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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Jerry Maniscalco “Bold Enough To Try”

Jerry Maniscalco is a singer-songwriter who lives in Jacksonville, Florida. His musical background comes from his time in musical theater in high school and then, later on, in the military where he a member of the United States Naval Academy Men’s Glee Club from 2003-2007. He also was a founding member of the group The Anchormen that came out of that larger outfit.   

After his time in the military, Jerry Maniscalaco would go on to pursue his musical dreams with the help of the organization known as Operation: Encore, an organization that helps former military personnel realize their full potential through training. Operation: Encore then helps those individuals (such as Maniscalco) with opportunities and networking to truly begin living their dreams as real musicians.

As a live performer, Jerry Maniscalaco covers a wide array of artists in the cover songs that he plays. Among the artists he plays are: Led Zeppelin, Matchbox 20, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Oasis, Tom Petty, John Prine , Ed Sheeran, just to name a few. With this kind of musical blend, it should come as no surprise that Maniscalco’s music contains a lot of variety in the styles that are incorporated within it.

Through his time as a musician, Jerry Maniscalaco has created two releases. They include 2011’s Take What’s Left and Make it Right, 2014’s One (a four-song EP) and the newest four-song release from Maniscalaco called Bold Enough to Try.

2018’s Bold Enough to Try from Jerry Maniscalco begins with the singer-songwriter revisiting an older tune. The track “Gypsy Blood” came off of the artist’s 2011 release of Take What’s Left and Make it Right. With that album, Maniscalco created an entire album of acoustic tracks which included “Gypsy Blood”. So when the new release of Bold Enough to Try came around, it was the perfect opportunity to give the song the treatment it deserved. The new version of the track features a strong Rock and Roll feel to the track. The track finds Maniscalco creating a track that would easily have fit on any 1980s Rock and Roll station. This gives the new release from Maniscalco a strong track to begin the EP.

The newest release from Jerry Maniscalco continues with the track “Riverside”. This track features a Pop-Rock feel to the music as Maniscalco slows things down and lightens the mood. What results is a track that features a style very reminiscent of songs created by John Mayer. In fact, the vocals from Maniscalco on this track also seem to suggest Mayer. The doubling of Maniscalco’s vocals during the refrain of the song even suggests Mayer’s style. The Pop-Rock track contains a timeless feel to the music as it would have been right at home on Top 40 radio during the thirty-five to forty years.

Jerry Maniscalco has the perfect voice for doing Pop-Rock music as it has a rather commercial feel to it. And while his vocals on the previous track suggested Phil Collins, you can almost imagine Bruce Hornsby on the next track of “Don’t Kill the Messenger”.  While the previous track found  Maniscalco bringing the intensity of his music down quite a bit, this track brings the energy level back up if only just a bit. “Don’t Kill the Messenger” may very well be the most commercial track on the Bold Enough to Try release.

The final two tracks off of the Bold Enough to Try release are “Wake Up” and “We Are”. For those familiar with Operation: Encore, you should recognize those song titles. These two tracks were featured on the organization’s first release called Operation Encore: A Veteran Music Project. For this five-song EP, the tracks appear in their original recordings having just been remastered for the EP.

“Wake Up” is a track that features an Acoustic Rock feel to the music. While this is an original song, the track feels very much like something from the Live Stages era from the band Vertical Horizon. You can almost imagine this track playing alongside such Vertical Horizon’s songs such as “It’s Only Me” or “On the Sea”. “Wake Up” from Jerry Maniscalco has the same style and would be the perfect companion to the collection from a fan of Vertical Horizon.

Maniscalco once again takes some inspiration from Vertical Horizon on the music of the track “We Are”. Very much like “Wake Up,” the track features a laidback feel to the music. The track’s lyrics describe people going through their lives doing the same thing every day. As you listen, you can almost imagine yourself playing out one of the scenarios mentioned in the song. The song is so relatable, in fact that the organization Maniscalco belongs to, Operation: Encore has started using it as its theme song of sorts.

The Bold Enough to Try release from Jerry Maniscalco is short but sweet. And while the EP contains only five tracks, all five songs are strong.    

 

For a taste of the music from Jerry Maniscalco, check out the song “We Are,” which is also the theme song for Operation Encore.

To check out the music of Jerry Maniscalco, click on the album cover below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more reading about Operation Encore, check out the review for the first album, the second release of Monuments,the first review for Rachel Harvey Hill, the review for Andrew Wiscombe, the review of Steve D. Wilson, the review for The Real Doug Lane, the review for Stephen Covell, and the review for Unknown Rider by clicking on the links that are highlighted.  

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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Troy Baker & Window to the Abbey “Moving Around Bias”

Troy Baker is a multi-layered individual. Many people know Baker from his acting roles as he adds his voice to many different projects of both cartoons and Japanese Anime. Known best for his role as The Joker from various Batman projects as well as many other characters from other animated projects, Baker’s ability as a voice actor keeps him busy with plenty of work. Adding to that already busy schedule, Troy Baker also helps in the production of video games where his voice is used to bring those video game worlds to life.  

