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Joe Castellano Super Blues Band - Blues & Soul with My Latin Side

Blues Promotion Association, 2008

Two discs. Disc One 58:41; Disc Two 53:57

I remember some years ago watching David Letterman introducing a musical guest, twitting his not very bright side-kick Paul Schaffer. The guest artist had a new album, and Dave asked, “Paul do we call this an ‘album’ or a ‘CD’?” And Paul replied authoritatively, “We call it a ‘CD.’ It is a new CD.” Of course, Letterman was right. The compact disc is nothing more than a blip or maybe a bump in the history of recording technology. How many of my readers have owned the same album on vinyl, and tape, and CD? An album of music, a deliberate collection and strategic presentation of some recordings first made possible by the long playing phonographic record, is an artistic statement that is meant to deserve our attention. Some of the things that get sent to me for review are albums; some, like this one, are only CDs.

CDs are relatively cheap and easy to create. (1) They serve as a way to advertise yourself in getting “gigs” (which, by the way, is a performer’s business lingo and totally different from a “show”—the audience member’s word for what they hope for when they go out). The person behind the bar in the crappiest tavern in North America knows to ask the punkiest kid who comes through the door looking for a place to play, “You got a CD?” The kid knows this and whips it out. (2) CDs can be sold during and after gigs as a second stream of income for the artists; even beginning performers hope to also sell these on-line and at local record stores. (3) CDs flatter the musicians’ egos that they are recording artists, advancing their creativity, leaving their mark, that with this tangible and portable device they may get popular and critical recognition—radio play. (4) CDs are amazingly democratic, suggesting an astonishing equivalence of the many musical performances. They promise to bring us all the great music the old major-label system neglected or even suppressed. But CDs can easily enough be simulations of albums—illusions of musical innovation, surpassing performances, inspiring messages—passed off in deceptively shiny jewel cases.

Joe Castellano was born in Sicily in 1966. He is often called “Dr. Joe,” though I haven’t been able to figure out why. Castellano may or may not have started his band on lottery winnings. It is a big (up to fifteen players performing at one time?) stage act that tours Europe in the summers. This CD consists of live takes from his band’s “Blues & Wine Soul Festival Summer Tour 2008.” It is my best guess that this two disc set primarily fulfills the second function noted above: it is something to sell at these amphitheatre events. I’ll bet the live show is fun—a sort of Las Vegas-ish blues-funk-Latin-disco-soul revue. Castellano comes to the U.S. to rent soul cred, utilizing excellent players: r&b stalwart Roy Roberts, sax men Gordon Beadle and Waldo Weathers, guitarist Chris Cain, new soul singer Simone De, and backing singer Kenyondra Bennett. Castellano obviously turns to the Americans especially (Roberts, Weathers!) for the authentic voices.

Eleven of the eighteen songs are Castellano originals, but the real inspiration and success of the act is in the tributes to Otis Redding and James Brown, and to a lesser extent a funked up version of the Doobie Brother’s “Long Train Running.” The Brown medley is the whomping big closer. So, if you have music money burning a hole in your pocket, why in the world would you buy this when you can buy the Brown and Redding originals? I cannot think of a single reason.

It is hard to make a consistently good live recording. Remember, there are fifteen musicians on this stage to be mic-ed and balanced; and an essentially self-produced, not-really-a-real-record company effort is not likely to have the resources to pull it off. That is exactly the case here. The subtle choices the musicians are making are obscured in the high energy blast of the live show. The stage-ness of the recording makes the music seem to come from “over there.” Even if you needed a version of James Brown for the car, this one would soon fall into disuse because the recording does not keep its promise of force and clarity.

Mama Clark always got on me when I made fun of people, but I would be remiss not to say the most entertaining thing about this CD is the amazingly bad English from the song titles (“I Wanna Talk You About a Woman”) to the liner notes (“Joe Castellano has made important tour sharing the stage with the most legendary Band of both genders in question.”) Fortunately, you do not have to buy the album to enjoy this verbal slapstick. It is on ample display at . Dr. Castellano needs to put less trust in computer generated translation. And you need to be on the look out for some great blues albums.

Reviewed by Dale Clark

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