Thursday

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME (NEW RELEASES) By Michael McDowell


STOP THE WAR NOW: Romantics co-founder WALLY PALMAR has joined forces with veteran composer and guitarist JACK DE KEYZER for an inspired original single, No War  Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell takes a closer look below. (Click on above image to enlaarge).

CDs AND VINYL - NEW RELEASES
(REVIEWS ARE POSTED IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER BY ARTIST)

11X11 -
The Eleven Guys Quartet
(VizzTone)

Credit certainly has to be given to Eleven Guys Quartet harmonica man, Richard Rosenblatt for taking the unwavering resolve approach to the next level.

As the head of the VizzTone label, Rosenblatt oversees an artist roster comprised of dozens of uncompromisingly hardcore blues artists. In some cases, that extreme purist approach has hampered to an extent any overtures of solidarity from those on the periphery of that perspective. Nonetheless, it has rallied the faithful to the point that for all practical purposes, VizzTone remains the present day go to souce for the mission statement at large.

Rosenblatt's inspiration in that respect stems in part from his own lengthy experience as a musician. To that effect, the Eleven Guys Quartet has persevered since the 1980s, providing for all practical purposes the template on which many of his artists have based their own visions.

With 11X11, the band's first release since 2020, the Eleven Guys Quartet again showcases their command of the bombastic instrumental. To that effect, the opening track, Lightning Road draws from the Rolling Stones' fundamental take on Bo Diddley's Mona, albeit with a much crisper mix than that afforded the 1964 rendition on the Rolling Stones' England's Newest Hitmakers album for London.

In turn, Jokers Blues takes a cue from Canned Heat's playful interpretation of Hambone Willie Newburn's 1929 signature single, Rollin' And Tumblin' and adds a bit more bounce to the beat by executing in straight 4/4 at mid-tempo. Likewise, He Ain't Got You serves as a fitting answer song of sorts to Billy Boy Arnold's I Ain't Got You by adding to Arnold's cerebral perspective the instrumentally ambitious dressing afforded the 1965 interpretation by the Yardbirds. 

Those embellishments serve the Eleven Guys Quartet well throughout this collection, enabling them to persevere with their vision intact, while concurrently finding those much needed professions of solidarity from others along the way. In the words of this album's closing track, such are the benefits of Rockin' The Blues.

LIVE IN AUSTIN, VOLUME ONE -
Sue Foley
(Guitar Woman)

Many who champion the blues often find themselves at the Crossroads of which Robert Johnson sang. How many of them actually enter that intersection is a different matter. 

As was long the case with such musical forms as vocal group harmony and first generation garage rock, the present day incarnation of the blues finds itself with a hardcore audience that devotes the bulk of its attention to its genre of choice; defering outside of those parameters only upon rare occasion. Such methodology invariably serves to strengthen the resolve of the most resolute, while minimalizing crossover potential (from both outside and inside) in the process.

For vocalist, composer, guitar virtuoso and Ottawa, Ontario native Sue Foley, those options have prompted a bit of defensive driving. While Foley has retained her position on center stage within the movement since relocating to Texas some years ago, she has (as her signature single, New Used Car -- reprised here -- underscores) done so by approaching the crossroads with a more proactive than average awareness of the innate limitations of the form.

As such, with Live In Austin, Volume One, Foley has opted to downplay the bombast common to the works of a number of her peers in favor of highlighting some of the subtle attributes that are often afforded secondary status in pursuit of the perceived audience prerequisite of bravado. 

Not that Foley is incapable of delivering in that respect. Indeed, much of her catalog to date showcases her mastery of such technique. But as an artist with enough insight to proactively transcend the limitations of the genre, she astutely opted to take to the stage in relatively subdued fashion here.  

To that effect, Highwayside is more of a celebration of the tried and true verse, chorus and bridge template, rather than the one/two punch straight out of the gate methodology that the fatihful have taken for granted. In turn, her variations on a theme by Slim Harpo (Queen Bee) are not so much an answer of sorts as an opportunity to turn the familiar twelve-bar motif into a romp that defers out of respect while not necessarily acquiescing out of perceived necessity. Foley drives the overall point home with an inspired take on Bob Dylan's late September 1965 signature single, Positively Fourth Street.

