"How Can it Be" couples lighting fast bebop with spaghetti western guitar riffs and rapid fire Hammond organ over which we are treated to a sortie of lyrical images: Dionysian fires, Technicolor dreams and captive symphonies. "Whiskey Island' is the bastard son of a film noir crime theme and a smoked out stream of consciousness torch song. 'The heart is a lonely Hunter' marries Bossa nova and spooky Theremin with a filtered vocal that explodes into a bel canto tenor in a finale worthy of a 1970's movie montage. "The New Lords" proclaims, "the fogs of Locustland make ashtrays of decent men" over a speedy jazz waltz with pointillistic brass and firestorm piano. "Arsenic and Absinthe" is the album at it's starkest, with Ferrara's vocals way up front in the mix over a track that is equal parts Henry Mancini and David Lynch. Ferrara's take on Morrissey's "Dial-a-Cliche" features controlled phrasing over an arrangement reminiscent of miles Davis's 'Sketches of Spain" while Tom Waits' "All the world is Green" assumes a Mediterranean flavor with vocals channeling the spirit of a Neapolitan street singer. With these two songs in particular Ferrara's has managed to do what so few of his finger snapping, cheeky contemporaries have, to carry on the tradition of interpretive vocalizing by showcasing contemporary songs and interpreting them with an approach devoid of kitsch, or even worse, irony. He has also avoided muddying the waters by not taking liberties with anything that can be construed as "Rat Packy" or of the "Neo-Swing." Mr. Ferrara, it would appear, is not in the nostalgia business. Of the albums four non-original tracks only two can even be remotely considered standards and as with the others, the arrangements and vocals stray far from the realm of parody. "Night Song" from the Broadway show Golden Boy is more Brian Wilson than Bernstein and "The Big Hurt" is a sci-fi samba with an ethereal Morricone choir. In a musical landscape that is replete with drum and guitar duos, laptop artists, lofi singer songwriters and an overall penchant for minimalism, it is refreshing to hear an ambitious take on pop music that for a lack of a better word is maximal, and makes no apologies for being so. Indeed, while most of what we hear today is are sparse musically, like a box of macaroni and cheese (the four-for-a-dollar kind), "The Tiger Walks Through My Dreams is like three or four Thanksgiving meals in one day. Pull yourself up to the table and dig in, I say.
Notes on Joe Ferrara:
Joe Ferrara is both a singer and entertainer. In keeping with that great American pedigree that began with Jolson, which in turn evolved into the likes of Sinatra, Joe has honed his skills not within the safe confines of academia, but in nightclubs, bars, lounges, concert halls, and other stages throughout North America. His experiences as a steadily working musician and performer in jazz bands, rock groups, Avant-garde ensembles, and in theater, have shaped the young Mr. Ferrara into the well rounded performer that he is today. No mere nostalgia act, nor a pin-up idol, Joe approaches each song he sings with the assurance and authenticity of one who has “lived it” and performs with an emotional depth that belies his youth, while utilizing phrasing that demonstrates a deep understanding and respect for the craft of song. A wearer of many musical hats, Joe Ferrara is also a multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer and recording engineer. As vocalist and primary songwriter for the rock band Father Divine, he has graced stages throughout the United States and Canada, and shared bills with artists such as Fishbone, Kings X, Andrian Belew, Mudhoney, Seplutura, and Stone Temple Pilots. He has also worked as a nightclub entertainer with various acts in the greater New York area such as, Harvey and The Wallbangers, Jump the Gun, The Renditions, and The Amish Outlaws. He has been the featured vocalist for The Hyesson Hong Jazz Ensemble, The New York University Jazz Ensemble, and The PowerhouseBig Band and has performed with the Les Paul trio, Manhattan Swing, and countless other bands. Known for his ability to seamlessly switch from soft, emotional R&B styling, to well-articulated Jazz phrasing, to over the top rock and roll wailing, Joe studied with world renowned vocal coach Marion Cowings while perusing a B.A. in Music Technology at NYU. Some of Joe’s recording credits include “The Great American Pastime,” “The Paradigm Shift,”"Uglytown” and “Requiem For Intellect” by Father Divine, “War All The Time” by Naked, “Pop Star” by Jeff Wave “For the Love of it All” by HoodwinkDover as well as countless sessions as a guitarist, bassist, vocalist, arranger, voice-over artist, and producer/engineer. Future projects include the Soundtrack to “The Wonderworld of K.Gordon Murray” and “The Street of Dreams,”an album of Jazz Standards with trumpeter extraordinaire, Tim Ouimette.
Booby Darin's chart for Charade As done by Joe Ferrrara & The Amazing PowerHouse Big Band, Live: