Gino Matteo – Sweet Revival.
9 tracks; 46 minutes.
Gino Matteo comes from Southern California and this is his first release on Rip Cat following an earlier independent release. This album was produced by Gino and Joey Delgado (Delgado Brothers) and features Gino on guitar and vocals across nine originals. Jason Ricci adds harmonica on a couple of tracks and no fewer than four people (including both Delgado brothers, Gino’s wife Jade Bennett and Sherri Pruitt) do backing vocals behind Gino and a full quartet of guitar, bass, drums and keys.
Blues purists can look away now as this is definitely more of a rock and soul record than blues. However, those who enjoy strong singing and playing, interesting, sometimes uplifting, lyrics and original music should continue reading. Gino has a great voice, ideally suited to these songs, and there are several very strong guitar solos across the record. The material is quite varied with some ballads, rockers, a touch of Latin rhythm in “Grandma Told Me” (and even some blues in “We Can Find A Way”). Among some strong performances the following tracks stood out to my ears:
Track 3: Gino excels on what I would call ‘anthemic rockers’ like “Coming Clean”. There are several tracks like this where a strong guitar riff is central. On this one Jason Ricci adds a little harp for colour but the song is all about that riff and Gino’s convincing rock vocal framed by the backing singers.
Track 4 “Take A Chance On Me” is a soul ballad with excellent harmonies and keyboard accompaniment. Gino pleads for someone to have a little faith in him, singing in a rather lighter voice than on the rockers. His guitar weeps after each chorus and the central solo ramps up that emotional style a level – a superb performance.
Track 5 “Childhood Games” is a real earworm. “It’s all the same, it’s all the same, you play your little childhood games, but Baby you won’t be playing me” says the super-catchy chorus as Gino tells us how he stepped away from an over-controlling partner. His solo builds impressively to complete a track to which I am sure I will return often.
Track 9 “Listen To Your Mother” is a beautifully crafted piece with a real message about making sure you appreciate those closest to you while they are here: The opening stanza stayed with me: “Listen to your Mother, paint her memory in your mind”. On this gentle track Gino plays acoustic guitar and Jason Ricci’s harp accents add to the atmosphere of quiet reverence.
So not a blues record but as some chap called Mick once said: “It’s only rock and roll but I like it”!