Joe Mandica – ‘Presents GROOVES’ (2018)

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Assembled by songwriter, producer and multi-faceted musician Joe Mandica, Joe Mandica Presents GROOVES is a compilation album containing 14 tracks from 14 different artists. These selections are so good you’ll be pressing the repeat button again and again!

The disc kicks into gear with Natalie and Zachary Wilksch’s “Can’t Get Your Face Off My Mind.” Vibrant vocals emitting a southern-fried fringe, complemented by a jazz-tinged tempo drives the infectious piece, while strummy guitars and a rolling piano keep the momentum going.

Seated directly behind “Can’t Get Your Face Off My Mind” is “Anything and Everything” from Vince Tomas, who acquired international stardom several years ago as a member of the boy band US5. Brisk and bright, “Anything and Everything” summons a poppy soul-scented mood, recalling a long lost Motown nugget. Giddy piano passages from famed composer and arranger Giovanni Marradi cement the sweet and sunny song.

Next up on Joe Mandica Presents GROOVES is Stephanie Angelini’s “I’m In” that ventures towards the jazzy side of the spectrum. Stephanie’s cool and confident vocals remain continually in sync with the smooth instrumentation that includes a corking saxophone solo.

Traveling into the past, we’re then treated to “All the Way” from the Secrets, which was recorded in 1984. Constructed of needle-sharp breaks and compact guitar chords, the pop rocking gem bestows an ageless appeal that can’t be denied. In case you didn’t know, the Secrets cut a slew of equally catchy British Invasion meets new wave styled sentiments in the late ’70s through the mid-’80s – followed by reunions in the early 2000s – that are offered on their Collection anthology.

Hot on the heels of “All the Way” arrives a spellbinding ballad from Chubby Tavares. Fueled by Chubby’s warm and soulful vocals and capped with a wash of spine-tingling harmonies, “Gotta Get Back to You” drips with an aching desire that demands empathy. No novice to the biz, Chubby has been making music for six decades and has achieved universal acclaim with Tavares, who scored unforgettable hits in the ’70s with songs like “It Only Takes a Minute” and “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel.” A group consisting of siblings, Tavares still draws the crowds today.

Reflections of Billy Joel in crooner clothing rise to the surface on Fortunato Isgro’s absolutely dazzling “Angel From Up There.” Punchy and polished, the larger than life pop song literally bursts with happiness and gratitude. Fortunato’s lung power, combined with Preston Glass’ sweeping piano skills smack of class and credence.

Moving onto Marty Penrose, the influence of Roy Orbison is so obvious that you would be forgiven for thinking “Dream Baby Dream” is an actual recording from the dearly departed legend. Not to be confused with Orbison’s song of a similar name, “Dream Baby Dream” exposes Marty’s flair for admirably aping his idol’s haunting and bone-chilling voice, while delivering a positive message in the process.

Sung in Italian, Francesco Misitano’s “Sono Pazzo Di Te” – which means “I Am Crazy About You” in English – is a heart-gripping ballad shaped of symphonic string samplings and tasty electric guitar riffage. Even if you don’t speak Italian, the poignant tone of the shimmery song is sure to stage an immediate impression.

Swinging and soaring with sophistication, “You & Me” from Nino Bisgnano reveals a definite affection for the pop-standard idiom. Traces of Bobby Darin can be detected in Nino’s suave and strong vocals that are backed by a comparably potent chorus. Teeming with joy and a hip demeanor, “You & Me” commands a standing ovation.

Those craving a solid shot of funk will dance with glee upon hearing “Watch Me Melt” from Alyssa Agius. Pulsating with steamy rhythms and Alyssa’s sassy and brassy voice, the exhilarating song also lets loose a blinding guitar solo. A certified body shaker, “Watch Me Melt” gets down and dirty in all the right places.

Lowering the volume, we’re now serenaded by the ravishing radiance of “You’ve Got the Love” by Brandon Wattz. Owing a nod to the spirit of Motown, this elegant endeavor showcases Brandon’s pristine pipes and the ability to express his feelings to maximum effects.

Duly dubbing themselves Tony Pantano, Fortunato Isgro and Joe Mandica, the talented trio embraces their inner Nashville on “Didn’t Take the Time” with stunning results. Charged with the weeping burr of a pedal steel guitar, nasally whines and clangy twanging galore, the crackling number reins in as a solid example of authentic country music.

An amazing singer who excels at every genre imaginable, Grace Marino elects to embody bluesy jazz based elements on “Don’t Say It’s Gone.” Trembling with honest emotions and a cultured composure, the sizzling song is truly epic.

Mandica’s own “Unexpectedly” concludes Joe Mandica Presents GROOVES, truly a gala event. Launched by the folky flavor of an acoustic guitar, the soft and quiet essay gradually expands into a heavenly choir of orchestral sounds. Laced with pretty trim and a fresh finish, “Unexpectedly” is the perfect ending to a perfect album.

Bottled tight with an unlimited supply of hooks and melodies, Joe Mandica Presents GROOVES yields one spectacular song after another. A romantic and sensuous tenor accents the material, and how nice it is to be entertained by real musicians playing real instruments and singing real tunes. The quality of both the musicianship and songcraft is brilliant, and as an extra bonus, the packaging of GROOVES is first-rate, complete with lyrics to each of the entries.

I’m hoping Joe Mandica Presents GROOVES will become a regular series …

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]
Beverly Paterson
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