Horror music isn't just what you hear on Halloween: country is filled with ghosts (usually of Hank Williams) and devils (that prefer Georgia), and even progressive rock can enter the occult. Pop music can get downright grizzly - especially that song where the kid gets eaten.
Dean Madonia studies this stuff. A Nashville songwriter by trade, he teaches workshops on the craft and lectures about the history of horror in music. His magnum opus is Shadow to Shadow, Dean Madonia's Frankenstein, a two-disc progressive rock album based on Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. It's a compelling and often heartbreaking journey that has caught on with those who like a cerebral musical scare.
In this conversation, Dean breaks down the songs from the album and shares his thoughts on horror in music.
Laura Antonelli (Songfacts): You're a big horror fan. You give lectures about horror in music. What can someone expect when attending them and what songs do you cover?
Dean Madonia: I always talk about horror in general. I love horror fiction. Harlan Ellison wrote an amazing story back in the '60s called I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream about a sadistic, God-like robot that's basically torturing these people on this planet. Robert W. Chambers, The King in Yellow, Thomas Ligotti's Songs of a Dead Dreamer. I read all the old stuff, of course, like Dracula, Frankenstein, and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I would talk about the books that inspired or furthered the horror genre.
I would then probably talk about art. One of my favourite paintings is The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault, which is a picture of a life raft that's thrown together after the sinking of a real ship. It was actually a real event. He basically locked himself in a room with a bunch of corpses and posed them and painted for weeks. He locked himself in there until it was done.
And then you get to music. There have always been a lot of horror elements in country. Charlie Daniels, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," "Ghost Riders in the Sky" – my Dad liked that song. "Brand 309," where there's a ghost truck and the guy that swerves to avoid the busload of kids. Or Hugh Prestwood wrote "Ghost in this House," which is one of my favourite songs. Alison Krauss recorded that one, too. Or David Allan Coe's "The Ride" or "Midnight in Montgomery" - both talk about meeting the ghost of Hank Williams.
Probably two of my favourite horror songs, one of them I heard when I was a kid. It's called "Timothy." It was written by Rupert Holmes, the guy that wrote the Pina Colada song. He wrote it for this band, The Buoys. They were about to lose their deal and he was just trying to do something that would get people's attention so he wrote a song about a bunch of miners that get trapped in a cave-in and they eat Timothy. And that song, for some reason, I was just a kid when I heard it, and it just stuck with me. I wanted to know every word of that song.
The progressive rock band, UK, has a song called "Rendezvous 6:02" where a guy takes a ride on a train that doesn't exist anymore. It's kind of like that old story A Wild Ride In a Tote Cart where the kid rides on this cart in bad weather behind this crazy guy and he jumps off just before it goes around the corner. It turns out it's the dead guy. It's like Large Marge from Pee-wee's Big Adventure. And then of course Blue Öyster Cult is loaded with supernatural themed songs: "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," "Godzilla," "Joan Crawford," "Veteran of the Psychic Wars," and "I Love the Night."
Songs like "Sympathy for the Devil," "Angie Baby" by Helen Reddy, "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" – it's more of a crazed, serial killer guy, which isn't usually my favourite type of horror, but I love that song. There are a lot of supernatural elements in Warren Zevon's work: "Werewolves of London" and "Excitable Boy." And then the more modern stuff: Rob Zombie's "Dragula" and "Living Dead Girl." Or the perennial staples, "Thriller" and "Monster Mash" for Halloween. Everybody wants to hear those songs all the time.
Songfacts: So do you just analyze them?
Dean: I just talk a little bit about the history of music. I don't have any notes with me right now but just that kind of stuff. The whole metal scene was made on being scary - Iron Maiden with their skull guy. It was a little bit over-the-top silly, a cultish type of vibe. Even bands that didn't have a big cult theme like Led Zeppelin who hadn't a cult profile but some of the members of the band did. Didn't Jimmy Page buy Aleister Crowley's old castle or something like that? I don't remember if that's true or not. [yep, it's true]
And then the modern stuff, which I don't really care for, the rap music, which they call Horrorcore. It's just about death too much. It's mean and just screaming stuff really violent. I don't care for the violence. I know there's some violence in the Frankenstein thing but it's obviously fictional. I don't like music, art, movies or books that are overloaded with gore. To me, that's not horror - serial killers or any of that kind of stuff. I don't really care for that because I don't like songs that advocate violence. A good example is Eminem's "Kim" or Korn's "Daddy" or "Down with the Sickness" by Disturbed. Those are more screamo than those last two.
