits pretty much dried up in the ’80s, Coolidge continued to record, singing the All Time High theme song to Octopussy and making records throughout the ’90s. In the 21st century Coolidge, 67, has released a covers album, a spare laid-back collection of jazz standards, and most recently 2012’s A Rita Coolidge Christmas.

Opener John Ford Coley was half of ’70s soft-rock duo England Dan and John Ford Coley, who had a few hits but are best known for the gentle booty-call plea I’d Really Love to See You Tonight, which was ubiquitous on AM radio throughout 1976. The duo also had hits with Nights Are Forever Without You and Love Is the Answer, but broke up in 1980.

Coley, an avid Christian, released a live album a few years ago and wrote a book, Backstage Pass, about his years in the music business.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmxabram.

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