By testing the parameters of the template at hand, Foley has taken decisive steps towards meeting the crosstown traffic at the crossroads. In a genre in which thinking outside of the box is rarely addressed (if not discouraged), she has reaffirmed her front runner status by (in the words of one of this collection's standout tracks) doing so a little bit Better than the rest.


I GREW UP HERE-
Brian Gari
(Original Cast)

Even the best artists commit the occasional faux pas.

Consider the late Harold "Conway Twitty" Jenkins. In his four decade career, Twitty released several dozen first rate singles that have endured as classics. Yet ironcially, in the final years of his career, Twitty cut a slightly out of character 45 for MCA that generated no small amount of controversy among the faithful. 

The single in question, That's My Job drew fire among those who took exception to its portrayal of a successful individual who nonetheless rescinded his way of life at the expense of his family. He did so to return to the hometown that seemingly held more memories at that stage than it did promise. 

With I Grew Up Here, the veteran composer and vocalist Brian Gari thankfully takes a more pragmatic approach to similar circumstances. In Gari's case, the hometown in question is New York City, which he continues to call home to the present day. As such, the then versus now perspective in his case comes more from the vantage point of reflection, rather than transition. 

All of which makes for a more richly diverse celebration here. The album opens with a heretofore unreleased April 1976 demo, Send Your Songs To Me. That slighly over a minute long snippet provides a fascinating look at the trappings of the recording industry. At that time, Gari was coming off of a brief but memorable affiliation with Vanguard Records. Herein, he paints a familiar to his fellow artists portrait of a label rep that is part Colonel Tom Parker and part the car salesman prototype depicted in the fade of the Southbound Freeway's 1967 signature single, Psychedelic Used Car Lot Blues (albeit in considerably less dramatic fashion).

For the remaining fourteen tracks, I Grew Up Here takes on a modern day perspective, giving the reflective moments the benefit of hindsight in the process. Most notable among them is the title track, in which Gari's wistful recollection of his father's maintaining the address numbers on their home with a fresh coat of paint allows for emotional resolution without having to make drastic, Conway Twitty-like changes in lifestyle.

"I pass my childhood home almost every day, but I never go inside", Gari sings.

"The lobby is the same as 1958, when I used to get our mail and TV Guide". 

"I ask for closure, but no closure appears", he concludes matter of factly. 

Thankfully, Gari has not allowed such unresolved matters to hamper his celebration of the small but impacting day to day blessings. To that effect, the relentless optimism of Patron Of The Arts depicts the hope springs eternal perspective impeccably. 

Moreover, that inspired piece provides an uplifting adjunct to the likes of I Don't Believe Her. Therein, the protagonist walks the fine line between the reality and revisionist history that is often afforded the lost love saga. Indeed, a rare depiction of a universal saga that is far more frequently presented from the more intense perspective of the Precisions' high drama masterpiece, If This Is Love.

But not all in I Grew Up Here comes from that end of the emotional spectrum. To be certain, there are generous samplings of irony and humor in Tell Your Sisters, You Can Have Him Back and She Can't Get The Job Done. True to form, all are executed with Gari's (unintentional, yet undeniable) penchant for the modest everyman perspective of the legendary Buddy Clark, tempered by the dreamscape idealism of Harpers Bizarre. 

Not surprisingly, Gari is already hard at work on the follow up.

"An all day recording session on the last track for my next album", he said in early October.

"Bringing my twelve string!"

To be certain, that should make for yet another impressive addition to his impeccable recorded legacy. 

ARE YOU SURE YOU THREE GUYS
KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING? -
Mike Jones, Penn Jillette And Jeff Hamilton
(Capri)

The legendary Hank Williams excelled at stand up comedy. Late in his career, veteran actor Buddy Ebsen briefy pursued a long time desire to be a rockabilly musician. Actor Phil Silvers once collaborated with orchestra leader Nelson Riddle on a thematic instrumental album for Columbia. Jiles Perry "The Big Bopper" Richardson and Waylon Jennings were both radio announcers. Pearl Bailey and Jerry Butler enjoyed productive careers in politics. And Barry Manilow and Elvis Presley each briefly worked as delivery truck drivers. 

