The road from the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, where Sudano was born and raised, to Studio B in Nashville, where most of Life and the Romantic was recorded, is the subtext of the album. Sudano's musical DNA is embroidered with a hybrid of soul and acoustic rock.
The road from the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, where Sudano was born and raised, to Studio B in Nashville, where most of Life and the Romantic was recorded, is the subtext of the album. Sudano's musical DNA is embroidered with a hybrid of soul and acoustic rock. It's accompanied him through various musical incarnations, from the mid-â€˜60s (The Silent Souls) through the early-â€˜70s (Alive â€˜N Kickin') to the late-â€˜70s (Brooklyn Dreams) and later on his first two solo albums, Fugitive Kind (Millennium, 1981) and Rainy Day Soul (Purple Heart, 2003). "Been playing at this game so long, no wonder I'm so tired," he says on the blues-inflected "Get Serious," but it's clear that Sudano is now setting his own rules for the game...and is winning every move. Life and the Romantic is one of the most honest albums, musically and lyrically, to emerge in 2009.
Sudano's strength is in setting a mood for his melodies. The chord progressions in the verse on "Morning Song," for example, conjure the slow unfurling of consciousness from sleep into waking life, the moment when the eye first catches the rising sun through the window. In contrast, the wailing saxophone that opens "A Glass of Red and the Sunset" paints one of life's simple pleasures -- the sultriness of the sunset -- as something just out of reach in the "hollow reality" of a world on automatic pilot. The sax, memorably played by Jeffrey Scott Willis, "duets" with Sudano on the track, amplifying the lyrics with a voice all its own.
Sudano surrounds himself with a cadre of musicians whose stellar musicianship brings these songs so vividly to life. "Beyond Forever," produced by Sebastian Arocha Morton, features Mike McGuffey on trumpet and flugelhorn over an arrangement that evokes a seaside cottage on Ibiza or Mauritius. Like the blue skies that "melt into the sea," the soft, purple-hued tones of Sudano's voice folds perfectly into Morton's arrangement.
Whereas "Beyond Forever" has white-sand coastlines in its midst, "The Sweetest Thing" has a light snowfall sprinkled between the notes. Sudano's expert production is chock full of sonic delights -- namely John Billings on bass and Akil Thompson on guitar - that take the listener right there to the cozy backdrop of Sudano's serenade. The simple pleasures of life are a recurring character in his songs, the signature of someone who knows that value is not in things but in people and the natural world. The "thing" in "The Sweetest Thing" is not an object but the feeling shared between two people, nestled beneath the sheets, who need nothing else but each other and the divine company of nature. It's a theme that takes a seductive turn, Barry White and all, on "Turn Me On-Off the Hook."
Even when Sudano looks soberly at love on "Love Is Sacrifice," the music is brushed in sensuous shades, due in no small part to Bob Conti's percussion work and Sudano's Spanish guitar-styled playing. "What can you do? What can you say when illusions are gone?/It's always so hard â€˜cause we all seem to want a romance," Sudano sings in the song's bridge, yet he manages to make those lines purr with the slightest hint of the romance that seems so illusive. His sleight of hand, which could easily be taken for granted, is the mark of a truly clever and emotionally intuitive songwriter.
Perhaps the most personal song in the set is "Rainy Day Soul." His journey to discover who he is metaphorically characterized by a storm, but, as in nature, a rainbow appears after the deluge. Put it this way, through adversity comes understanding, and with understanding comes an appreciation for the qualities (or "colors") that make each individual unique.
Uniqueness also applies to Bruce Sudano's artistry and certainly to the songs on Life and the Romantic. Though Sudano sings from his own experience, you might just find a bit of yourself in the echo in that lingers long after listening.
By Christian John Wikane