Hotline to the Underground April 6, 2020

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By Joe Viglione

In this brave new world of COVID-19 musicians are reaching out to audiences on Facebook Live. Do not know if the Reverend John Tamilio is preaching to his congregation on the internet, but he held two concerts on Friday nights at 8 pm playing to many, many fans both original music as well as covers including a song by his former brother-in-law, Gary Shane. The song – “Shadow World,” a huge hit on WBCN back in the 1980s. “Everything But Peace,” Tamilio’s current single almost seems prophetic as we hunker down and start living in the Matrix.

Dean Petrella of The Complaints out of Rhode Island also had an online concert that was highly entertaining. The lead guitarist/vocalist did his show without his compadres Chris Cruz on bass and vocals, Anthony Marotti on drums/vocals. Hopefully the band will be out and rocking soon.

Talk To Me – CD – The Complaints

After the Complaints released the driving CD singles, “Trade Up,” and the Chris Lord-Alge produced “South Side Suicide,” they bring the angst down a few notches for this release, Talk to Me, an exquisitely packaged and beautifully crafted collection of eight compositions along with a reworking of the first track, “The View.” And it is a perfect way to open and close the disc, both renditions subtle and commanding, it’s the kind of melody and lyric that Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen, and the Eagles would certainly wish they came up with. Dean Petrella – vocalist, guitarist, keyboard player, wrote the majority of the words (except “Mountains” which the liners note was written and performed by The Complaints and Adam Go.) “The View” opens and closes the disc though it metamorphoses into two different perspectives a la George Harrison’s “Isn’t it a Pity” on All Things Must Pass, a light poppy venture to begin the journey, a darker quasi-dance mix to bring this very strong album to its conclusion. Play both “View” renditions back to back and it is most revealing.

Co-produced by the band and legendary engineer Phil Greene (Buddy Guy, John Cafferty/Beaver Brown, New Kids on the Block – as well as guitarist with the vastly underrated Swallow on Warner Brothers) the album is balanced and compelling. “Hanging Out” is one of four songs (of the 9 tracks) that hit the 3:52 mark, time-wise, most of the material clocking in around 2:40 – 3:20, short and sweet and making the point. It’s an easy going dissertation, at least by pop standards, with the next track, “Atlas (Carry You)” a minute shorter. Both tracks – “Hanging Out” and “Atlas” Triple-A rock with authority. And has it been 17-18 years since the Complaints released the Fear disc, with Criminal Mind in 2002? This veteran group just grows stronger through the years like fine wine and this recording has real staying power throughout.

“Wouldn’t Change A Thing,” track five, has all the markings of a radio-friendly composition with the potential to be memorable. “Talk To Me,” which precedes it, also has that captivating mood. Phil Greene and the Complaints smartly combine their talents to create something very special. Each tune has its own identity, and the sequencing is perfect as the listener is taken on a journey. From “Breathe,” not the Pink Floyd song, to “Home,” drop the needle/sequence button anywhere and there’s something entertaining and thought-provoking within.

Chris Cruz on bass and vocals, Anthony Marotti on drums/vocals and Dean Petrella are The Complaints. Add “Trade Up” and “Southside Suicide” to this disc as bonus tracks and you have an amazing set of recordings.

THE LEGENDARY John Batdorf of Batdorf and Rodney fame is also performing live on Facebook, two concerts already – as with Reverend John Tamilio. You can tune in at 3 pm this upcoming Saturday April 11, 2020 for the third John Batdorf concert – hear his stories and listen to his songs. Hear a previous concert here: https://tinyurl.com/facebooklivebatdorf or https://www.facebook.com/johnbatdorfmusic/videos/10156673447372273/ starting off with “All I Need” and tune in on John’s page: https://www.facebook.com/johnbatdorfmusic

GILLEN AND TURK

In the tradition of Batdorf & Rodney, England Dan & John Ford Coley and Seals & Crofts these two fine songwriter/singers, Matt Turk and Fred Gillen Jr. bring their blend of Americana, folk rock and solid instrumentation to this CD episode they call Backs To The Wall. “Fall Down” has the jangling R.E.M. style that makes it highly commercial, a total contrast to the almost off-key “Takes Me Away”, almost five minutes of Velvet Underground-third album melancholy. “It Really Matters” is culled from The Grateful Dead catalog and makes the duo a perfect fit to perform in the Boston area with one of Ken Selcer’s many bands.

“Black Hills” and “Come Away With Me” have mesmerizing sounds and riveting themes…”Black Hills” right out of the C.S.N.Y. repertoire when they were stomping with “Almost Cut My Hair” and “Ohio”. Real protest music. The musicianship is strong, just as you’d expect from journeyman Turk. The addition of Fred (Gillen Jr) gives Matt an opportunity to stretch out from his own solo pop to a harder-edged sometimes anst-filled style (“Come Away With Me” comes to mind in that regard). “These Nameless Streets” would be fine for a Jack Kerouac flick…or if some filmmaker wants to take the Route 66 TV series from the 1960s to the big screen.

“Three” is innovative and has mandolin-like sounds with charging guitar…political issues…think George Harrison’s “Within Without You” going for a wider audience. “Killing Machine” also has the R.E.M. jangle combined with protest lyrics while “This Town Is Our Song” feels like a low-key response to Simon & Garfunkel’s “My Little Town”, though not as maudlin yet still very melancholy (did I use that word already). A strong effort from some spirited musicians worth your listening time.

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