Facts such as these often bring "wow" emoji responses from some among the rank and file. Such observers often struggle to come to terms with the idea of the subjects of their interest being involved in any other field besides the ones in which they happened to first encounter their work. 

Invariably, such linear thinking underscores the reasoning as to why artists such as those alluded to above remain on center stage, while the observers with limited expectations either cannot or will not take the crucial step of thinking outside of the box. As such, they often remain in the capacity of armchair quarterbacks in a perpetual state of disenfranchisement and (in some cases) disdain. 

The world of jazz has produced a wealth of keyboard virtuosos over the past century. The works of Edward Elzear "Zez" Confrey, Leroy Carr, Art Tatum, Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck, McCoy Tyner, Ahmad Jamal, JoAnn Castle and Ramsey Lewis (among others) have served to raise the bar for the instrument exponentially, with many drawing their own inspiration from them.

One such pianist is Buffalo, New York native and veteran session musician, Mike Jones. He continues to perform live and record prolifically, with an impressive catalog of releases on Chiaroscuro and Capri to his credit. 

For this current project (which celebrates a rich variety of standards), it stood to reason that Jones would opt to collaborate with a rhythm section that both shared his vision and possessed the ability to execute it accordingly. Enter drummer and Richmond, Indiana native Jeff Hamilton, who has amassed his own impressive track record via collaborations with Monty Alexander, Woody Herman, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Diana Krall, Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and others. 

Nonetheless, in rounding out the equation, it is likely that the aforementioned armchair quarterbacks will again be poised with their index fingers hovering over the "wow" emoji option.

Bringing the trio full circle is the Greenfield, Massachusetts-born veteran magician, author and one time Dancing With The Stars contestant, Penn Fraser Jillette. Among other things, Jillette has not been one to take a cavalier or passive role in any proceedings when he is assured of his convictions.

To wit, around the turn of the previous century, Jillette prompted a hearty vocal "wow" emoji of sorts from the studio audience during a guest appearance on Donny and Marie Osmond's syndicated television series, Donny And Marie. Therein, Jillette briefly derailed the momentum of the conversation by candidly yet rightfully bringing to hostess Olive Marie Osmond's attention that the new millennium at hand began with the year 2001, not 2000. 

Given his tenacity, it stood to reason that Jillette's participation in this project would sit well with all concerned. To that effect, Jones has served since 2002 as musical director for Jillette's Las Vegas, Nevada-based Penn And Teller magic show with Raymond Joseph Teller. To that effect, it was in part with Jones' ongoing encouragement that Teller opted to learn to play the stand up bass twenty years ago, at the age of 48. 

However, Are You Sure You Three Guys Know What You're Doing? is not Jones and Jillette's first musical collaboration. The two of them had made a test run in that capacity in 2018 on Jones' The Show Before The Show album for Capri. As a result, both were duly encouraged to persevere with the project at hand. 

The album opens with George and Ira Gershwin's often covered 1927 composition, 'S Wonderful. Subsequent renditions such as the lavishly orchestrated score recorded by the visionary arranger and conductor Ray Conniff for Columbia in 1956 have more often than not characterized the piece. Even so, 'S Wonderful works just as well within the relatively sparse arrangement at hand, with Jones, Jillette and Hamilton doing musical stretch warm ups to set the stage for the individual workouts to follow.

Happily, all three participants are afforded opportunities herein to soar accordingly. They do so most inspiringly on such ambitious fare as Sonny Rollins' Doxy, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra's On Green Dolphin Street, Duke Ellington's Perdido and Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto's signature 45 for Verve, The Girl From Ipanema. The proceedings are brought to a most inspired conclusion with Jones' original composition, Blues For Burns.

Indeed, there is probably little reason to suggest that the project at hand will prompt the aforementioned armchair quarterbacks to approach such endeavors from a wider perspective. Nonetheless, those who have opted to follow Funkadelic's July 1970 mandate to Free Your Mind will embrace this collection for the ambitious and engaging endeavor that it is. In the words of the 1964 Michel Legrand composition that provides one of the highlights of this collection, take that crucial step and Watch What Happens.

WAITING FOR THE SUN TO RISE -
Marc Jordan (Linus Entertainment)

In 1963, Tony Bennett sang wistfully of The Good Life. But for all practical purposes, Marc Jordan has lived it. 

