Peter Merrett, PBS106.7, Melbourne, Australia
** BOBBY MESSANO – “Bad Movie”
Label: The Prince Frog Record Company
*Bobby Messano : All guitars, lead and background vocals.
*Ed Canova : Bass guitar, background vocals and hand claps.
*Nioshi Jackson : Drums, percussion, background vocals and hand claps.
*Alecia Elliott-Fisher : Duet vocal on “Water Under The Bridge”.
*Jon Tiven : Saxophones on “Unconventional Wisdom” and “American Spring “.
*Pete Gallinari : Organ and piano.

*** Track 1. – “Bad Movie ” Written by Bobby Messano & Jon Tiven.
Blues troubadour Bobby Messano, (member of the New Jersey Blues Hall of Fame), has probably forgotten more about Blues than most will ever know. That being said here we have his latest offering and we kick it off with the title track that is a romping Texas inspired one. Messano instantly displays his amazing guitar chops with a devil may care take no prisoner style that is also reflected in his withering vocals. Very solid rhythm section from Jackson and Canova. Great start to the album that certainly gets the listener salivating at the mere thought of what is to come.

*** Track 2. – “Come To Your Senses” Written by Brian May (Queen) & Jon Tiven.
Slow smouldering Blues that is quite atmospheric in delivery. Solid percussion resonates throughout as Messano’s guitar weeps and moans in a somewhat mimilmist manor that is very beguiling that adds to the pathos of this ballad. Messano’s vocals are touching and expressive. Great track.

*** Track 3. – “Why Water A Dead Rose” Written by Bobby Messano & Jon Tiven.
Not one to rest on his laurels Messano delves deep into his soul with this stunningly constructed ballad. Throughout there is a tangible passion that quite frankly is riveting. Proving less is more, histrionics are not needed with this one and the crescendo of Messano’s guitar is heart stopping such is the majesty of it. Pleading heart on sleeve vocals tear at the heartstrings as the rhythm section are sublime and subtle without over doing the emotion that would render the song into schmaltz.

*** Track 4. – “Road To Oblivion” Written by Bobby Messano & Jon Tiven.
Not just a brilliant exponent of Chicago and Texas electric Blues Messano takes us on a trip down south for some stunning acoustic Dobro with this perfect Hill Country song. What a revelation this one is and an unexpected addition to what is already showing to be an outstanding album. Wonderful rhythm section with the obligatory flat bass drum sound that is reminiscent of a time long past. Very drum and fife in structure but wow what an amazing track.

*** Track 5. – “Unconventional Wisdom” Written by Bobby Messano & Jon Tiven.
Powerful Blues Rock offering featuring blistering guitar from Messano, Jackson and Canova driving a potent rhythm section. Messano again displays his power packed vocals that lend well to the required intensity of this track. Add to that inspired backing vocals from Canova and Jackson. Tiven delivers the subtle saxophone that rounds out this high octane sound that most certainly doesn’t leave you wanting. Again the incredible dexterity and creativeness of Messano and band rises to the top.

*** Track 6. – “Too Good To Be True” Written by Bobby Messano & Jon Tiven.
Not one to be tied down Messano now takes us to Memphis for a serving of some funky, funky soul stew ala Muscle Shoals. Infectious make you dance groove with wonderful backing vocals courtesy of Canova and Jackson. Wherever our musical journey takes us on this album it is always first class and again Messano’s vocals are suitably soulful and pleading.

*** Track 7. – “If The Phone Ain’t Ringin’, It’s Me Not Callin’ ” Written by Bobby Messano & Jon Tiven.
Bo Diddley was most famous for his jungle beat shave and a haircut – two bits style. Messano doesn’t sit back taking it easy and do a note for note copy of Diddley but rather adds his very own unique interpretation of it. Quirky lyrics help produce a catchy enjoyable song very suitable for dancing. For me there is a hint albeit just a slight hint of good ole country about this one but then again. Background vocals add to the raw power that Messano delivers with his frantic vocalising. The rhythm section pumps and does so hard. Not one for the feint hearted.

*** Track 8. – “Never Too Late To Break A Bad Habit” Written by Bobby Messano & Jon Tiven.
This one is certainly more in the Rock & Roll vein than previous tracks but in the soundscape of this diverse album it is a wonderful inclusion. Messano and Tiven are consummate song smiths who have a deft ear and touch that is displayed within this album with every facet of the Blues covered. Hard to go past a hard driving rock song!

