ED RANDAZZO SHOWS, TELLS AND DELIVERS WITH HIS CD SHOW AND TELL

Local NE PA artist Ed Randazzo's latest release Show And Tell.  Out now!  Photo courtesy Ed Randazzo

Local NE PA artist Ed Randazzo’s latest release Show And Tell. Out now! Photo courtesy Ed Randazzo

Facebook is actually good for some things!  This may come as a surprise to many, but I had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of Ed Randazzo through Facebook.  While the initial conversation was not about music, we became conversational through the site and I got introduced to a whole new world of music happening (literally) in my back yard.  Randazzo invited me to one of his shows, opening for Spencer Bohren at the Tripp house in West Scranton’s Tripp’s park section.

This show was put on by a group I can’t stop going on about, PocoNotes, as they have one of the most noble operation statements I have heard of in many years of dealing with the monster that is the music business. That mission statement being, to promote blues and roots music on the local level.  I have been a proponent of local level music promotion since I was involved in playing music at the local level back in the mid to late 80’s with Rudi And The Living Dolls.  Since being fortunate enough to establish this column, first through the independent music store syndication, I was immediately barred from promoting local acts because the indie music stores weren’t able to profit from independently self-distributed products.

Products from acts like another former Rudi And The Living Dolls member, drummer Joe Tocket’s new band Instant Karma and the subject of this review, Ed Randazzo and his album Show And Tell.

But now being independent, I have already dipped my toes into areas of review that the syndication would have found intolerable, chastised and removed, if not barred me from publishing said posts upon submission.

Well, it’s my name on the site page, my reputation and my opinions that are on the line.  I will defend them to the death.  I am also willing to put my reputation on the line for Mr. Randazzo’s music.

Slight of build, don't let that fool you!  Randazzo has pipes and baritone to spare!  Photo by Lynn Vala

Slight of build, don’t let that fool you! Randazzo has pipes and baritone to spare! Photo by Lynn Vala

As I have said, I became acquainted with roots music through Sam Llanas.  I was taken in by his passionate, emotive vocal delivery and melodic yet uncomplicated arrangements and chordal structures.  You have to admit this is quite the departure for me from my usual reporting of things like Todd Rundgren’s technical advancements with every new release (he has a new one out that will be under the microscope shortly) or my being caught in the crossfire between members of King Crimson and being the one to break the news that Crimson had decided to call it quits (more specifically Robert Fripp retiring from first touring outside Europe then secondly retiring from playing live music all together).  Yup, I was the patsy who got to break that news.  Lucky me.

So when I come across new artists with a firm commitment to the music, and who aren’t as jaded as the singed Fripp from his battles with the few (remaining) record labels who took advantage of him in the early days of King Crimson, or who blatantly pilfered royalties from him in deference to the burgeoning field of download royalty collection and copyright, I not only find it refreshing and deeply interesting, but a welcome departure from the drama, anxiety and sickening of my stomach with regard to the modern day record label business.

By being independently produced, Randazzo isn’t afraid or given grief for at times being somewhat goofy.  For example the first track is called “Good Enough” which seems to be guitarist Bret Alexander getting a sound check level for the recording, it starts out so honestly, so pure, you can hear the sound of Alexander’s stool creak as he reaches to start strumming the chords of the tune.  It doesn’t get more pure (or goofy) than that.

Accomplished accompanist Alexander amazes and astounds…  Photo by Lynn Vala

Accomplished accompanist Alexander amazes and astounds… Photo by Lynn Vala

There’s no silliness when Randazzo booms in with the vocal about wanderlust on “Jesus On A Red Flag”.  It smacks you in the face like the proverbial hobo train of many a blues tune.  Randazzo’s tone reminds me of the Fripp/Sylvian projects.  He kicks in a gorgeous harmony on the second chorus before the harmonica solo.  After a snappy quick bridge, they revisit the expertly played harmonica solo by Nik Allen.  After a second blues harp treat, they go back to a bridge/chorus structure.

It is a happy ditty about hotel stays and the discovery of religion through vexillology.  It’s a toe-tapper.

“House On The Hill” has a lilting, finger-picked melody that wants to sound familiar but it’s not.  The vocal describes a house on the hill.  I remember this from his Tripp House performance.  A house on a slightly smaller hill.

But that performance didn’t do this version justice.  Or perhaps it is my unfamiliarity with the track.  The introduction of the mandolin after the solo further brightens the track.  But Randazzo’s plaintiff vocalizations make the listener’s heart break for the people who live in that house and wonder what happened up there.

But that house could be any number of dwellings in America’s depleted housing market.