The son of the late CBC radio vocalist and Quebec native Charles Jordan, Marc Wallace Jordan was born in Brooklyn, New York in March 1948. However, the elder Jordan opted to permanently return his family to Toronto, Ontario shortly thereaffer. 

Not surprisingly, music remained a central component of the Jordan household throughout that transitional period. To that effect, Jordan made his professional debut in due course as a guitarist with rock and roll pioneer Bobby Vee. 

By the mid-1970s, Jordan began to generate some interest as a composer and vocalist. He released a series of 45s for CBS' Denail affiliate (including the memorable Willie's Gone) that brought him to the attention of Warner Brothers in the United States. 

Continued success with RCA Victor in the 1980s led to an increased demand for his services as both a composer and producer. In the process, his work was covered by an impressive litany of greats, including Manhattan Transfer, Rod Stewart, Cher, Diana Ross, Kenny Loggins, Natalie Cole, Chicago and Josh Groban.

Like others who have parlayed their initial artistic vision into a broader scope (including Brian Gari and Carole Bayer-Sager), Jordan has experienced enough of The Good Life to which Bennett referred to render it in song both authoritatively and (somewhat) accessibly. Most discerningly, he does so with just enough distance to reiterate the fact to the listener that it is an ongoing journey which is not to be taken lightly.

In Waiting For The Sun To Rise, Jordan portrays the modern day equivalent of the after hours piano bar scenes of many a classic motion picture. As the pianist signals last call with One For My Baby (And One For The Road), a couple that has been deep in conversation for much of the evening decides to continue their time together elsewhere. 

But that is where any sort of certainty in terms of plot development ends.

Going forward, Jordan herein lays out a variety of options borne of both vague familiarity and considerable experience (universally, if not personally), allowing observers to draw their own conclusions about the outcome of the evening.

To wit, the instrumental set opener, The Last Buffalo invokes the high drama, lavish orchestration of Bennett's like minded ventures. As Jordan joins the proceedings in Best Day Of My Life, relentless optimism tempered with the impact of lessons well learned ("She never, ever noticed me there, that would have been The Best Day Of My Life") is briefly the order of the evening.

Accompanied by a group of seasoned vets who rise to the occasion with the prerequisite Miles Davis, Bill Evans and John Coltrane mood swings, Jordan then not so much glides from emotional option to option as he does stride with a reverence borne of the need to remind the relative novice to pay close attention. 

Indeed, the degree to which the aforementioned giants have become foundational in such matters is showcased in most timely manner in Coltrane Plays The Blues. No first time marveling at the genius involved. No lack of familiarity with the visionary saxophonist's legacy. Simply a taken for granted solidarity with his art, allowing it to serve as an adjunct for whatever scenario avails itself.

As the evening progresses, Jordan lays all options out on the table, from the "wild horse of intention" of the title track and the "keep it idealistic" backup perspective of Rio Grande to the reality check of Jimmy Webb's The Moon's A Harsh Mistress and the sadly and frequently inevitable, Bad Time To Say Goodbye. He underscores the transition between the two camps sublimely at midpoint with a pertinent, bare bones reworking of Tears For Fears' Everybody Wants To Rule The World.

Like Brian Gari and Carole Bayer-Sager, Jordan reflects on such lessons with enduring hindsight. To his considerable credit, he has done so by working with his dream team of collaborators (Steven MacKinnon, John Kapek, Lou Pomanti and Bruce Gaitsch). Moreover, Jordan continues to draw the bulk of his inspiration from his wife, composer Amy Sky, whose own compositions have been graced by renditions from the likes of Sheena Easton, Belinda Carlisle, Cyndi Lauper, Olivia Newton-John, Aaron Neville, Reba McEntire and many more.

Like each of those colleagues and inspirations, Jordan has emerged victorious in the process. And while Waiting For The Sun To Rise does (to an extent) bring Bennett's maxim full circle, in turn, Jordan has also demonstrated herein that the decisive earlier steps made in that direction vis such career highlights as Talking Through Pictures, It's A Fine Line and Charlie Parker Loves Me were not taken in vain.

HIGH FIDELITY -
Jeremy Morris (JAM)

There are a number of reasons why Jeremy Morris has for years been the most logical successor to the late James Brown's "Hardest Working Man In Show Business" title.

