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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Matt Martino

Let It Shine

Review by Gary Hill

I should make full disclosure here and say that when Matt Martino was living in the Chicago area, he and I were good friends and I even managed his band for a while. The thing is, I got involved with him professionally because I believed in his musical vision. The man can write some great songs and perform them in an infectious and likable way. Now that he’s changed his home to Nashville, Tennessee and is going under the name Matt Martino, some things have changed. The basic facts about his musical talent, however, have not. This guy is good. If you like soulful pop rock with a timeless feel, you just can’t go wrong with this disc. Yes, Matt’s my friend, but he’s also a great musician and has produced an excellent disc here.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 2 at

Track by Track Review
Don't Stop Now
The sounds of a club and a spoken introduction lead things off here. Martino works into a pop rock melody that reminds me quite a bit of Bruce Hornsby. There is some great crunch on the arrangement here. This is a catchy groove that makes you feel like you’ve known this song your whole life. It’s a great way to start things off in style.

The Other Side
This is an autobiographical tune about Martino making the huge life change of heading to Nashville to pursue his dreams. It’s got a mellower, less full arrangement. You might hear some crooner in this number, but it’s also got some heavy doses of R & B and jazz in the mix. This is another strong tune and different enough from the opener to make it stand out. The retro sounding keyboard solo is a great touch.
The River
This track is moody and balladic. It’s a great piece of music with a mostly spoken vocal delivery. You might think of Harry Connick Jr. here perhaps mixed with a bit of Randy Newman. This is a bit bluesy and quite dramatic. I’d have to say there’s one change I’d make on this tune. The sound bites in the mix here are a bit too prominent at times. I think they’re just a little too far up in the mix. They can be a little distracting.
The World
This one finds us in the jazz club intimate ballad motif. Martino sings with conviction and emotion and it works quite well. A bit past the one minute mark more instrumentation is added. Rather than overpowering the arrangement, though, it just intensifies the emotion and power presented here.
Here Martino comes in with a rock arrangement. This is a classic pop rock tune that works quite well. The guitar and percussion drive the track but Martino’s vocals are the fire that burns within.
When Morning Comes Around
The tone on the opening verse of this number is different than anything else on the CD. It’s a killer bluesy grind with a lot of crunch. It shifts out to a more dramatic expansive, retro groove for the chorus and when it goes back into to the verse it seems to combine the two sounds. This is a nice change of pace and a very meaty cut. The guitar solo is especially tasty.
The Notes I Should Have Played
The lyrics on this one are the best on the CD. The whole song is incredible. It’s my favorite piece on show here. Martino’s lyrics of a love that drifted away (rather than so much lost). It’s a bitter-sweet look into the rear view mirror at what could have been. Martino’s vocals and the guitar solo both shine on this composition.
A congo meets jazzy soulful R & B makes up the motif for this cut. It’s playful and just a bit odd (but in a good way). I really like this one a lot and it’s another unique piece of music. The powerhouse jams late in the song purely smoke.
Goodbye Chicago
Street sounds lead this off and then Martino’s piano enters to build slowly. His saxophone wails out a slightly sad tune as the slow and gentle parade continues. This turns more towards a full jazz arrangement (with a bit of a Dixieland feel) as the street noises fade away. It’s the only instrumental on the CD and Martino provides all the instruments. His piano takes the lead again with the pretty melody and when it goes away we get more street sounds and the feel of a bar to segue into the next number.
View From A Barstool
Coming out of the bar sounds from the last track, this is a pretty ballad that’s quite poignant. It’s got that singer/songwriter feel. I love the line, “this empty bottle symbolizes my mistakes.”  This is very thoughtful and personal both in its lyrical approach and its musical telling. The arrangement fills out a little about half way through, but then drops quickly back to where it came from.
Things Are Gonna Be Just Fine
This tune has a smoky gospel feel to it. It’s like going to a southern church. It’s fun and energetic. I’ve never been overly crazy about this type of music, though, so it kind of loses me a bit. I hear a lot of The Blues Brothers on this tune. It’s definitely an upbeat way to end things and there’s a lot of great performances here. There’s no denying the talent or the spirit.
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