When I started looking into it, there's a lot more horror still in music. It just isn't making it to the mainstream and it hasn't for some time. The last one I remember is maybe Live, "The Dam at Otter Creek," because I think they're burying a body. "The Dam at Otter Creek" was the last song that I remember hearing on the radio in the '90s that has a lot of horror in it. That and Rob Zombie's "Dragula" and "Living Dead Girl." Most of that stuff doesn't seem to make it into the mainstream and onto radio. I'm still looking into it but there seems to be a large sub-culture of horror in music. It's just not mainstream.
Songfacts: Why do you think it doesn't hit the mainstream?
Dean: It's hard to do well. The Horrorcore stuff that's just yelling, saying nasty stuff, and talking about dismembering people, most people don't want to hear that. It's just like the movies. You have to do something that makes people think and you have to care about the characters. It's hard to do that in a three or four minute song, which is why I did the whole 29-track CD. I wanted people to like the monster and Victor a little bit in the beginning and then see how they alter to the point where they just hate each other and they want the other one dead.
Songfacts: You've been living in Nashville for the past 12 years writing country music. Do you approach writing progressive rock songs differently than writing country songs?
Dean: Yeah, each genre has certain rules. Country is loaded with them. There's a certain length of an intro. There's a certain length of a song. There's a certain amount of time before the chorus needs to hit. There are a lot of particulars for country music.
If you're writing progressive, it doesn't have to have all these things in it, but you find odd time signatures that you would never find in any other genre. Once in awhile, a straight ahead rock song will sneak through that has an odd time signature on it. There are also a lot of solos. I personally didn't want to go too crazy with a lot of long solos on this album because the '70s were a little bit overindulgent with it. The solos got a little too long and they made people go into a small coma. It alienated the possible fans. There's a lot of chaff to sift through to get to the wheat in progressive music. The best progressive music is my favourite music. There's such a small body of it but the stuff that's really good is great. I don't want to say anything bad about anybody's stuff.
I will say the songs that I like in the progressive genre, like "Rendezvous 6:02" is a perfect song. I love that song. It's one of the few songs that uses an odd time signature for a good reason. The main character in the song steps through this arch that isn't there. It's like he goes into the twilight zone and that's when the odd time signature comes in so it's well used. It's like having sex in a story or movie. If it's there because it supports the story then it's a good idea. If you're just doing it because it says that you're supposed to have sex scenes in the movie then it's usually crap and it's just a distraction. So that makes the field, in my opinion, of prog a lot more difficult to try to be musical and melodic yet introduce some of those elements without saying, "Okay, here comes the part where we count in 6/8 and here's the part where we count in 7/8 or 20 bars." It's obviously like a math problem instead of feeling the music. That's hard. It was hard for me to slide that difference and draw the influences of prog but still try to be musical and have the songs be melodic. Yes is great at it. They had a lot of hits because they're so melodic and they write good songs, and they also happen to be a prog band. "Roundabout" and "Carry on Wayward Son" are two landmark, great songs in prog rock, there are plenty of them, but I love those two songs.
Dean's rock opera Shadow to Shadow, Dean Madonia's Frankenstein puts a twist on the classic story by telling it from the perspective of the monster 200 years later. The story is told from monster's-eye-view as a caution to a genetic researcher about to make the first human clone.
Songfacts: Why did you decide to write a rock opera about Frankenstein and make that change in the narrative?
Dean: Well, I think Frankenstein is arguably the first modern horror book and it's also arguably the first science fiction book. Those are two of my favourite subjects to read. I've read it quite a few times and I just love the story.
