D.B. Calla hails from Toms River, NJ and is probably best known as a vocalist in the Toms River band EOS. She also served time in Blondsense and Ninth Infantry, two other Tri-State bands that have done quite well in the current decade. D.B. Calla has a sound reminiscent of the wall of sound made famous by Phil Spector in the 1960s and 1970s. Produced by the legendary Joe (Ciid) Birardi (Dirty Rats, EOS, River Monsters), D.B. Calla brings an old-school feel back to rock and roll along the lines of Martha and the Vandellas, early Blondie, Kim Carnes and Tina Turner. Guitar work by Joe Birardi is also a focal point here, and he supports her natural vocal ability quite well. I also wanted to mention that the folks lending a hand on background vocals are Deny and Marnie Carmella, both longtime members of Ninth Infantry as well as other bands and combos throughout their professional careers.
Hot off her New York debut with the band and the new record, D.B. sent me the six-song EP for my take on the music she has been making. This is good old-fashioned three-minute pop rock. Some of it is heavily orchestrated, and some are stripped-down pop rock, but it’s all incredibly engaging.
The first song is called “P.S.” Drums thunder the intro along with keyboards, guitar, and bass. The studio musicians used on this disc weren’t listed so I can’t tell you who is playing everything but I know Birardi plays the keys and guitar in the studio and he revs things up very much like Spector would have done back in the day. Using a tried and true rock and roll progression, Birardi sets D.B. Calla up and lets her go her way. Her vocal style is very much like 1950s superstar Darlene Love or Ronnie Spector. She doesn’t just sing along to the song, she breathes and lives within it. D.B. doesn’t shy away from over-enunciation or dynamics, and she moves from a sultry whisper to full-throated wails within a verse and chorus. Instrumentation is thick and full, pounding out beats and hammering bass notes into the catchy chorus and beyond.
Up next is “Stronger.” Birardi’s piano work starts things off with the feel of Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home.” D.B. comes in with her toned vocal and changes everything immediately. She wraps up a sexual energy with a smooth knowledge of control, and when the band finally kicks in, she’s primed and ready to go. From her soft, almost falsetto Madonna-like passages to her all out raspy Bonnie Raitt-styled wails, D.B. doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to delivering real and honest music. Verses grind eloquently, and the choruses are pure Spector-like walls of vocals. Assisting D.B. here is Deny and Marnie Carmella who blend perfectly with D.B.’s powerful voice. Birardi lends a hand with a saxophone solo in the middle eight and the choruses. Guitars go from laid-back chord complexities to full-on distortion-laced power chords. The authority in the choruses is a motivating sound, and it makes me want to play my guitars.
There are two covers on the disc, and the first one is “Dangerous” by Roxette. This is the hit for me. Combining everything right about rock and roll delivery, D.B. digs deep here, tossing out her Kim Carnes vibe via raspy overtones and leading the band into possible gold record territory. Radio should love this song as it has everything. Drums smack hard; bass thumps the chest; and Birardi hunkers down as well, churning out Cars-styled guitar licks and power chords. The thing I love about Birardi’s production and playing is that it comes from years of experience. He never overplays or adds anything that would get in the way of a song. Guitars and keyboards move from clean phrases to tube-distorted goodness as he backs D.B. like a genuine and weathered pro. D.B. kills in the choruses. I love the sound of her vocals, and her effective delivery fluctuates as the song needs change. From a whisper, soft and seductive to full-on power-based wails, she knows what she’s doing and she does it quite well. The arrangement and composition of this song are perfect, and when that chorus hits, I’m a true believer.
The next song is a Bryan Adams cover. To be honest, I wasn’t sure where they were going with this, and at first, I thought, this is a strange choice, but once D.B. opened her mouth and started singing, I saw the validity immediately. The song is called “Heaven,” and it’s mainly dominated by vocals and keyboards arrangements, including pianos. Deny and Marnie are back on vocals here as well. The orchestration is simple but effective as Birardi makes sure to leave room for D.B. to summon everything she has for the song. Birardi lays into the piano like Tommy Mandel (Bryan Adams touring band) and studio strings are both tasteful and accurate. Once again, the “Wall of Sound” is back and the vocals are immense. Calla starts off with her signature smooth as honey vocals behind acoustic pianos until the chorus kicks in and the wall comes in. I’m a huge fan of her voice here as well. I love the way she switches from sweet soprano-toned smoothness to her raspy trademark within the body of the song.
The next song is called “Frozen.” Chirping rhythms and feedback-laden guitars send up the signal on this three-minute rocker. D.B. swings into her role like Joan Jett here. Vocals are full and raw as can be as she lays back under chugging guitars, 4/4 drums, and hypnotic bass. D.B. raises the roof as she tells her story of unrequited love. Backing vocals are seamless, and the harmonies gel quite well. Once again D.B.’s power and skill at dynamic vocal control make this song one not to forget.
The last song on the EP is called “Jaded.” Mixing things up with her tale of love gone wrong, D.B. wails into her expansive chorus as Birardi combines single-string trills, chords, and clean electric moxie into the piece. Once again the “Wall of Sound” is back in the choruses, blending D.B., Marnie and Deny in a tidal wave of vocal sound. Birardi’s middle-eight lead screams in the vein of Slash as he gets in and out in eight measures. This is another song that should do well in radio land as it has all the components of a strong rock hit.
D.B. Calla & The Forget-Me-Nots have done a great job on their self-titled debut disc, and as the band moves out into the world of the music business, they should do quite well as a whole. D.B.’s voice is the key here, and I love what she’s done with every song on this way too short CD. If she sings this way live, she’s going to win over every paying customer in the place.
She will be releasing a song a month, and it will be featured over on 2BTB radio. For more information on D.B. Calla & The Forget-Me-Nots, their brand new release and 2BTB radio, head over to 2BTBmusic.com and check out the radio station and the band. You can also find them on Facebook over at facebook.com/DB-Calla-The-Forget-Me-Nots.