*** Track 9. – “Water Under The Bridge” Featuring Alecia Elliott-Fischer. Written by Bobby Messano & Jon Tiven.
Here we have another stunning addition to the album with this first of two tracks featuring Messano and Elliott-Fischer dueting beautifully. Quite an emotional song with an acoustic sound track that showcases Muscle Shoals native Elliott-Fischer’s vocals that draw a more sympathetic tonality from Messano that is so very engaging. For me this one could have been taken straight from the American traditional Country music songbook. This is how you structure and memorable song that will be played over and over again.

*** Track 10. – “You Left Me No Choice” Featuring Alecia Elliott-Fischer. Written by Bobby Messano & Jon Tiven.
Just when you think Messano has taken us across the US of A from coast to coast he then takes a divergence to the Caribbean and Jamaica in particular. Here we have the omni-present off beat of Reggae in all of it’s contagious idiosyncrasies. Elliott-Fischer once again lends her stunning voice to this one and it certainly leaves an indelible mark on the song. Perfect percussion and bass that along with Messano’s guitar weave that instantly recognisable groove. Heartfelt Blues collides with Reggae and it works.

*** Track11. – “The Girl That Got Away” Written by Bobby Messano, Jon Tiven & Larry Weiss.
Late night Blues club fare that can be found any night of the week in a Chicago nightclub. Sexy sophisticated Jazz inspired Blues that oozes from the speakers caressing the senses. Messano’s guitar is languid but extremely sophisticated with a mesmerizing tonality. Wonderful bass runs from Canova punctuate the mix as Jackson is subtle with his drums. Listen closely and you would swear you could hear the clinking of glasses.

***Track 12. – “I Thought We Had This” Written by Bobby Messano & Jon Tiven.
On this one Messano enlists his effect pedals to add another dimension to his sound that again is stunning. Quite a singer songwriter type of offering that features backing vocals from Canova and Jackson. This one certainly bops along and is extremely infectious. Solid vocals and the band once again nail it!

*** Track 13. – “We Need A Blessing” Written by Bobby Messano & Jon Tiven.
Messano delivers a no apology questioning to immigration policies that fil the news broadcasts and newspapers. Very pointed as he questions just what it is that is dividing Americans. Quite a question and statement that has so many arguing and perplexed. Maybe this should be an accompanying song to Billy Joel’s seminal historical statement “We Didn’t Start The Fire” in 1989. There are so many questions and reasons for why we are Americans put forward by Messano and Tiven. Debate is two sided and can be high jacked for the wrong reasons so a clear head and responsible discussion is needed. It is time to find our way again. Great questioning vocals from Messano and squealing guitar for good measure.

*** Track 14. – “Is It Too Much To Hope For A Miracle” Written by Bobby Messano, Jon Tiven & Steve Kalinich.
Here again we have another socially aware song questioning just what is wrong in our society today. Gallinari takes us to church with his keys that adds to the pathos of this song that indeed asks for a “miracle”. Why are people so negative and why can’t they see that what they are doing is wrong to fellow human beings. Pleading but not preaching vocals from Messano display an engaging frailty. So to think about brought about by s succinct look at the world we live in. Harkens back to John Lennon’s “Give Peace A Chance”.

*** Track 15. – ‘American Spring” Written by Bobby Messano, Jo Tiven & Larry Weiss.
Not one to be fettered after two socially aware offerings Messano and band draw on their rock & roll inner selves’ for the final track of this epic album. Jangly guitar, snare laden drums and driving bass pound this one along and have Tiven laying down the saxophone for good measure. It’s a case of rock hard or go home so Messano and band don’t hold back.

I sit here and think back to what l have just heard and l am simply in awe of Bobby Messano and his band. Not content to just give us a straight up and down Blues album Messano decided to take us to every facet of the music we love. This was fearlessly executed with inspired songs that fully encapsulated those different styles like no other. Messano is a virtuosic guitar player and one who has obviously payed his dues over so many times. One only has to listen to his chord progressions and runs to realise just how good he is. As a singer he has his very own distinct style that he shape shifts effortlessly also from one style to another throughout the album. The band is absolutely stunning and the addition of Alecia Elliott-Fischer on two duets is inspired to say the least. This may be a diverse album but it is one that comes together with a stunning synchronicity that is just too damn good to ignore. The song writing is insightful and brilliant in it’s originality. Absolutely faultless and an album everybody should hear. Blues of many styles but still Blues all the same.
There you have the first one Betsie, gee this is a mighty fine album and one l just know everybody is going to love. So many styles and feels that includes two insightful social commentaries. It’s great to hear a singer not afraid to tell it like it is.