I wanted to do a concept album for some time. I just didn't know what I was going to do it about and so this started as a side project. I asked a few friends what they thought about Frankenstein. Obviously the story's in public domain. I don't think I have the writing skills to write a whole story and the concept album with music and lyrics. It was a lot just to do this one. Maybe I'll try an original concept album sometime but I thought that it would be a good opportunity to explore a lot of complex and deep emotional territory. The same reason that Mary Shelley wrote the book in the first place.
Songfacts: And why did you decide to make that change in the narrative with the monster telling the story instead of Walton writing the letters to his sister?
Dean: The story is really complicated for people that aren't good readers or don't read a lot of older fiction because of that Chinese puzzle box narrative with Captain Walton. So I tried to straighten the story out chronologically. I had to make a chart to figure out when everything happened because it jumps around a lot in the book.
The Chinese box in literature is a tool that is used to tell a story within a story. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley uses the Chinese box technique, which complicates the narrative. The point of view changes from the captain of the ship, Robert Walton, to the eccentric scientist, Victor Frankenstein, then the monster Frankenstein creates, and, finally, back to Walton and the letters that he writes to his sister.
I considered first having somebody do one of the parts. One person is Victor Frankenstein and one is the monster. I didn't want to be held hostage by any person who maybe wasn't one hundred percent into it or might change their mind or be unavailable later. So I thought, "How can I make this story all told by the monster?" The way that could happen is that he's telling it to somebody else. I decided to make it a genetic researcher because I feel like that's the modern significance as a cautionary tale of Frankenstein - just be careful what kinds of seeds you plant because the fruit might not be what you want. So by having the monster telling the whole story to the genetic researcher, I made it so it could be just one vocalist. I didn't want it to become a musical so that was another consideration.
Songfacts: It took you four years to create. It was written in airports, planes, and hotel rooms while you were traveling for shows.
Dean: Yeah, pretty much anywhere I could write. I had Frankenstein on the brain. I wrote it in my car while I was driving recording music and lyric ideas in my phone.
Songfacts: So describe the songwriting process for it. Did you take that long on purpose?
Dean: Well, I live in Nashville and I've been writing country since 2002. I basically came to a point where I felt like I needed a break from trying to write a hit every single time I got out of bed. I felt confined in that country-pop box that you have to write in to even have a chance to get a song on the radio. It's like riding in a small car for a long time. You have to get out and stretch your legs. I felt like I'd been riding in my Corolla [laughs] and I needed to get out and stretch out a little bit. I felt like I could do a lot more lyrically and musically than I was allowed to do within that box. I decided to just start it as a side project and then at some point it took over. I don't know when but it took over full time. I basically told all my co-writers that I was taking a break for a year just to finish writing and start recording this album. So I didn't really want it to take four years. It's just with my touring schedule and I'm a Dad. I'm a scout leader if you can imagine. I'm just so busy. I hardly see my family at all. So I couldn't just throw myself into it as if I was in my early 20s and single. I think I kind of did that anyhow. In fact, I might have at one point jeopardized my relationship with my wife because I was just so focused on this CD and trying to finish it up.
Songfacts: "Running from the Moon" is when the monster first comes to life and Victor is terrified of its hideous exterior and abandons the creature. What was the process for writing that song?
Dean: [Long pause] That particular song, I had it in my head. I read that book so many times. I had it in my head that Victor had worked himself to the point of exhaustion trying to do this thing and then when he realized that it wasn't what he thought it was going to be, he completely has a meltdown, freaks out, and he's just trying to get away. The point of it is that once you create something like that it can't be undone. Just like someday when they make the first human clone. Well, that will be the answer to a lot of questions that people have, but it can't be undone.
So I really wanted to write something that was kind of freaky. I actually had the intro for that song as an instrumental. One day I had that idea and just put it down. I used that intro verbatim and then I tacked on that second half of the song.
A lot of the songs were like that. Some of them I started with the lyrics. Some of them I had an old song that sounded like a horror song to me that I thought would be perfect for a particular scene.
That one, I felt like the madness of the intro sounds like somebody going crazy or at least it makes you uncomfortable, which is the feeling I was trying to provide. It's an odd time signature and it makes you a little twitchy until it resolves into the 4/4.
