Streetwise – The Other Side
This 17-minute EP is a slim 4-cut that follows the excellent debut released in March 2021 “Crossing Bridges.” Produced by Brooklyn-born vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Raymond Castronovo, the songs are rooted in a vintage retro genre. The eclectic R&R band formed in 2019 with Ray, Joe Martinez (bass), Linda Mackley (drums), Carl Obrig (horns/sax) & Heather Simon (backup vocals) work out of LI. The band’s aim is to reshape the original rock spirit lost in the mainstream over the years.
Their 2021 LP was quite good. I’m not certain what Ray’s aim is here. While the retro tunes establish themselves & are embellished with energy & sincerity they try hard but sometimes fall victim to the trappings of commerciality (another “Hold On” song to add to the other 25,000). Novelty (“Marinara Maddie”). But, despite this, the 4 supplement the sensibilities of the genre fairly well. It captures an era with a flair of precision but not necessarily with an air of traditional acuteness.
Ray tries to recapture the era’s fluency & in some respects, succeeds. But what ears are Ray trying to reach? Those enthralled with this music are 70 years old or better. So, he must be going for the curious younger ears that warrant a more Blasters/Del Lords expression of vintage rock. Ray has a doo-wop attack but without the vocalization gymnastics, he allows his guitar to sizzle. But it’s still nostalgia.
“440” has no stiffness & the guitar is clean. Duane Eddy illuminating. Heavy-duty bass adds a nice bottom. Ray’s vocal inflection has the necessary demeanor & dynamism — but how far will that blast propel this effort?
“Hold On,” has a female B-52’s type backup that stings nicely. The EP has moments like that but if Ray wants to be propulsive he needs to be more daring. The Other Side EP (Dropped June–DayQuest Records) has vocals that recall NYC vocalist/Brill Building songwriter Tony Powers’ (“Don’t Nobody Move — This Is a Heist”). Released in the early 80s Powers was a veteran songwriter who wrote many hits. Ray needs that evocative vocal juice just to give the vintage sound more vocal arousal.
“Marinara Maddie,” is cool but the whole sauce reference renders it a novelty. The guitar is always good, the female vocals enticing. “Shadows In the Sky,” is a good doo-wop hybrid with a nice sax but lacks the street-corner harmony cred.
Ray sings well & doesn’t try to replicate songs as much as revitalize an era. The songs he sculpts require something the music/lyric alone doesn’t provide. The magical feeling. Ray needs to go beyond memorable chords. if not, it remains oldies – even if written yesterday.
Photo courtesy: Streetwisenyc. CD @ https://www.streetwiseny.com/