With a work ethic that staggers the imagination, the Portage, Michigan - based Morris has for decades deftly balanced his responsibilities as composer, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, producer, label president, pastor and family man. In turn, his catalog includes dozens of solo albums and collaborations that run the gamut from Gospel and prog rock to garage rock and psychedelia.

Moreover, Morris has released more than a dozen albums of all new material in the last three years alone. They include 2021's Road To Zion, Live For Today and Distant Dream, as well as 2022's Brighter Day, A Wonderful Surprise, The Day The World Stood Still and From Here To Eternity (which features an utterly stupendous reimagination of the Lemon Pipers' late 1967 signature single, Green Tambourine). 

True to form, his pace has not slowed down in the current year to date. Morris kicked off 2023 with The First Ten Years, a retrospective of the best material of his acclaimed side project, the Lemon Clocks. The mesmerizing A Better Life album followed suit, featuring such captivating originals as My True Colors and Bad Banana.

To be certain, that release schedule would tax the creative juices and capabilities of the most capable. Nonetheless, the relentlessly optimistic Morris was not through with 2023 yet.

"This year, I also released a CD called Bright Side Of The Sun", he said.

"And High Fidelity".

Issued in October, High Fidelity is of particular interest to long time readers of Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People. Among the album's inspired dozen originals is I Am With You Always, which sports an inspired, guitar-centric arrangement that takes its cue (however unintentionally) from Herman's Hermits' monster classic Heart Get Ready For Love single. 

That 1978 release on the great Morris Levy's Roulette label ultimately won top honors from Blitz Magazine as Best Single Of The 1970s. Those who drew inspiration from Frank Renshaw and the late Derek Leckenby's guitar interplay on that landmark single will find much to their liking in the High Fidelity album, from the full on jangle of the title track to the mid-tempo, Gospel-rich God's Glue.

With such a wealth of recorded activity to his credit, Jeremy Morris continues to raise the bar on a variety of levels. Nonetheless, as he underscored in a recent message based on I Peter 3:9, we are Called To Be A Blessing. Suffice to say that in that respect, to invoke the words of a standout track from his The Day The World Stood Still album, Morris has consistently done so with Grace Under Pressure.


NO WAR / NO WAR (ALTERNATE MIX) -
Wally Palmar And Jack de Keyzer (Spider)

Record hunting has been known to provide long term dividends.

At the record collectors conventions hosted by the late Stu Shapiro in suburban Detroit during the mid to late 1970s, two of the regular clientele were the aspiring musicans Mike Skill and Wally Palmar. While each had their own individual preferences, both professed an interest in procuring records by the Dave Clark Five. 

In due course, Skill and Palmar (along with Jimmy Marinos and Rich Cole) formed the Romantics, whose straight ahead original material for the Spider, Bomp and Nemperor labels drew in part from the inspiration of the Dave Clark Five in more ways than one. Most notably, the Romantics (however unintentionally) followed the Dave Clark Five's lead in keeping their uptempo material dressed in timeless lyrics that addressed the basics of the everyday human experience. 

In the rare instances when the Dave Clark Five leaned towards more topical material, it was done either with tongue-in-cheek (their playful swipe at the hippie movement and a certain Liverpool quartet, as found in their Live In The Sky single) or with an outspoken call to arms perspective (their 1971 definitive rendiition of Neil Young's Southern Man).

For the Romantics, it wasn't so much an aversion to the topical approach as it was being certain to align with the right cause. For front man Wally Palmar, that cause was (and is) the ongoing war in Ukraine. 

Joining forces herein with Palmar is the Toronto, Ontario-based composer, guitarist and vocalist, Jack de Keyzer, whose acclaimed releases for Blue Star have been celebrated in Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People over the years. Their resultant No War single and video have made for a most impassioned commentary on that ongoing tragedy. 

On the plus side, the 45 is a homecoming of sorts for Palmar. With its release, long time Romantics manager Arnie Tencer has reactivated the Spider label, whose initial release was the band's 1977 Little White Lies / I Can't Tell You Anything single, which was issued in two different versions. 