Songfacts: "When He Plays His Guitar" is when the monster witnesses the blind elderly man that lives in the cottage play a guitar for the first time. How did that song come about?
Dean: I was trying to think about what it would be like for somebody like the monster who's basically just a giant baby to experience music for the first time. It describes in the book that he's just overcome with emotions that he doesn't understand. It just made me think about the effect of music on people in general.
I tried to keep a lot of the ideas more general instead of Frankenstein specific. They do tell that story about Frankenstein but you probably would have to be somewhat familiar with the novel to understand what's happening on my album. The movies are always terrible as usual [laughs].
I thought about a particular guitar player that I work with who is amazing. He can just sit there and play for hours on the floor of his room, and just playing by himself for hours and hours every day. I kind of had that in mind when I was writing it.
Songfacts: "Fool's Gold" is when Victor has just learned of his brother's death and returns home to clear his housekeeper's name that is accused of the murder but he sees the monster and realizes what has really happened. Describe the songwriting process for that one.
Dean: I thought of the title first for that one, which made it easy because I was thinking of the saying that silence is golden. I was thinking, "Well, what if silence isn't golden?" Most of the songs on this album have more than one meaning. They have a meaning for Frankenstein but that's also about speaking out about injustice that you see. If you don't say anything than you're part of the problem. I felt like if silence is not golden than it's like fool's gold. People sometimes get a mantra in their head like "silence is golden" and they follow that like it's some kind of a law, but you have to use your brain on every issue.
Frankenstein was concerned that:
Number One: Nobody would believe him if he tried to blame the death on the monster.
Number Two: He figured that everybody would hate him if they did believe him about the monster for making the monster.
And Number Three: He believed that the justice system would clear Justine Moritz of the murder but the monster planted a locket on her to incriminate her. She also confesses because back then they used to, and probably still are, rough on you to get a confession. So she just confessed to the murder even though she didn't do it and she ends up being hanged.
It's basically about not trusting everybody else to do the right thing. If you know the right thing and you have an answer, if you're a witness to something, then you need to come forward and help out. You can't just expect that it's going to get cleared up by other people. That's also the message.
Songfacts: How did you come up with the song "Shadow to Shadow?" It's when the monster demands Victor to create a wife for him and you named the entire rock opera after it.
Dean: Yeah, I thought that best summed up the monster's plight. Every foray that he makes into the public is met with some sort of minor or major disaster. He's been shot and yelled at and chased with a broom. He's been misunderstood and hit by the son of the blind guy. People judge him. It's true not just for the monster but this is for any people that are disenfranchised. They judge them by how they look and if they're good looking or not good looking. They judge people if they are rich or poor. They judge them based on their nationality or skin colour, so it's for all people. The shadow to shadow thing is him constantly having to stay out of people's sight and hide in the shadows, and it's kind of the way he lives from shadow to shadow.
Songfacts: "Pale Student," "Frightful Fiend," and "Did I Request Thee?" are spoken word songs of quotations from the novel. How did you decide which ones to include in the rock opera?
Dean: That was kind of rough. I always loved the "Frightful Fiend" and "Did I Request Thee" quotes. I think I'd heard them before I had read Frankenstein. One of them is from Milton's Paradise Lost, which is one of the books that the monster reads. I had actually selected a lot of quotes from the book. I decided to just use those two that Mary Shelley had also quoted so I didn't feel as bad about quoting them because she quoted them, too. And then the first quote is from the introduction to the 1831 version where she explains how she came up with the idea for Frankenstein, so I thought that should go right at the beginning. It sums up a lot of the feel of it.
Songfacts: What song took the longest to write?
Dean: Oh, that's a hard one. "Running from the Moon" was certainly one of them. And "Into the White" because I added another part in that song. Most of the rest of them I wrote quickly, surprisingly.
I re-wrote the lyrics a million times on all of them. I tweaked it daily. I went through all of the lyrics and tried to delete stuff that was unnecessary or make the song better. I always release an album and then ten years later I look at it and say, "Why did I say that? I could have said this." I really went through this one more than usual so I'm not going to do that hopefully [laughs], but we'll see.
