A new album from the distinguished guitarist Albert Castiglia is always welcome and, when his collaborator is Mike Zito, there is an added frisson as play is pressed. His last album, Up All Night, (reviewed elsewhere on Bluesdoodles) was a corker and was played live in the studio with a full band. This new one, however, has just Albert and Mike playing all of the instruments…this could be a good thing or not; we shall see.
He has modestly called this release Masterpiece and it was written with Mike after he discovered and met the daughter he didn’t know he had. That revelation and the subsequent emotional turbulence of a suddenly expanded family (including two grandchildren) has coloured the songs both lyrically and musically. The current state of the world today also makes a few appearances…after all, the turmoil that exists in the political and social arenas affects everyone, regardless of viewpoint. Even the two covers have a matching bite in their subject matter to compliment the originals.
It all starts with the almost anarchic feel to Bring On The Rain…blues-rock that has every element it should: gravelly vocals, a subtle and brilliant riff with superb lead guitar punctuating and soloing with feel and clarity. A strong and immediate beginning to satisfy blues and rock fans alike. Next track, I Tried To Tell Ya, is equally blues and rock with superb lead and a solo that is remarkable in its spread and every note matters as he hammers and runs like a man possessed without resorting to blurring any of it. Heavy has the (to me) hateful thing called a drum machine…so the opening seconds make me cringe and yet, once that enthralling riff get to you and his vocal plaintively bemoans the state of the world, the machine bias disappears and this is a spine-tingling and frankly unparalleled quality piece of blues. The carefully played, pitched and wandering solo is what many guitarists should listen to so they can understand how to use the full scope of this wonderful instrument…no pointless widdling here! Keep On Swinging has a more optimistic lyric even though the slow distorted guitar riff may bring a Neil Young style dirge to mind…that is quickly dispelled by the clever lead breaks behind the verses and the, using twin tracked guitars, the solos move from low, slow and majestic to higher registers and even more majesty. Think of a typical Free background riff overlaid by the kind of guitar playing that Kossoff achieved on his solo album; Back Street Crawler. The title track, Masterpiece, has that damn machine again…but again, it is forgiven as the delicate acoustic, subtle slide and Beatlesque vocal phrasing. Listen carefully to the lyrics and the slide and you will learn many, many things…I know I did. This is, I guess, more folk-rock as he addresses his ‘new’ daughter but is still captivating. Thoughts And Prayers carry us back to blues-rock on a wave of riffs and lyrics that (unfortunately) seem to be accurate at any point in time…”We love Jesus and we love our rifles, keep our ammo right beside our Bibles” says a lot and a lot better than the self-serving politicians. Needless to say, the solo is stunning. The first cover, Johnny Winter’s drug storied Too Much Seconal is a purposely dirty sounding guitar track and the piano of ZIto adds to this classic blues song that is performed so well. And the solo takes a lot of Winter but remains all Castiglia as he plays with the melodies and never overplays or diddles. This echoes like a live recording although it patently isn’t but, as such, sounds very nearly as good as Johnny conjured up on stage. Catch My Breath is a blues rocker with some R’n’B shadows as jangling acoustic provides the backing for more electric expansions that use the full spread of the neck and lifts what could have been an average song, even with its standard Stones-like country patterns in the background. Red Tide Blues is slide guitar over a simple picked couple of chords and is country blues that takes you back to the good old days of the blues masters with the lyrics not that different but updated, from the things that ailed those blues composers of yore. “Beaches are empty, the fish are dead, business is slow and in the red.” For me, it is slide guitar and that just melts my spine and I cannot help but love it…except it is too short! Love Will Win The War is a slow, strummed acoustic lament with John Hiatt kind of vocals that lyrically is worth paying attention too, even as you let the soloing wash over you. The album wraps up with the second cover…Muddy Waters’ I Wanna Go Home is another live-sounding recording where the two guitarists pay due reverence and still manage to put a new gloss on a great song. The vocals and solo both evoke memories of the great man without being in any way a copy: it is an object lesson in how to do a cover, keeps the original feel and yet makes it sound reborn.
In summary, please do not just listen to this once…the sparse production and that drum machine could put you off. However, if you give the album the time, it will repay you with a set of heartfelt blues that may be matched but will not be bettered. The whole thing is a lyrical masterpiece as the title suggests and its rugged feel allows Albert’s guitar playing to shine. If you love true blues then this has it in spades and you will not be disappointed.
NINEdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Bring On The Rain
- I Tried To Tell Ya
- Keep On Swinging
- Thoughts and Prayers
- Too Much Seconal
- Catch My Breath
- Red Tide Blues
- Love Will Win The War
- I Wanna Go Home
Albert Castiliglia – Vocals, Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Bass
Mike Zito – Vocals, Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Bass, Drums, Keyboards
Producer– Mike Zito
Recorded atMarz Studio, Nederland, Texas