You can also find the ever-busy Troy Baker spending time with actor Nolan North as the two men create a video-based blog on YouTube called Retro Replay where the two actors and friends spend time discussing many different topics.  

When not adding his voice to the various projects that take up much of his time, Troy Baker can be found strapping on a guitar. In fact, it was back in 2014 that Baker produced his first album of Alternative Rock. That 2014 album was entitled Sitting in the Fire.

Along with Troy Baker, the rest of the musicians who took part in the project were: Wayne Miller, Jon Titterington, Christopher Wray, AJ Novak, and James Bowen. Consequently, these musicians also helped Baker bring his last release called Sitting in the Fire to life. Together this group of friends creates the project known as Window to the Abbey.  It is this project that helped to produce the newest album from Baker known as Moving Around Bias.

Moving Around Bias from Window to the Abbey begins with the track called “Heads Out”. The keyboard-based track is simply a keyboard intro into the rest of the release. The twenty-four seconds of music lead the listener from the beginning of the album into the second track called “Water Into Wine”.

The second track of “Water Into Wine” begins with the sound of the organ creating a steady pulsing rhythm, When the rest of the instrumentation joins in, the track takes on a musical feel that contains an Alternative/Pop-Rock hybrid feel. As Troy Baker’s vocals show up, the track feels like a blend of Bruno Mars and Prince. The music itself also contains a little Mars flavor because of the R&B influence to go along with the Pop-rock feel. The easy-going feel of the song helps to create a track that would feel right at home on Pop-Rock/Top 40 radio.

After a few tracks of rather laidback musical approaches, Troy Baker and the rest of the musicians pick up the pace and the energy level with the tune “Breakup Song”. The track finds Baker delivering lyrics about where to go after a relationship comes to an end with both energy and conviction. As he sings, the pace of the music picks up as does the energy of the track. To go along with a slightly energetic musical approach, the track also features a section near the end of the track where an entire group of voices form a solid vocals chorus. The resulting Pop-Rock track would easily fit right in on any Top 40 radio format.

The energy level of the music gets a large rise in intensity on the track “Common Ground”. This track seems like the next logical step after the previous track of “Breakup Song” as Baker sings of finding something to build on. With the serious nature of the lyrics on the track, the music also comes with a stronger musical foundation. “Common Ground” contains one of the strongest Rock and Roll approaches of the release. That approach comes from the infectious drumbeat that stretches from the beginning of the track to the end. The guitars in the song are also a lot stronger on this track. In short, “Common Ground” is a strong track that comes with a positive message about finding things you agree on.

Troy Baker and the rest Window to the Abbey keep the energy level up on the next track of “Part Time” while bringing a little Pop-Rock influences back into the music. The track features a musical feel that features a balance of guitar and organ while the lyrics continue the theme of “relationships” which has already appeared on several tracks before this song. With this song, Baker sings about trying to make a relationship work when the couple is only together some of the time. While the subject matter is somewhat of a downer, the track is still one of the best songs on the release.

Much like the lead-off track of “Heads Out” that began the Moving Around Bias release, the song “Unknown Caller” is a strictly instrumental track. The piano-based song contains a light, jazzy feel. Before you know it though, the track is over. The piano helps to separate the song from the previous songs on the release.  

With the song “Something New Under the Sun,” the music returns to a combination of both piano and guitar as the track takes on a sound that brings to mind a lighter version of something that singer-songwriter Bruce Hornsby might have created. “Something New Under the Sun” is a track featuring a slow, easy feel to the music. The lyrics find Troy Baker singing about a man who finds the perfect woman to fill the void in his life and then turns to many years down the road as he looks back at what had been as he remembers what they had before she passed away. The track is perhaps the most beautiful, and easily the most heartbreaking track of the album.

While Moving Around Bias from Window to the Abbey is not a concept album, it’s hard to ignore the theme of relationships that run through many of the songs that make up the fourteen tracks on the release. And through the tracks on the album, you get a wide array of emotions as the songs focus on different aspects of life. Moving Around Bias from Troy Baker and the rest of Window to the Abbey is a release that is solid from the first moment until the last note.

 

For a taste of the music of Troy Baker and the band of Window to the Abbey, check out their song “Breakup Song“. 

To hear the Moving Around Bias release, check out the SPOTIFY account for the album. 

Click on the album cover below to purchase a digital copy of the album: 

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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Rugby Road “III”

Rugby Road is a Modern Rock band from Philadelphia. Together, Kenny Kearns (vocals, keyboards, bass, guitar, etc.), Rich Pruett (drums, percussion and vocals) and Derek Smith ((aka “Smalls”) on guitars and vocals) create a group that is currently celebrating the fact that they have just passed the Quarter-Century mark as far as being a band is concerned. The trio lists bands like the Allman Brothers, Rusted Root, Phish as well as other artists like Peter Frampton as influences. As a result, the band’s musical quality includes styles like Rock, Jazz, Soul and even Funk. Together, Kearns, Pruett and Smith are celebrating 25 years of Rugby Road’s existence by releasing the band’s newest release called Rugby Road III.