Songfacts: What's your favourite moment in the entire rock opera?
Dean: [Long pause] I feel like track 26, "Spark Redux." I do take quite a bit of time establishing that Victor really does love Elizabeth on "The Sweetest Part of Me," which is track 23, and then the murder of her. There are three songs in a row about him dealing with her death. The first one, he laments her death. The second one, he laments but he's going super insane. That "Spark Redux" is a pivotal moment. And then "Into the Cold," he just totally loses it and he's going after the monster. I felt like if I was an editor - I would have said - if I was a label telling me, "Look, dude, there are three songs about the same exact thing. Why don't you take two of them and make them into one long song and dump one of them?" I liked all of those songs so much that I just had to do it. It takes about 12 minutes to get through it in real time. He's just losing it slowly with each thing. It's kind of like the five stages of grief.
Songfacts: Do you think in the end the genetic researcher listens to the monster's cautionary tale and actually learns something from it?
Dean: I'm going to say in the real world, no. In my story, I'd like to believe that she gets the message.
I'm not anti-science. I love science and science fiction. If you read enough science fiction, you don't get so scared about all the stuff that's going to happen in the future because you already read about it a long time ago and it's not that big of a surprise when it happens. You don't turn into a Luddite like a lot of people. I'm not against science. I did want it to be a cautionary tale. I just believe that there are a lot of people with good intentions that develop technologies and then there's always somebody who has an idea on how they can use it in a way that isn't possibly the best moral choice. For instance, the technologies we use for war. It's the same thing. There's a lot of potential for abuse with cloning and there's a lot of potential for amazing breakthroughs, too.
Let's put it this way, if you watch Star Wars, most people watch it and they see Luke Skywalker and Han Solo as the heroes. But there are a handful of them that think, "Hey! That Darth Vader and the Emperor, they had a pretty good idea. We should probably use that." That's the two kinds of people there are in this world. So I like to believe that the genetic researcher is the Han Solo and that she's the fan of the good guys and that she would get that. But, at the same time, she's probably going to do it because somebody else will do it if she doesn't and she might as well get the glory for it.
I'm working on a graphic novel. It's going slow because I had a lot of things come up. I'm just trying to promote the CD right now and see if anybody likes it before I finish the graphic novel. If I was really ambitious then it's 200 years of time that this monster's lived. He's probably had a lot of different occupations. It could be an amazing series for a graphic novel - the whole 200 years that the monster lived between the time of Victor's death and the time he meets this genetic scientist. It could flashback from her and his life leading up to that. It could go on forever [laughs]. 200 years of storylines.
Songfacts: Yeah, that's a really cool idea. You're also an artist so what inspired you to come up with that idea for the graphic novel?
Dean: I just kind of always wanted to do it. When I was a kid, I used to draw comics all the time. But I was a slob and terrible at lettering. I never planned it out well enough but now they have all these programs where you can put the text letters in afterward. So I can do the artwork completely separate. I was always a fan of Night Gallery, I thought it would be cool if I could show all the artwork in the lobby for this thing and have a full show sometime but that's a ways off.
Songfacts: You wrote the song "(I Called Her) Tennessee" that Tim Dugger ended up recording. How did that come about?
Dean: A friend of mine was producing this kid, Tim. He has a production company and sends a lot of his artists over to write with me. Tim came over and we wrote this song and it just turned out great. It was one of those songs that we didn't have the title first, which makes it harder to write sometimes. He just wanted to write a song about partying and spring break and I was like, "Well, I lived in Fort Lauderdale for 20 years so I know a little bit about that." We ended up writing this song. When we got to the chorus, we were trying to use a lot of imagery. I remembered that we said that when he met her she was sitting on a UT blanket. I remembered some people that I've known that we just called them by their state name: "Okay, there Michigan. Okay, Alabama." And it was like, "Hey, I never knew her name so I called her Tennessee," and we both looked at each other and were like, "Yes!" So that was like a gift. It just came.
