Wonderful! The new Rusty Wright Band CD Wonder Man is wonderful! When they last visited Upper Michigan for two performances at the Ontonagon Theater for the Performing Arts in March of 2014, they were promoting their last release This, That, and the Other Thing. A wonderful CD in its’ own right, TT&OT was recorded with two band members who had been replaced by drummer Marc Friedman and keyboard player Robert John Manzitti after that disk had been recorded. Even though bassist Dennis Bellinger was also relatively new to the mix, the band had already gelled into a solid live unit by the time they performed in Ontonagon in 2014. Wonder Man represents the first recorded output by this same configuration and it shows exactly how well Bellinger, Manzitti, and Friedman have come together behind band namesakes Rusty Wright and Laurie LaCross-Wright.
Rusty Wright isn’t just a triple threat talent in this band. The credits list him as the writer, engineer, co-producer (with Ross White of Sadson Music), artist and graphic designer for this CD. One should also remember to add co-lead vocalist and guitarist to the list, duties shared with his wife Laurie.
Coming from the vinyl album era, I have always been fascinated the way bands order the tracks on an album. Bands without an album worth of good songs often employed sequencing to bury weaker tracks in between the stronger tunes and in earlier times, some bands put out disks that simply contained a lot of filler. These days, downloading a single track is okay and hit records are fine, but I still like the concept of an album being populated with tracks the way a book is constructed with chapters. Like a book with no plot, an album compiled without varying the pace of the music can come off as dull and monotonous. In this case, there are no weak tracks and the song sequence here gives the CD just the right pace. This is what can only be called a ‘whole CD’ as in ‘every time I spin it, I listen to the whole CD’. It is going to take a while for me to find a reason to change this disk out of my car’s player.
Following is a track by track summary of Wonder Man:
Wonder Man – The opening track jumps and the horn arrangement adds punch to the chorus and verse accents. The song espouses the theme outlined in the liner notes: ‘The true wonder of it all is that despite not knowing what awaits our next breath, we wrap ourselves in optimism and determination and forge on, waking each day vowing that “this day will be a little better,” even though the last 100 may not have been. THAT is Wonder-ful…be a “Wonder Man.”’
Ain’t that the Blues – Shimmering organ from Manzitti and punchy drums from Friedman make this modern blues rock move at a steady pace. As always, Rusty’s guitar work shines through.
Black Hat Boogie – Another jumping number, this song puts a modern twist to a boogie master’s semi-spoken ode to living in a cyber world. Could computer code writers rule the world? Maybe they could. Driven by a catchy guitar and organ riff with terrific harmonies on the chorus.
You Know I Know – Slowing things down a bit with a shuffling blues, You Know is written as a traditional ‘I know you’re doing me wrong’ form of the blues. Again, the organ and guitar solos shine as do the solid bass and drum lines.
Love’s Gonna Treat You Right – This track starts with a crunchy guitar tone somewhere between Free and Humble Pie. The sweet harmony on the chorus makes this the track that you will play twice just to hear the layered the vocal parts. RWB are a modern blues band but this track puts them in the same conversation with any of the memorable rock – pop numbers I have heard in the last 40 years. You can hear how the many gigs they have played together have helped the band forge seamless vocal arrangements.
Gonna Come A Day – Rusty Wright Blues band at its’ gut wrenching best. Blues songs don’t come any finer than this. Tasty piano and guitar fills abound in this ‘you’ll be sorry some day’ tune.
Corvette Sunday – Virtuosity thy name is instrumental. Everybody gets to show off a little on Corvette Sunday and there are enough change ups in this tightly constructed tune to keep it interesting. A great driving song even if you are not in your car! Bellinger steps forward to show his bass chops.
Arms of Another – A medium tempo song about relationship meltdown. Lyrically sound with mellow piano and great vocal interplay between Rusty and Laurie. The bass and drums cook along nicely behind the scenes.
Whiskey Drinkin Woman – Shades of the great Southern rock bands like Molly Hatchet and The Atlanta Rhythm Section without sounding derivative. Manzitti dusts off a little old school synth sound for the lead.
Chinfoot Ball – Ends the CD on a high note. Great riffing propels another tune with a catchy, harmonized chorus, lyrical guitar lead, and pulsing bass and drums.
I am looking forward to hearing the new CD tracks live along-side some of their earlier favorites. It will be more than worth your while to extend your All School Reunion through Sunday night July 26 to see and hear the Rusty Wright Band at the Ontonagon Theater. The Rusty Wright Band is one of the finest bands on the road today and it is a sure bet that when you hear them in person, you won’t leave the theater empty handed. WOAS-FM will be broadcasting during the All School Reunion weekend and will devote Friday July 24th to the music of the Rusty Wright Band. Tune into 88.5 FM and you won’t be disappointed.