One of the reasons Red Bank, NJ was dubbed one of America’s Coolest Towns was because of its nightlife. With clubs such as The Downtown and pubs and hangouts such as The Globe, Red Bank Elks Club #233, Walt Street Pub and Jamian’s, Red Bank has grown to become one of the top entertainment areas in the entire state.
That’s where The Downtown All-Stars Of Red Bank LLC come in. The DAS Of Red Bank is a collective of local musicians and performing artists bound together to raise both funds and awareness for charities and worthy causes using the vast power of music. Their goal is to strive to meet chosen charitable goals by utilizing their voices to lift and enhance the lives of those in need. The All-Stars recently released their new CD, Magic On The Navesink, at the Red Bank Vet Fest, held at the Red Bank Elks Lodge #233 (40 West Front Street, Red Bank, NJ).
The multi-act Red Bank Vet Fest is a benefit for the lodge’s Veterans Charity that also doubles as an official launch for Magic On The Navesink, the all-new charity compilation CD that spotlights the various member artists of the All-Stars. The disc features a cross-section of the emerging artists from Red Bank on Magic On The Navesink, the second compilation CD from The Downtown All-Stars Of Red Bank. This 18-track follow-up to Bright Lights On Broad Street (2013) crosses genres and generations as it spotlights some of the hottest original musicians the region has to offer.
I took a listen to the vast selection of tunes, and this is what I thought about it.
The disc kicks off with “Wonder If,” a bluesy, pocketed number that features the vocal magic of Grammy-nominated Lisa Coppola. Coppola is backed by a crack band also featuring guitarist Paul Bracco and arranger (and Berklee grad) Kendall Scott. The tune sails along with its upper tempo beat and powerhouse vocal attack. Coppola is a strong singer with amazing tone, and it supports this classic sounding song with an elegant style and believability.
Strumberry Pie takes the reigns on “Better Days.” Long appreciated by many in New Jersey and beyond, Strumberry Pie features the vocal magic of Dee Dee Montanaro and Laura Catalina Johnson. With an excellent assist from Kellie Shane and Breece Panepinto from Pepperwine, the foursome delivers a genuine folk-inspired ballad for the ages. As someone who usually can’t stand ballads, I have to say that this was a huge difference for me and made me a new fan of the art. Beautiful harmonies intermingle with acoustic guitars and pianos throughout. Well-thought-out verses wind their way to immaculate choruses of strong addictive quality. I loved the middle-eight organ break as its adds such a great hook to the overall song.
“It’s All About The Song” features the well-known vocals of veteran Jersey legend John Eddie. The band is Bullet Bob & The Colts. Focusing on the amazing feeling of being on stage and playing great songs, Bullet Bob and the boys deliver old-school rock and roll in the vein of Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers and dare I say, John Eddie. Raw and gritty as hell, “It’s All About The Song” delivers exactly what it sells, great and essential rock music that hardly exists anymore.
“Turn Around” by Scott Elk is up next. Elk is a modern day composer in the vein of Ryan Adams or Butch Walker. “Turn Around” features a single acoustic guitar, electric sprinklings and vocal and it works quite well. Elk is a seasoned player and writer who gets right to the point with this song. The verses sing, and the choruses are memorable for days. One of my favorite songs on the disc for sure.
Due to space, I can’t cover the full 18 songs, so as I move around, I came upon “I Can’t Take It” by Colossal Street Jam. Featuring the church-honed vocals of Gene Potts and the guitar fire of Sal Marra, “I Can’t Take It” also showcases my good friend Eric Safka. Safka is well known on the scene and can be found any number of nights backing several outstanding Monmouth bands at area nightclubs. Add the drum magic of Dave Halpern (another longtime area pro), and you have a pot of boiling musical stew. The song features tasteful lead breaks and dynamic organ flourishes under heavy and sure-footed rhythm work of bassist Anthony Flora. Another disc favorite for sure.
Asbury darlings The Shady Street Band are up next with their horn-dominated R&B number. “Don’t Be Fooled By The Rain” features the vocal magic of Lyndsey DeSena as well as the extraordinary keyboard work of Ryan Gregg. Gregg is a master at his craft and moves between organs and pianos like a musical Svengali. The horn section is a masterful work with top arranging and tone. The song itself is a look into superior craftsmanship. Vocals, brass arrangements, guitars, bass and drums all sync perfectly without stepping on each other and it’s just brilliant.
Another impressive performer on the disc is Medicated Pete. Pete got his recognition from The Howard Stern Show, but his musical talents are completely separate from that popular show. While this is not my kind of musical sound, Medicated Pete throws down with a bevy of techy, syncopated keyboards, electronic drums and vocal arrangements that are top-notch. His pulsing, rhythmic song features extensive changes from verse to chorus and can stand up to anything played in the dance club. The arrangement is succinct and stylish as hell.
The last song on the disc is by Zone Blitz Chainsaw. “Fire Away” is about as rock and roll as you can get. Singer Pat Murphy is joined by six-string slinger Mark Fahad on this KISS-inspired number. They are also joined by Aaron Manzo (Lords Of Darrenland) for some fun-filled boisterous partying. Murphy is the real deal and fronts this song with powerful style. Fahad blasts pentatonic fury throughout as Victor Montanaro kills it on drums. Loved it!
I listened to the entire CD, and if we had space, I’d devote much more ink to the disc, but alas, that’s showbiz, folks. The Downtown All-Stars Of Red Bank have produced an excellent platter of original Monmouth music, and it’s a disc I would seek out if you get the chance. The fact that they manage to create a viable product while helping others is the perfect combination of play and pay it forward.
Assist them to get the word out on their charity CD, Magic On The Navesink. Also, be sure to check out their 2013 release, Bright Lights On Broad Street, the company’s initial compilation that features 16 tracks of some of the best local original music from Red Bank, that cool little town on the Jersey Shore.
For more information on The Downtown All-Stars Of Red Bank and Magic On The Navesink, head over to redbankallstars.com.