Songfacts: You've also had songs placed in movies. "Honor is Ours" is in Foodfight! and "Just Like Love" from your old band, Pretty Little Horses, is in the movie, The Stream. Explain how that all happened.
Dean: This friend of mine, Keith, also has a production company. I write some stuff for him, too. He had an in with this company, Threshold Entertainment. They wanted some songs for this movie [Foodfight!]. We actually wrote about five of them - Keith Ridenour, myself, and my friend, Scott Avery. We wrote about five songs and Keith wrote with some other writing groups, too. He got a couple of other songs in the movie but we got this one in. I looked at the scenes and saw the description of what they wanted. They described that slot as somewhere between Prince and Pink Floyd. I was thinking, "Well, I kind of get what they are saying." They were probably trying to do something like "Another Brick in The Wall." It has the same kind of hi-hat pattern almost like a Prince song. So I tried to do a Prince hi-hat drum thing with a Pink Floyd delayed guitar thing. I thought that scene was going to be the easiest one to get because everybody wasn't going to be all crazy about it.
At that time, people were still all worked up about the war so I was trying to think of it from the soldier's point of view, even though the song was written for cartoon characters. I just tried to forget about that and think about these people going to war. They could die and that's what we're writing about. My friend, Scott Avery, basically ended up writing most of the lyrics, though. We talked about it and sent drafts back and forth, but most of it was just him.
Pretty Little Horses, I did that album with a friend of mine, Greg Curvey. He's in a band called The Luck of Eden Hall. It's a psychedelic band. We've known each other for years and we hadn't seen each other for awhile. We ran into each other and I was saying, "We should record something." So we did that as a long distance collaboration. He ended up getting a chance to score the film, The Stream. He's actually the composer that did the whole score. They asked him for a song and he gave them that one from Pretty Little Horses.
That's another side project I did during the time that I was doing Frankenstein so that was another thing that made Frankenstein take longer because I got sidetracked with that project. I really like that project and I was happy that it got in that movie. They actually just got picked up for worldwide distribution now. It's going to be on Amazon and iTunes as well. I'm hoping that maybe we'll record a Pretty Little Horses 2. I'd like to see a little bit of interest somehow through this movie and maybe spark a second album.
Songfacts: So, last question. You also play dueling pianos shows. What has your experience been like doing that?
Dean: I started playing dueling pianos in 1998 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at Howl at the Moon. It was basically an extension of somebody telling me a long time ago to do it instead of getting in bands all the time, which takes up all your time. If you're a writer, what you want is to have the most time available to write and record. When you get in a band, you have rehearsals, you have people leaving, and you have to move the equipment. If you do it solo, it will free up a bunch of your time. I was still in some bands but not travelling and playing six nights a week.
I started doing a lot of solo stuff. When I got offered that job at Howl at the Moon, I took it because it was basically going from being a solo act that was carrying around a full PA, a piano, a guitar, and microphones, to being the guy that walks in with a microphone and just sits down and plays piano. It's basically the most money you can make for the least amount of time. It's what the original idea was to free up time to write and record. It's been good to me so no complaints.
Songfacts: I think that's everything. Is there anything else you want to add?
Dean: Not really. I was fully immersed in this album for four years and I'm just coming out of it now. I have some kind of post-project hangover from it. I'm just trying to get back into my normal writing schedule. I feel like this is my best writing. I stretched out as far as I have the ability to stretch out on this album. I think I wrote as good of songs as I could based on the subject matter, and hopefully people will listen to it.
October 23, 2014. Get Shadow to Shadow and more info at deanmadonia.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
From Oshawa, Ontario, Laura comes from the world of radio broadcasting and English lit. She fell in love with music through film when she first watched Dirty Dancing, Grease, and Saturday Night Fever at an inappropriately young age. Since then, she has been fascinated by all genres of music and the inspirations, influences, and processes that are used to create it. Get her on Twitter at twitter.com/Louda
Review by G. W. Hill
A concept album, this is mostly progressive rock, but there are some other things here, as well. Everything here works exceptionally well. The vocal hooks and vocal performances are, in many ways, the best thing going on here. That’s not to say the music isn’t great. It is exceptional. It’s just that the vocals manage to really shine above and beyond that. I should say that I expected something a bit creepier than this, but I’m not really disappointed either.
