Marco Benevento is quite the enigma. Who is he? Does he dress more like Dr. John or Dr. Teeth from The Muppet Show? Does he sound more like Elton John on acid or more like a more conventional Randy Newman? Is he experimental Rock or is he Jazz? This artist is incredibly hard to pigeonhole, a quality that all the greats possess.
With a release date just weeks away, his new album, Woodstock Sessions, is an exciting affair. Recorded live on September 3, 2016, the album makes exquisite use of audience participation. The crowd participation is as essential to this release as is the music itself. The two elements when mixed together create an audible verve unheard by this listener in quite some time. It is refreshing to be reminded that music is not only a form of artistic expression, but also at its very core a source of entertainment.
Things start cooking from the very start. Opener “Dropkick” comes out swinging. It features a straight forward piano groove embellished with sound effects that could have been taken straight from a low budget 60’s Sci-fi show. I mean that in the best way possible! “Heavy Metal Floating Upstream” which features an impressive soulful vocal, proudly reminds an audience how much feeling you can pack into a four minute pop song.
Ironically, the next song “The Story of Fred Short”, twists and turns through seven epic parts and twenty one plus minutes. This song features everything from 80’s Hip Hop to 90’s fuzz distortion courtesy of bassist Karina Rykman. It features dream synth beauty and even abrupt whistle breaks. This track is the core of this release, its rightful center. We get all of Marco here. One moment we get the Jazz man subtly displaying his chops and the next we get an electro groove complete with mantra and all.
“Bus Ride” is an interesting experiment in shifting dynamics, almost like a game of tug of war between noise rock pioneers Sonic Youth and the beauty of composer Vangelis. Drummer, Andy Borger gives “Coyote Hearing” a steady thump that allows the listener the ability to envision that very animal running free.
Those in attendance at Applehead Recording were given quite a treat. Woodstock Sessions is live music at its best. A permanent documentation of the beauty and synergy between performer and audience.