Artist: Simon Scardanelli
Album: That Dangerous Sparkle
Label: Resonator Records
Genre: Alternative Folk/Pop
Sounds Like: Roxy Music, David Bowie, U2, Coldplay
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Commercial Value: 8/10
Overall Talent Level: 8/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: Let There Be a Place, It's Only Life
This disc is off the well-worn path of what I listen to most, which makes it both challenging and refreshing. Simon Scardanelli reminds me of a couple of lush-sounding artists from the past (Roxy Music and Roger Waters’ solo work, for example) and also brings to mind some of the atmospheric, dramatic pop offered today (such as Coldplay and Keane).
The album opens with the prettily-strummed, synth-washed “The Valentines.” This tale of star-crossed lovers builds in intensity, Scardanelli’s low rumble of a voice becoming more plaintive as layers of instruments and backing vocals are added. On “The Dance,” Scardanelli’s vocal might be a bit overwrought, but the percussion-and-arpeggioed-synth loop is hypnotic.
Then comes perhaps the best track, the gospel-ish “Let There Be a Place,” a well-conceived blend of electronica and power ballad. A choir of backing vocals is the perfect heartfelt foil for Scardanelli’s weathered, world-weary delivery.
The title track is a letdown after “Place,” and “She Comes” also starts out ponderously. But a couple of minutes in, tension starts to build, and "She Comes" bursts into frenzied sax and thumping bass guitar and snare. I would like to hear that groove developed with lyrics. “Risky Business” starts with sweet yet mournful sax, and it drags some before settling into a heavy backbeat and sweeping synth/strings.
“It’s Only Life” is the fully-realized serious groove that “She Comes” and “Risky” hint at, a Bowie-meets-U2 burner. Scardanelli’s guttural spoken vocal is by turns humorous and sinister.
“When You’re Lying” is a simple, pretty acoustic ballad – a nice change from the density of the other tracks. And the closing “Take Your Hand Away” is similarly charming, morphing back and forth between a Cole Porter-style jazzy plea and a Harry Nillson-style tear-jerker.
That Dangerous Sparkle stumbles just a few times, but overall it is an ambitious grand statement from Simon Scardanelli. As a writer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist, Scardanelli is a craftsman who deserves an in-depth listen.