Track by Track Review
Pale Student (Spoken)
As the parenthetical insinuates, this is a short spoken introduction.
The Living Proof
There is a real pop country sound to this piece.
This piece is symphonic and more than a little creepy.
What I Believe
There is quite a bit of funk in this. It’s the more purely progressive rock oriented piece to this point on the disc, though. It rocks hard, but has plenty of shifts and changes and other oddities.
The Spark of Life
With some symphonic elements at play, this is another smoking hot progressive rock piece. In fact, I like this even better than the previous one. This reaches some incredible heights. It also has some quirky moments late.
This is a very dynamic piece. It starts very mellow and atmospheric. Some processed spoken vocals are heard on the early sections. It works out to a killer progressive rock jam after a time, though. This is one of the strongest songs of the whole set.
Frightful Fiend (Spoken)
Here we get another short spoken section to move the story along.
Running from the Moon
A powerhouse fast paced progressive rock jam brings this into being. It works through some shifts and changes as it continues and is a real winner. It’s another of the standouts here. It really is quite a diverse piece.
This is a piano based progressive rock ballad. It’s quite strong.
He Calls Me
More hard edged progressive rock, this one borders on metal at times. It’s another powerful one. It has some great hooks and just works really well. The mellow drop back section has a great multi-layered vocal arrangement.
When He Plays His Guitar
Acoustic guitar based, this gentle piece is folk prog. It’s another good tune, but not a stand out.
Let Me In
A mellower prog ballad, this is pretty and quite effective. It’s got some powerfully evocative moments and some great hooks.
Although this is faster paced, it lands more toward the melodic end of progressive rock. I really love some of the keyboard work on this thing. It’s a soaring number with some definite shifts and turns. At times it reminds me a little of Yes (musically, not vocally).
Here we get another high energy progressive rock tune. This is one with a wide range and scope. As great as the music is, though, the vocals are the real selling point here. They are among the best of the whole set.
Did I Request Thee? (Spoken)
And, via truth in advertising, this is another spoken piece.
You Made Me
Piano starts things here. It grows out into another progressive rock powerhouse. This is one of the real masterpieces of the set. I love the lyrics and the vocals. Yet, the music is strong enough to never need to feel second to those. This is one of the best here.
Letter from Home
This is just a short little instrumental that has a real European flair to it.
Here is another melodic prog powerhouse. It’s a complex and evocative piece with great music, lyrics and vocals.
Back to Meet My Maker
Although this isn’t a big variant of any kind, it is another stellar prog rock number.
Shadow to Shadow
This is a powerful ballad. It’s packed with emotion. I love the pairing of regular vocals with weird, whispered ones.
This smoking hot piece borders on metal. It’s still very much progressive rock, but the emphasis is on the “rock” part of the equation.
Theatrical and yet quite prog rock oriented, this is another strong piece on a disc with no weak material.
The Sweetest Part of Me
This is more or less a ballad. It’s an emotional one at that.
Soaring, nearly metallic guitar is the concept here. This crunchy instrumental is in the vein of Joe Satriani or Steve Vai. .
Into the White
Electronic and theatrical, this is atmospheric for more than the first three minutes. It gets more oomph added to the mix after that, but even so it’s only a little. The extensive instrumental section is dominated by keyboard soloing.
This starts with a rather ballad-like approach. It’s sad and a little creepy. It gets into more intense theatrical territory at the end.
Into the Cold
A powerful progressive rock piece, this one lands closer to metal than just about anything here.
Falling Into the Sky
This is another killer prog tune. It’s epic in scope in a lot of ways. The vocals convey a lot of emotion. I love the multiple layers of vocals.
The Living Proof, Pt. 2
More like a progressive rock ballad, this song really ties the whole thing together well. It has a great message and is musical a fitting closer.
