The first time I heard Frank Marzano’s music, I wasn’t impressed. His singing got on my nerves. His guitar playing was strictly run-of-the-mill. The man had no stage presence whatsoever.

What he did have was songs: dozens upon dozens of some of the best songs I’d ever heard. Twelve of them appear on his latest CD, American Proust.

Based in northwest Pennsylvania (a region dominated by Americana and jam bands), Marzano defiantly cranks out melodic pop-rock. His biggest influence seems to be the Beatles (in particular George Harrison), but one can also detect elements of surf-rock, jazz, blues, and country.

Proust is Marzano’s third album, following But Enough About Me (2007) and The Boy Who Always Got Picked Last (2012). But while the first album was marred by sub-par production, the second suffered from a lack of self-editing. On Proust, Marzano finally gets it right. The arrangements are full. The melodies and guitar hooks are catchy. His singing is the best it's ever sounded.

Lyrically, Proust can be considered a “concept” album dealing with middle-age angst. Marzano discusses the difficulties of finding romantic partners later in life (“Slow and Steady”) while questioning previous decisions (“Sleeping with Strangers”), with the spectre of old age never far away (“Golden Years”).

This is not to say that Proust is one continuous buzzkill. “Keeper” is a hilarious spoof on redneck culture, and if you can't dance to "Someone Else's Sin", you can't dance. Marzano has surprised us all and delivered the best independent CD I heard in 2015.

Marcel Proust was a 20th-century French author known for a long novel (Remembrance of Things Past), which contained long sentences with long words.The same can be said for Marzano. Most songs on this disc run in excess of five minutes, and you might want to keep a dictionary handy. But, with his well-crafted songs and unique perspective on human nature, Marzano is thoughtful, evocative, and not altogether undeserving of the moniker American Proust.

www.frankmarzano.com

**** (out of four)

 

 

 

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.

8/10 Stars

 

 

 

Frank Marzano is a force to be reckoned with.  Mild mannered math teacher by day, relentless live performer and self promoting recording artist all the rest of the time.  Marzano has spent more than three decades trying to break into the music business, playing in bands, and making recordings.  His work is an eclectic mix of 1960s influences, particularly 1950s and 1960s poprock and the Beatles.  “Hit the Bricks” from his 2012 album The Boy Who Always Got Picked Last showcases his strengths, a catchy tune cast in that innocent 1970s pop remaking of early 1960s songcraft, with great bass and lead guitar.  “Huge Rock Star” from the same album could be Marzano’s life story.  Indeed, the protagonist is probably also the singer and songwriter, urging himself to keep plugging away despite the lack of much success.  Marzano’s production and arrangement of the songs is crisp and refreshingly straightforward while his vocals have an original sound which I find both earnest and often endearing.  2015’s American Proust continued in the same vein, with “Love’s the Only Way Home” a particularly strong track due to its very catchy chorus.  He also has a great cover of Lennon and McCartney’s “Bad to Me” on a poprock tribute album.

 

 

 

Full disclosure.  Frank’s an old friend of mine – we met back in the early days of the internet through a mutual love of the Canadian band Klaatu and I covered a version of his song “Drink Her Goodbye” on my last solo album. Frank’s a Pennsylvania math teacher by day and a Beatles nut by night. His own music takes its cues from the Fabs and all things 1960s and 1970s pure pop. His is a DIY approach. He’s self-financed from endless one-man shows he performs every weekend throughout the eastern American sea-board and once a year sets about writing and recording his next batch of homespun folk pop wrapped in an insightful singer-songwriter wisdom. ‘American Proust’ is no exception. The clear influence from straight up pop material comes in the form of “Robin”, “Slow and Steady”, “Sleeping With Strangers” and the McCartney-esque Vaudevillian “Golden Years” (which make a great musical interlude by Scooter on an episode of ‘The Muppets’).

His lyrical approach is more Harry Nilsson and Warren Zevon than anything Beatlesque (“Flashlight”, “Someone Else’s Sin”, “Make It Home”, “Tough Cookies”, and the Country-redneck spoof “Keeper”) but all of it is part of Frank’s arsenal of clever quips and observation about the human condition. Along with his own guitar, slide and bass playing with vocals, Frank’s crafted a lengthy suite of songs with the capable support of producer Michael Miller and backing musicians John Caruso (drums), Joshua Mayes (bass), and Adam McKillip (mandolin). It’s a very effective team and one that Frank might want to utilize on his next outing as well.

Merging strong melodies, crisp vocals, smart and tactful arrangements with wonderful guitar riffs and excellent musicianship, Frank Marzano has created a luminous blending of that 60’s sound with flavors of Surf Rock, Power Pop and Electro-Rock with the release of “The Boy Who Always Got Picked Last.”