In turn, the single's picture sleeve was designed by original Blitz Magazine Art Director, Dennis Loren, whose work has graced counless album covers and posters throughout the past five decades. No War is also available in traditional black vinyl, as well as in limited edition yellow vinyl and blue vinyl, reflecting the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

"Wally and I are planning on a lot more releases", said Tencer.

"We are transfering a lot of old tapes to digital. I have early Romatics. I even have pre-Romantics, going back to 1974".

Indeed, if the sentiments expressed within No War bear fruit, the release of that archival material will most assuredly be cause for celebration.

DIRTY WATER REVISITED -
Tony Valerntino (Big Stir)

"I refuse to compete with myself at the age of sixteen".

So said veteran composer and vocalist Brian Hyland in an exchange with Blitz Magazine some years ago on the subject of re-recordings. Labels such as K-Tel, Ronco and Madacy had been recruiting veteran artists to their studios for the purpose of cutting new versions of their classic singles for inclusion on compilation albums. 

Some artists saw that as a fortuitious move, enabling them to prove to their audiences (and to an extent, themselves) that their vocal capabilities remained intact. Hyland did not concur, adding that the assembly line methodology utilized by those labels in the recut process often resulted in a loss of the all too crucial attribute of heart. 

Several decades after the fact, many of the artists involved in that process are sadly no longer with us. In turn, those who have survived often find themselves at the crossroads of having to prove themselves after all, given the changes in levels of strength that often comes with the passage of time, as well as the inevitable attrition rate of their original audiences.

On the other hand, there are the occasional veteran artists who find themselves in the position of entertaining the notion of participating in the recut process for other reasons, including sheer necessity. First generation garage rock hero and Standells co-founder and guitarist Emilio "Tony Valentino" Bellissimo is one such artist. 

Throiughout the 1960s, the Los Angeles - based Standells amassed an impressive and enduring legacy via a series of singles and albums for the Linda, Vee Jay, Liberty, MGM and Tower labels. Their momentum continued unabated until 1968 when, as their late producer and Four Preps co-founder Ed Cobb suggested in a three-part interview in Blitz Magazine, they began to heed advice from well meaning yet ill advised outside sources. 

By the mid-1980s, the Standells were endeavoring to regain that momentum by returning to live performance. Sadly, those aspirations were short lived. Since that time, lead vocalist and drummer Dick Dodd and bassist Gary Lane from the band's best known line up have passed away. 

Nonetheless, keyboard man Lawrence Arnold "Larry" Tamblyn did manage to further the band's legacy with the release of the album, Bump. That 2013 collection for Karl Anderson's Global Recording Artists label featured an all new line up of the Standells.

All of which brings the Standells full circle to the project at hand.

Dirty Water Revisited is in part as its title suggests: re-recordings of several of the Standells' classic Tower Records era tracks. New versions of BarracudaTry It (which was also recorded magnificently by the Ohio Express for Cameo in early 1968),  There's A Storm Comin', Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White, Riot On Sunset Strip and Dirty Water are augmented herein by new material that draws its inspiration from the band's long time mission statement. 

As noted, from Valentino's perspective, the recuts were borne in part out of necessity. 

"Rick Springfield was a frequent customer of a restaurant I owned, Bellissimo", he said.

"One day, he said he was going to re-record all of his hits so that he would have control over them."

That practice is also currently being undertaken successfully by composer and vocalist Taylor Swift, who in recent years has painstakingly re-recorded new versions of her earliest albums, In some cases, Swift's remakes have outsold the original releases. To be certain, Swift stands in solidarity with Springfield and Valentino in that respect.

"Many musicians in the '60s really had no control over what was done with their music", Valentino said.

"The Standells were no exception. After hearing what Rick had planned, I said that one day I am going to do that. 

"Afterwards, I started working on the concept of Dirty Water Revisited. It was my way of rebelling against the record labels and shady industry types back then for what they had done to us".

Although the Tower label ceased operations in 1970, it left behind an impressive catalog of essential recordings by not just the Standells, but also the Chocolate Watchband, Tom Jones, Pink Floyd, Dana Rollin, Harry Nilsson, the Sunrays, Eternity's Children. Freddie And The Dreamers, the Arrows, the Toggery Five, Ian Whitcomb, Max Frost And The Troopers and many others. As such, it was crucial that Valentino's project did not focus entirely on remakes.