Another track from Tripp House is “Who’s That Man”.  For the recording he is joined with the soulful sounds of Alexis P. Suter.  A skilled and substantial artist in her own right.  They perform the intro verse a cappella.  This is the first full band track on the disc and it is big!

If you can’t bop and move to this…

Randazzo and Suter fill the speakers while the full band leaves plenty of room for the vocalists to ruminate on Randazzo’s reflection (both physical and in the contemplative) in the mirror.

Hopefully in this “recovering” economy, Randazzo can afford to have a live band support him now and again.  Randazzo generously lets Suter scale out the vocal ad-lib ending.

You want more.

“I’m Thinkin’” is another one of those goofy outtake kind of tracks.  These are the things that make music interesting and fun.

“Let Me Go” features a gingerly played guitar beginning, but soon evolves into a classic love-gone-wrong blues take.  While the guitar and Randazzo’s vocal play against each other at first, they fall into line with each other at the bridge.

The whole track does a dead stop before the second verse, but Randazzo draws the last syllable out into a long breath.  Smooth.  A shaker is brought in to spice up the rhythm track for the second verse.  The choruses feature the repetition of the line ‘love killer’.  After reiterating ‘love killer’ they break it down before going into an ad-lib change.  All so tasty.

They punch out the ending with the words ‘make a grown man cry’ being accented by chords.

Alexander handles guitar as Randazzo rattles the ancient windows of Tripp House with his humongous vocals.  Photo by Lynn Vala

Alexander handles guitar as Randazzo rattles the ancient windows of Tripp House with his humongous vocals. Photo by Lynn Vala

The title track is another full band effort.  A slow, pensive, archetypical blues/roots structure song, replete with a B3 organ.  The whole track is as flowing as the lyrical river where the occupants of the song meet.

Featured is a tasteful tremolo guitar solo, which melds into the flow of a couple more bridges and choruses.  But this, like all of the songs on Show And Tell go by so quickly.

“Still Cry” again, features another big full tune with Alexis P. Suter.  The band holds back for the first verse.  But for this track they are almost as powerful when they kick in as the dynamic vocal duo.  Suter’s tone just makes you blue, not to mention the subject matter is about movin’ on relationship wise.

Suter takes the vocal ad-lib out for the end one more time.

“You Give Me” starts out with a very lively and agile guitar.  Randazzo boms in long before the rest of the instruments.  Backing vocals just overtake the speakers in a joyous noise.  But for those choruses, this track takes on an almost Latin feel with flamencoesque guitar and castanets.  The lyrical content deals with toxic relationships, with Randazzo assuming the antagonist role.  Succinct yet the agony instilled seems protracted.  As though the abuse of the relationship took its poisonous time to instill within the victim.

The next track, “Black Snow”, is audibly inventive in that the quickly arpeggioed guitar part almost emulates snowfall.  The arpeggioed structure remains constant until a mid-break change with woeful bells added, but the structure picks back up to that quick arpeggiation.  The structure is integral as it supports Randazzo’s bleak story.  Is black snow death?  Pollution?  Decay of society?

You have an imagination.  Use it.

Local artist Ed Randazzo performs at Tripp House in Scranton.  Photo by Lynn Vala

Local artist Ed Randazzo performs at Tripp House in Scranton. Photo by Lynn Vala

“There Was A Crooked Man” is a light-hearted look at the children’s fable of traditional origin.  It presents with the most funky percussion track.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say they used midi and sampling to conjure the off-kilter percussion track.  At one point, they stop the song and one would think the song is finished.  Until they break the silence with raucous laughter.  Seriously fucked up stuff.

I LOVE IT!!!

The ending chorus repeats are a hodgepodge of children’s voices, barroom choruses and oddball sounds.  They managed to take a childhood taunt that I had to suffer through (the whole cleft lip and palate thing) and make it my favorite track on the disc.

Randazzo and Alexander make roots blues fun???

You can get your own copy of this disc (and I recommend that you do) by going to Joe Nardone’s Gallery Of Sound in NE Pennsylvania or you can order this amazing, entertaining and silly disc by visiting and getting in contact with http://www.bretalexandermusic.com and/or www.edrandazzomusic.com/ as well as the usual Amazon and iTunes.

For those of you local to the NE Pennsylvania area, if you receive television station WBRE in Wilkes Barre PA, tune in on Friday to WBRE’S PA LIVE to see Randazzo perform.  The show airs at 4 p.m. Eastern.  Check your local listings for the correct dial number.  Don’t miss it!  But if you must for such mundane things as work, etc., hopefully it will be reposted on YouTube.

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