A man goes to the doctor, complaining that his genitals have turned orange. The doctor says, “Well, the first thing to look at is your sexual history.” The man says, “Sexual history? Doc, I’m so lonely I spend my weekends eating cheese puffs and reading Playboy!”
I tell this joke apropos of nothing except the fact that I had cheese puffs for lunch. Anyway, Tony Spinelli is a self-described “ultraindie” performer whose music is available for purchase on E-bay and at Tonos (you can hear samples in RealAudio at the Tonos site). Tony specializes in bluesy mellow rock, and Rain Delays is a thoroughly enjoyable little disk.
Tony’s been in the Bridgeport, Connecticut, music scene for twenty-five years, and he has a great feel for a groove and a comfortable melodic style, plus just the right amount of chops for his material. Rain Delays is a one-man production, with Spinelli overdubbing all the parts (the drums sound synthesized, but it’s not too obvious), and he shines on bass and lead guitar, and fills in with keyboards nicely. Vocally, he works in the baritone-bass range, which works most of the time.
”I’m on My Way Home” opens the album with a terrific bass line, punchy and just ahead of the beat. The chorus has a catchy lilt in the vocal, and the tune rides out with some soaring lead guitar. An interesting effect is the mandolin (dulcimer?) trilling in the chorus.
”Tell Me” is one of the sexiest grooves ever, loping just behind the beat, and the vocal has a sultry quality. I love the phrasing on “laying back in an easy chair,” it just drips with eroticism.
Another ballad follows, “Just Due.” While Tony’s philosophical lyrics bear inspection, his vocal is a bit strained at the top of the melody. There’s a nice touch in the guitar solo, which fades from an acoustic note into an electric note.
”Put Away My Guns” has a wide-ranging melody that really catches the ear; I would love to hear it sung in a tenor voice, but it’s just a bit too much of a stretch for Tony. The piano solo is excellent, incorporating the melody but with some jazzy variation, and the bass glissando at its end is a great touch. The lyrics are a bit odd, as they address the topic of resisting the urge to kill an ex-wife, but I guess it’s better than an Eminem-style song about going ahead and offing her.
Tony’s excellent lyrics, musing on the turns that life takes, are a highlight of “Last Call Blues”: “They say because you lost the race does not mean you can’t run, but what do they know?” The soaring melody of “I could have died for you” is gorgeous, and the minor-key turnaround takes the standard blues motifs into a new melodic area, which is lovely.
Some excellent country-style fingerpicking drives “Lottery”, and the second guitar plays interesting licks to counter the melody. However, the melody isn’t much, and the tune doesn’t grab the ear as well as some of the others.
The liveliest track is “Come With Me”, with a peppy two-step rhythm, a tinkling piano, and even an accordion. Excellent for fast dancing, and the moment when the bridge joins the verse is a nice high note that Tony handles well.
I detect a Time Out of Mind influence on the closing track, “She’s Coming Back Again”, with an accumulation of seemingly random detail in the lyrics to portray a discontented soul, and especially with the piercing organ. Tony’s own ideas are incorporated well, though, with blasts of feedback and backward guitar dressing up the arrangement, and the excellent groove he creates on bass. Vocal delivery is excellent here, with a slightly incredulous tone that suits the lyrics. This is my favorite track.
A couple quibbles with the album lie in its length it’s only 25 minutes long (but Tony intended it for “trips to the store”, so maybe that explains it) and the mix, which places the vocals about twice as loud as the rest of the instruments, so it’s sometimes hard to make out the excellent guitar parts.
However, for connoisseurs of mellow blues-rock, Tony Spinelli’s definitely worth checking out. He never relies on tired cliches, but instead writes great new melodies with intriguing lyrics and always establishes a groove. It would be very cool to hear his songs played by a full band. Tony’s also got harder-rocking material, which I would be interested to hear. Be sure to check out his catalog at his home page.
Complaints, criticisms, or bribery reviews: Contact me!