Released in November of last year, “The Boy Who Always Got Picked Last” is an eleven track CD of original music that features fantastic vocals and harmonies with thrilling and haunting hooks along with well-crafted lyrics combined with a retro edge that makes for a dazzling listening experience.

The entire album is fresh, well produced, and shows a unique diversity of material, while staying true to the overall light and fun feel that delivers a very clean sound.

While all the tracks are a mix bag of musical treats, each of the individual songs keep that “feel good” air about them throughout the CD. Kicking off “The Boy Who Always Got Picked Last” is the very upbeat and toe tapping single entitled “Huge Rock Star”, which quickly captures your attention, brilliantly transitioning into “Hit the Bricks”, a song with strong Beatles like overtones.

Other songs on the album like “Humble Street”, “June”, and “Hurting You Right Back” express a cornucopia of emotions along with top of the line song writing and instrumental talents.

An album that is all music and no gimmicks, “The Boy Who Always Got Picked Last” is a splendid mix of the softer side of music with “Breathless”, “Get Along”, and “We Both Loved You” along with the higher energy tunes that get right to the point and rock your world.

An honest and charming compilation of magnificent music, “The Boy Who Always Got Picked Last” reveals the incredible quality of melody and musical skill that Marzano is capable of, and is a true testament to his talent and abilities.

While the total run time is a bit long, chiming in at just over 48 minutes, time seems to pass quickly as the quality and passion of the music more than makes up for the length of the CD.

Marzano’s love of singing and songwriting, along with his enormous talent as a musician is clear and profound with the release of “The Boy Who Always Got Picked Last.”

Without doubt, “The Boy Who Always Got Picked Last” is an album that has something for everyone, ballads and body bumpers, all sharing simply outstanding instrumental work with charming and addictive melodies, and heartfelt lyrics that both touch and excite you simultaneously.

“The Boy Who Always Got Picked Last” is a definite must listen, a true five star album and is currently available at CDbaby.com, Amazon.com, and eMusic.com.

For more information on Frank Marzano, his show dates and booking information, visit www.frankmarzano.com.

 

 

 

 


I’ve known Frank Marzano since the dawn of the Internet (to those keeping track…that was nearly 20 years ago!). He and I were part of a fan news group related to the Canadian pop band Klaatu run by another old friend David Bradley of http://www.klaatu.org. Many were attracted to the band because of the pesky and persistent comparisons that were made between them and The Beatles. And Frank is, by far, one of the biggest Beatles fans I’ve ever met.

We used to hold Klaatu-related gatherings here in the Toronto area with people on the mailing list who’d travel from all over Canada and the US– either at my house, Terry Draper’s house (he being 1/3 of the original band) or Andrew Grantham’s place (the guy that has gone on to YouTube fame and fortune making talking animal videos). Inevitably, the evenings would become a monster jam session where anyone that could sing or play an instrument would plow their way through anything and everything musical. It usually meant following Frank in a run-through of the entire Beatles catalog. He not only knew ever song by heart but he could play the shit out of the most complicated chord progressions on his acoustic – an instrument that’s very hard to play well.

Over the years Frank has sent me demos of his many original songs that he’s been forging between his full-time gig as a teacher stateside. One such demo yielded a smoky jazz number called “Drink Her Goodbye” that caught my ears years ago. I vowed back then to find someone to cover it – eventually that someone was me! The songs were clever and thoughtful and even under the rough demo production I could hear something there. Fast forward nearly a decade and Frank’s been out playing consistently live as a solo act – honing his confidence, his live chops and…his original songs.

‘The Boy Who Always Got Picked Last’ is, technically, his sophomore album – following his ‘But Enough About Me’ album from several years ago. And the album is a brilliantly executed pop record. Not only are the songs perfect for those into 1970s-styled singer-songwriter power pop (think Nick Lowe, John Wicks, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Don McLean) but the production is crisp, sparse and does not rely on any studio gimmicks at all. In fact, I was about ¾ of the way through listening when I realized there was no reverb or echo on anything. In this age of Auto-Tune and ProTools trickery this comes as a welcome relief.

Frank’s strength is in personal and relationship tales he sews with just a pinch of Woody Allen observational wit (“Buy You a Drink” http://www.youtube.com/OGY2dMxbs3o). Meanwhile, “Huge Rock Star” and “Hit the Bricks” are my two favourites where he gets right to the point – he’s going to be his own brand of star and he’s not going to suffer fools respectively. There’s also the softer side in the balladry of “June” and “Breathless” and everything in between including confessionals such as “Hurting You Right Back” and “When They Put My Body In the Ground”.

This album is the next growth spurt for a guy that has not let criticism or outside distractions slow him down. I expect the next album will map an even bigger growth – personally and musically.