Not surprisingly, his duly inspired new material does not disappoint. To that effect, Vicki is as much of a nod to the second generation of garage rockers that were inspired by the Standells as it is to his own legacy. Conversely, the tongue in cheek I'm A Sexy Punk Rocker adapts a bit more of a hardcore approach in order to take that same demographic to task for defering to expectations ("In my mind it's still 1979") rather than drawing from personal inspiration. 

In both scenarios, Valentino (supported here by Duane Walder, Gary Kaluza, Randy Cooke and Ziro E) proceeded at risk. Yet in the process, he managed to successfully sustain the momentum of the Standells' long running mission statement by defering to the obvious, yet nonetheless confounding expectations. In other words, to invoke the Standells' formidable legacy, he drew from The Hot Ones with Pride And Devotion.

SOMEONE TO WRITE ME A SONG -
Alicia Witt (Alicia Witt Music)

In the relatively lean artistic times, things have been known to come full circle.

The prolific and gifted composer Neil Sedaka (in tandem with his long time collaborator, Howard Greenfield) proved that in abundance in 1972 with the release of his I'm A Song (Sing Me) 45 for the Kirshner label. At that point, Sedaka had to his credit nore than a decade and a half of acclaimed compositions and/or vocal triumphs, including The Dreamer, Bad Girl, The World Through A Tear, Next Door To An Angel, I Go Ape, One Way Ticket To The Blues, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do and many others.

Nonetheless, like many of his veteran colleagues, Sedaka suddenly found his momentum derailed by the typical overreach of the era.The tried and true team approach which had characterized his work from the onset was suddenly deemed a concession to the so-called system, with the rank and file demanding an autonomous approach to the art that a number of their up and comers of choice simply did not have within their grasp. 

In response, I'm A Song (Sing Me) most encouragingly turned the tables on those pedestrian accusers. Assuming a heartening victim of the times stance, Sedaka put the opposition on the defensive as the rigid and ignorant bullies that they were. In due course, Sedaka's strategy reaped considerable dividends (aesthetic and otherwise), as his subsequent releases for Rocket and Elektra provided him with a wealth of new career highlights that were acclaimed across the board. 

In this current season of rampant political divisiveness and societal acrimony, composer, vocalist and Worcester, Massachusetts native Alicia Roanne Witt likewise takes a cue from Sedaka's triumph and reaches out to the proponents of the presumed common denominator of unity through music. 

But Sedaka's and Witt's methodologies differ somewhat in how the team approach had enabled them to date. In Sedaka's case, his compositional skills had served him in good stead in a system in which he proactively sustained his momentum by contributing ahead of the curve. 

Conversely, in Someone To Write Me A Song, Witt sings of riding the coattails of others who have been maximizing the system. That said, she only comes to the realization that its best efforts in that respect invariably fall short in terms of personal fulfillment. 

As such, it is the element of vulnerability that generates the sympathy factor here. Indeed, Witt's confessions of being the benecator ("I've lived the movie moments, the kisses in the rain" and "first class ticket, free champagne") could well have been perceived as the byproduct of a sense of entitlement, were it not for her quick counter with, "But where's that gotten me? There's something I keep missing".

Witt has long had the mixed blessing of being surrounded in Nashville, Tennessee by one of the most consistent music machines that the mainstream has to offer. In due course, she comes to the realization herein that drawing upon the team approach is an exercise in futility if a key component of that team does not contribute its fair share. 

Indeed, "The moment lives forever in a three-chord memory" draws the inevitable conclusion: "Baby, I just don't know what it takes". And that overture of resignation in and of itself sets the stage for Witt to forego the victim stance for a victory lap. 

That Witt does not yet take that victory lap herein is indeed a strong testimony to her compositional skills, leaving as it does the open ended option from which the listener can draw their own conclusions. To underscore the point, Witt recently posted on her social media account a selfie video showcasing this track, in which she good naturedly attempts to execute it while attempting to counter technical difficulties with her cell phone.

"Getting to connect with so many of you through the language of music is one of the deepest gifts I know", she said.

It is that gift of subtle yet effective discernment that has kept Witt ahead of the curve in a career that has spanned more than three decades. Someone To Write Me A Song is now available on most streaming platforms.