…an entertaining musical ‘Where’s Waldo’ of Zappa and British Invasion mash-ups, arranged for Big Band

The Ed Palermo Big Band

The Great Un-American Songbook Volume III: Run For Your Life

The Ed Palermo Big band

Sky Cat Records

14 / 54:59



Rumor has it, Ed Palermo knew that if The Great Un-American Songbook Volume III: Run For Your Life didn’t win an award for record of the year that he’d at least be in the running for longest record title of the year. But that’s just a rumor - actually, Ed has made a really fine album here - an audio love letter to the best of the British Invasion, with an ample dose of Zappa mixed in. The Ed Palermo Big Band is in fine form, swinging with abandon and performing Palermo arrangements that turn on a dime, play havoc with time signatures, and flirt dangerously close - for a Big Band - with rock and pop.


The Beatles are represented no less than eight times on this project (a good thing), The Hollies, Thunderclap Newman, Traffic, Jethro Tull and The Moody blues, once each, and Procol Harum twice. Mr. Zappa pokes his moustache into the proceedings many times, in unexpected places. Consider the excellent cover of Traffic’s “Glad,” which manages to stay true to the song but adds in a little of Zappa’s “King Kong,” The Zombies’ “She’s Not There,” and a little “Chunga’s Revenge” bass line for extra flavor. As a matter of fact, this project is sort-of a “Where’s Waldo” of the classic rock era. You see, apart from having impeccable musical taste (and I say that because I like 95% of what Ed chooses, so hey....) Ed is also the Master of the Mash-up, arranging snatches of various songs, riffs, melodies, etc. to pop into and out of songs like so many demented whack-a-moles. That’s a good thing, trust me. Did I mention that Ed has a great sense of humor? Hopefully, you’ve guessed that by now.


The songs often flow seamlessly from one to the next, sometimes with a musical connection and other times with barely a beat between tracks. Bruce McDaniel’s production is crisp and clean with little, if any, studio trickery to sweeten the raw sound. The horns are crisp, the drums distinct, the keys are bright, the guitar is well textured and Paul Adamy’s bass is perfectly balanced in the mix (and is stunning, by the way)! The first ten songs are instrumentals and the final four (“Nothing is Easy,” “A Salty Dog,” “Shine On Brightly,” and “Nights in White Satin”) feature Guitarist/producer Bruce McDaniel doing a fine job as vocalist, especially on the challenging “A Salty Dog.” Hard-core Procol Harum fans (and I am one) will be pleased to know that Maestro Palermo has basically left those two songs intact, creating a wonderfully appropriate horn and wind arrangements to augment the basic rock band format.


There are highlights and surprises galore for any music lover that owns a pair of ears. John Bailey’s trumpet solo on “Run For Your Life” quotes not only “Them There Eyes,” but (appropriately) “How to Handle a Woman!” Notice how Paul McCartney’s bass line on “And Your Bird Can Sing” is pure perfection, and how beautifully Adamy captures it! Listen to how hard the band swings on “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite.” Check out how perfectly “Come Together” merges with “Chunga’s Revenge” - and how in the world did Ed get the organ intro to “Light My Fire” to work in there? ...and isn’t that a hint of “Martha My Dear” in there as well? Check out Ray Marchica’s drum breaks on “Nothing is Easy” - and how about Katie Jacoby absolutely wailing away in violin in the same song? Who would have thought that “King Kong” and “Cruising For Burgers” could work in “Nights in White Satin?” Well, Ed Palermo thought it would work, so there you go!


It wouldn’t be an Ed Palermo Big Band album without, well ...a little extra at the end. In this case it comes at the end of ‘Knights’ as dark, moody chords pay homage to Twin Peaks and we get a hilarious and typically bitter rant by Mike James. Remember we talked about Ed having a sense of humor a little earlier...?


Those responsible: Cliff Lyons (alto sax, clarinet), Phil Chester (alto sax, soprano sax, flute, piccolo), Bill Straub (tenor sax, clarinet), Ben Kono (tenor sax, flute), Barbara Cifelli (baritone sax, bass clarinet, Eb mutant clarinet), Ronnie Buttacavoli (lead trumpet), John Bailey (trumpet), Charley Gordon (lead trombone), Mike Boschen (trombone), Matt Ingman (bass trombone, tuba), Bob Quaranta (piano), Ted Kooshian (electric keyboards), Paul Adamy (electric bass), Ray Marchica (drums), Katie Jacoby (violin), Bruce McDaniel (guitar, electric sitar, vocals), and of course, Ed Palermo plays sax, executive produced, and wrote the arrangements (“something in the Air” and the intro to “Nights in White Satin” arranged by Bruce McDaniel).


Much more could be said about each of these fine musicians who contributed so many fine performances, and I’ve only highlighted a few. Hey, if you love either classic rock, the British Invasion, or Big Band music and you never believed these things could possibly work together, give The Ed Palermo Big Band’s The Great Un-American Songbook Volume III: Run For Your Life a try. Ed will make a believer out of you - and you’ll get him that much closer to financing Volume IV.

You know, the sense of humor......

- Bert Saraco

4 1/2 tocks

You can see Bert’s concert photography (including plenty of wild images of Ed and the band) at www.facebook.com/express.image