 

 

 

 


Utter charming DIY power pop is what makes you root for Frank Marzano. The Edinboro, PA transplant has all the right influences (The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Klaatu) "bands with a real emphasis on songwriting." he says. The songs have sunny, cheerful melodies and the arrangements are top notch as well - best compared to Chris Breetveld (The Breetles). Opening with the Merseybeat of "A Girl named Sam" it jangles away and should put a smile on your face. Marzano's vocals work best here, his slightly nasal delivery resembles Mike Love a bit, so it takes getting used to. The album is a hodge-podge of Beatlesque pop-rock, ballads, doo-wop, and folk, tackling such diverse subjects as romance, city life, divorce and single motherhood. The lyrics are fun and often full of dry humor - in fact, he most often sings in an earnest first person narrative. He tries to pick up a single mom in "Hot Mama" mentioning all the selling points including "I'm patient with kids." Another highlight is the descriptive of "Bleecker Street" complete with idealized "homeless who discreetly ask for change." All the instrumentation is quality too, from Phil Popotnik's sax solo to Frank's own guitar breaks. But it's got it's flaws, too. One can fault the length of many songs, for example "Hard To Get" is over four minutes and wears out it's welcome after two. The ending piano epic "Matthew/Neurotica" clocks in at over eight minutes. Other tunes are just creepy ("She Does Math"). But when it gets it right like in "My Christmas Wish" - it's a breath of fresh air and Frank's honest sweetness comes through. This is a guy that just loves this kind of music and it shows - he played at The Baggot Inn in NYC and mentioned "If I'm capable of playing Carnegie Hall, then I want to do that. If the best I can do is a street corner in Edinboro, PA, then I'll do that, too." He certainly has talent. Fans of innocent sweet pop will overlook the lack of self editing here and revel in the quality melodies and musicianship.

 

 

 

 


I would like to begin discussion of this disc with a note of useless but nevertheless proper patriotism. From the time of Rain Parade with Matt Piucci (or better still, the Beau Brummels with Sal Valentino), how much have Italians contributed to guitar pop? Overall, intelligence seems to be disappearing from melodic rock; one can even see the vacuousness of pop music in this country.

Our Frank, however, is American, born in Chicago (probably to Abruzzese parents) and writes the kind of songs that bring tears to one’s eyes. Independence (in the true meaning of the word) clashes with the “indie” label stuck on to today’s neo-MTV rock and rollers (who do not even have different haircuts). But where does this Italian-American come from, who looks like he could be a character out of a John Fante novel?

In the early ‘80’s, Our Guy was already playing and composing. During that time he formed the band Childhood’s End, which until 1991 played at various locales throughout Illinois. Then he relocated to Edinboro, Pennsylvania, and began to assemble material for his first solo effort, FOUL WEATHER FRIEND, released in 1999.

Eight years later, here is the worthy successor, BUT ENOUGH ABOUT ME (the CD we are reviewing). The incubation period for Frank’s albums is always particularly long (recording began in 2001), and yet the result is damnably simple. This is because Our Guy is a perfectionist; there is not a bridge out of place, nor a superfluous fragment of melody. “A Girl Named Sam” reminds me of Gene Clark (if Gene Clark were a serene person), and all 15 tracks feel the propulsive thrust of Liverpool. There is a Southern ballad (“Ladies’ Night”), and unrestrained rock and roll (“Let’s Get Married in Vegas”).

Above all, Frank has a profound love for the kind of sunshine-pop of Klaatu (present in massive amounts in the tracks “Hard to Get” and “Making Up for Lost Time”), and of Brian Wilson (by himself in “To Both of Us” and with the rest of the Beach Boys in “She’s at the Beach”). A very enjoyable disc, full of real-life stories told with a touch of irony; “Hot Mama”, for example, deals with hurt feelings and the joy of becoming a father. Banal, certainly, but absolutely true.

To understand the essence of this person (who plays every instrument on this disc), I conclude this review with a statement of his that renders the idea well: “My objective is to take my music as far as it will go. If I’m capable of playing Carnegie Hall, then I want to do that. If the best I can do is a street corner in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, then I’m happy to do that.”

 

 

 

 


Daniel Johnston, Robert Pollard and Edinboro’s Frank Marzano have more in common than might be apparent at first glance. What links them is an idiosyncratic understanding of the pop music of the 1960s. Like his more well known peers, Marzano takes the energy, verve and youthful obsession with topics like love, and, well, love mostly, and filters them through a unique psyche and voice to create something that’s not an homage, but a unique understanding of the genre itself.

It’s Marzano’s voice that attracts the most attention on his latest album, But Enough About Me, a follow up to his first album, 1999’s Foul Weather Friend. High, reedy like a tenor saxophone using the strain to push from note to note in the goofy tragic tale of a DUI “Making Up for Lost Time” one moment and then using it as nasally as Kermit on the paean to the “old” (read edgy rather than touristy) West Village “Bleecker Street”, it’s not a voice you’ll immediately open up to, but in a world made flat by Auto-Tune there’s something to be said for a voice that sounds different.

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