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Spirit of America
Artist: Daniel Rodriguez
Label: 2002 Manhattan Records 7243-5-37564-2-0
Length: 12 tracks, 47 minutes
New York policeman Daniel Rodriguez is a new tenor on the American performance scene. Rodriguez, who is one of the designated National Anthem singers in the NYPD's ceremonial division and gained a lot of exposure after 9/11, has released his first album this fall. It is a collection of contemporary, folk and patriotic songs that showcase his melodic voice; the type of collection America can feel comfortable with in these times. A singing policeman who protects you with his voice. Rodriguez has come to the attention of world-renowned singer Placido Domingo, who has invited Daniel to study at the Washington Opera Company.
The songs on this CD do their job. They give Rodriguez the opportunity to show what he can do from religious songs (the Bach/Gonoud "Ave Maria" and Malotte's "The Lord's Prayer") to Broadway standards ("Into The Fire" from "The Scarlet Pimpernel" and "This Is The Moment" from "Jekyll"). Arrangers include Tom Scott, Eddie Karam, George Del Barrio, Allyn Ferguson, Joe Marden, Jorge Caladrelli, Arif Mardin, and Sam Nestico.
On the plus side, Rodriguez knows how to belt out a song ("Into the Fire") and show restraint, too ("Danny Boy"). The best arrangements for his style on the CD are with Eddie Karam ("This Is The Moment" and "The Lord's Prayer"), Allyn Ferguson ("Into The Fire") and Joe Mardin ("We Will Go On"). "Into The Fire" has all the fire and dash of a 1930's operetta and suits Rodriguez's voice just fine. "We Will Go On" has a wonderful keyboard accompaniment by Mardin with choir.
I have some quibbles. Low notes are occasionally indistinct, "Ave Maria's" Latin is not clearly pronounced, a broad New York accent comes through in the open tones of "You'll Never Walk Alone," the strings drown Rodriguez at the end and the song feels rushed. Tom Scott seems to favor lush strings so much so that at times, the background music sounds like the old Jackie Gleason orchestral arrangements. Finally, there is the folk song, "Shenandoah." A singer has to pick a pronunciation and stay with it all the way through. First it is SHAN-andoah, then it is SHEN-andoah and then back to SHAN. Missouri begins with MAY-souri then goes to MIS-souri and back to MAY.
Rodriguez still has some things to learn to polish his craft, but as a debut album, The Spirit of America shows a new talent and makes one wonder in what direction he would choose to go for his next album. Religious? Folk? Opera? Rodriguez was gifted with a fine, natural voice, and with more training and experience with the standard repertory will be ready for the world.
Copyright 2002 Marie Asner