Artist: Frank Marzano
Album: American Proust
Genre: 60s Pop/Rock
Best Songs: Love’s the Only Way Home, Sleeping with Strangers
Strengths: Retro early sixties vibe, “Interesting” voice
Weaknesses: Some tracks are very cheesy, “Interesting” voice
Frank Marzano is a singer/songwriter originally from Chicago but currently based in Pennsylvania. Marzano has released four albums since the break from his first band “Childhood’s End” in 1991. His music has gained the interest of both international blogs and indie radio stations, having his album “The Boy Who Always Got Picked Last” rank #6 most played on independent stations across America by The Roots Music Report. Notably, Marzano earned his PhD in 1995 and teaches math at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. This album, Marzano’s fourth, is titled “American Proust” and was released September 27th. It features John Caruso on drums and Joshua Mayes on bass while Marzano handles the guitars and vocals.
If this album was transferred back in time to the summer of 1962, it would certainly stand a fair chance of getting radio airplay. Everything about it, except perhaps the lyrical content and length of the songs, screams vintage Phil Spector/Beach Boys-esque power pop early rock hits. However, the record is more than that, diving into blues and folk sounds that give the tracks occasionally a bit more of an edge. “American Proust” will remind listeners of the shiny, catchy, pre-Beatles songs, but also of the fuzzier, bluesier, edgier tunes that came out during and post British invasion. The first track off the album, “Flashlight”, is one such tune that has more fuzz and attitude in it than the other tracks, it reminds one of early Canned Heat blues jams, with Marzano’s voice nearly mirroring the same soft and airy delivery of Alan Wilson. There is so much to be said about Marzano’s voice, mainly, is it good, or terrible? You may have noticed that I listed his vocals as “Interesting” in both the strengths and weaknesses category, this is because of two reasons, the first is a matter of preference. Avid listeners, especially those who lived through the late fifties and early sixties, will be more familiar/acquainted with the “unique” vocal styling Marzano offers. His vocals have a very retro-like sound to them that can be called quite artful and original, yet is still an acquired taste. Second, there are points in this record where Marzano’s voice shines. The instrumentation, mood, and lyrics all come together, especially on songs like “Love’s the Only Way Home” and “Sleeping with Strangers”. Think of the “Marzano music experience” to be a mixture of the pop hits and vocal sounds of Del Shannon, combined with the artfulness and presence of Neil Young, but all packaged in instrumentation and effects that sound like a Beach Boys recording. Basically, the result is a really great retro early sixties sound that has catchy hooks yet also depth and meaning. If you are one that has “acquired” the taste for voices like Marzano’s you’ll be able to appreciate this record.
However, if you are someone that does not have respect for whiny, tinny vocals, “American Proust” is not for you. Even as a person that happened to enjoy the particular mood of the record, after a while the voice starts to wear a little thin on even the most patient listener. It doesn’t help that most of the songs are about a minute or two too long as well. Some of these tunes could be good pop hits, but need to be cut down considerably, after a while the presentation becomes a little bit monotonous. Apparently, the album is called “American Proust” because people commented to Marzano that his long songs reminded them of the literary work of Marcel Proust (famous author known for writing books that were very lengthy). Yes, they are certainly right, these songs are very, very long, probably a lot longer than they need to be from a commercial standpoint, if that matters to the artist is another issue.
If you can get past the length and appreciate the voice, “American Proust” is actually a very intricate, well written, and well performed album. Marzano is offering listeners classic sounds that just aren’t heard very often anymore. Yes, some of the lyrical content is cheesy, and yes, this album isn’t really that innovative in any way, but what “American Proust” does is give an honest account from a seasoned songwriter that knows how to compose great pop hits that those with the right acquired musical tastes can enjoy.