The newest release from Rugby Road begins with the track “Back to You”. The track finds the band combining two different styles into one track. The underlying sound of the track contains a piano base like something from Billy Joel while the inclusion of a strong electric guitar that gives the song a completely different Rock and Roll feel that fits on top of the piano-based Pop. “Back to You” builds and builds throughout the song’s nearly six-minute play time. The electric guitar Rock and Roll and piano-based Pop combine to create one track that contains plenty of energy. Add in some Soul influence in the form of background singers that sound like a Gospel chorus near the end of the track and the song gets slightly overwhelming. But the music comes to an end before the track goes too far. “Back to You” kicks the new release from Rugby Road off with plenty of energy.

With the next track of “Nobody (Needs to Know),” Rugby Road combines plenty of Rock and Roll with a ton of Soul influence to create a track that feels like something that would have been right at home on Commercial Radio back in the mid to late eighties. As a matter of fact, the track’s sound brings to mind something from Steve Winwood as the song of “Nobody (Needs to Know)” could easily have fit right in on any of Winwood’s albums from that time period. “Nobody (Needs to Know),” the second track on the new release from Rugby Road, feels like a hit single.

For the third track on the Rugby Road III release, the band slows things down quite a bit. “Spoken For” finds the band blending together a generous amount of Jazz and Rock & Roll. The results are a song that feel like it could have come from Steve Winwood, Bruce Hornsby or maybe even Sting. The track contains plenty of Rock & Roll feel with enough Jazz influence to soften the energy of the music. The track is yet another moment on the latest release from Rugby Road that shows that the band can handle plenty of different styles of music at one time.

For the last track on their latest release, Rugby Road creates a track in “Give it Away” that is straight-out Rock and Roll. Like some of the previous tracks on the four-song EP, the band brings a style that borrows a lot from artists like Steve Winwood or Bruce Hornsby as the track features a lot of Rock & Roll that is reminiscent to their styles. With this track, however, the keyboards in the song also seem to bring to mind the sound and style of Manfred Mann; especially during the one solo in the song that focuses on the keyboard. After spending time focused on the keyboards, the guitar takes over as the focal point of the track. With this track, the band lets their improvising skills out as they take the song in a direction that is more “jam band” than it is straight Rock & Roll. “Give it Away” is one track that easily allows the talent of the trio of Kenny Kearns, Rich Pruett and Derek Smith to shine through. While the band of Rugby Road had not put out a new release in fifteen years, the trio seems to have kept their skills as musicians.

The four tracks that make up Rugby Road’s new EP called Rugby Road III are all solid songs. With only four songs on this release from 2016, fans of this band, new and old alike, were given just a hint of what the band had been like. The four tracks are a good indication of what the band is capable of if and when they decide to release something more.

To hear music from Rugby Road, click the link for the video to the song “Back to You“.

For more information, check out the band’s PR firm, The RMG Media Group.

Click on the album cover below to purchase a copy of the new album from Rugby Road:

Rugby Road cover

 

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Artists and Bands Free MP3s

The U.K.’s Sierra Alpha Opt to Rely on Hard Work and Their Niche-Free Sound for Success, Rather Than Chasing a Golden Ticket Like Their Peers

l_1be8903baf054e15a3735148d19c8436Sierra Alpha is a highly rated five-piece pop/rock outfit from Wales, U.K., that is getting well-earned praise from countless sources. Their debut EP, Superhero, was released in June of this year and was welcomed with strong regional press and radio support, and the title track was featured as the single of the day on Amazon.com. Furthermore, World Machine, another track from the EP, has been featured on a MySpace.com video segment promoting Leonardo DiCaprio’s film, Body of Lies.

Sierra Alpha is comprised of Martin Goddard (Vocals, Guitar), Stuart Davies (Bass), Andrew Harries (Keyboards), Andrew Evans (Lead Guitar) and Simon Beecher (Drums). Their unique gift lies in that both their recordings and live performances are filled with a signature rocking style and catchiness that truly makes them a hit just waiting to happen.

The five track EP, with its combination of brilliant harmonic choruses, superb keyboards and Martin’s wide vocal range, leads to a collection of highly memorable, infectious songs. And, having had the chance to catch them performing live in Bath, U.K., I can also vouch for their stellar shows. On stage Sierra Alpha have a strong, tight delivery that has punch and verve. From the first song, Weekend Lover, Sierra Alpha commanded the attention of the entire venue and from that point on they faultlessly delivered the entire set, even mixing in a cover of La Roux’s Bulletproof.

Once the band got offstage I was lucky enough to catch up with Martin Goddard, who happily agreed to a chat for The Rock and Roll Report.