REVIEW OF "SHADOW TO SHADOW, DEAN MADONIA'S FRANKENSTEIN" (In Spanish)
Dean Madonia publica un nuevo trabajo, quizá el más ambicioso, basado en la novela de Mary Shelley, Frankenstein o el Moderno Prometeo, desde una nueva perspectiva. En esta ocasión, Frankenstein todavía vive después de 200 años y relata su historia a un investigador genético que está a punto de desarrollar el primer humano clonado.
Efectivamente, estamos ante un disco conceptual al antiguo uso, con partes muy diferenciadas pero siguiendo un hilo narrativo conductor que crea un sólido argumento musical y lírico, con una música exquisita y de gran calidad sustentada por complejos arreglos y ejecuciones instrumentales y vocales, generando un artefacto casi teatral. En definitiva, este extraordinario trabajo de Dean es una ópera rock, puramente progresiva y sinfónica, llena de matices y esencias que recrean las posibilidades novelísticas desde un punto de vista totalmente musical.
Sería poco acertado por mi parte intentar definir una música de esta grandísima calidad comparándola con los homenajes a los que rinde pleitesía este genio norteamericano (desde Alan Parsons Project a ELP, pasando por Kansas, Styx, Pink Floyd o Genesis), puesto que el resultado final es un artefacto totalmente original y de gran inspiración y en ningún momento existe copia a los clásicos, sino una exquisita y emotiva rendición a un género progresivo pleno de posibilidades expositivas. Y en este aspecto, Dean se nos muestra como uno de los adalides de un rock exquisito, hecho con inteligencia y gran pasión, en el que el propio artista nos transmite sus inquietudes sociales e intelectuales a través de un medio que domina a la perfección: la música.
Una música caracterizada por elementos melódicos y dinámicos a partes iguales, con interludios, que preparan las exposiciones musicales que determinan estados anímicos y sensaciones, que sirven de guía para el propósito narrativo de este extraordinario disco conceptual integrado por enormes exposiciones sonoras que no son sino una excusa, bendita excusa, para plantear un rock progresivo de altísima calidad y grandísima emoción, no exenta de un alto grado técnico, sin el que no habría posibilidad del verdadero goce espiritual y musical que representa la audición de esta novela musical.
Sentimiento, mensaje, inteligencia y corazón son las directrices por las que transcurre a la perfección esta muestra progresiva, insisto, de enorme calidad, que nos presenta a un músico y a un grupo en su punto álgido de inspiración.
Su fluidez y el enorme sentimiento expuesto hacen de este disco uno de los inolvidables del género y uno de los clásicos del futuro del estilo progresivo, sin lugar a dudas. Estamos ante uno de los llamados a escribir con letras de oro su nombre en la extraordinaria Biblia progresiva de todos los tiempos. Uno de mis favoritos y, seguramente, uno de los vuestros después de escucharlo con detenimiento para desembocar en una de las mayores satisfacciones auditivas desde hace mucho tiempo. Recomendado por su honestidad y su empeño expresivo. Por su gran corazón y por su extraordinario sentimiento.
REVIEW OF "TO SHADOW SHADOW, MADONIA DEAN'S FRANKENSTEIN" (In Spanish)
Dean Madonia publishes a new work, perhaps the most ambitious, based on the novel by Mary Shelley, Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus, from a new perspective. On this occasion, Frankenstein is still alive after 200 years and tells his story to a genetic researcher who is about to develop the first cloned human.
Indeed, this is a concept album to ancient usage, with very distinct parts but following a driver narrative that creates a solid musical and lyrical argument with exquisite music and high quality supported by complex arrangements and instrumental performances and vocals, creating a almost theatrical artifact. Ultimately, this extraordinary work of Dean is a rock opera, purely progressive and symphonic, full of nuances and scents that recreate the novelistic possibilities from a musical point of view completely.
It would be unwise of me to try to define music of this great quality compared with tributes to which it pays homage this American genius (from Alan Parsons Project ELP, through Kansas, Styx, Pink Floyd or Genesis), since the result end is a completely original and great inspiration artifact and in no time there copy the classics, but an exquisite and emotional surrender to a full progressive genre of exhibition possibilities. And in this regard, Dean appears as one of the champions of exquisite rock, made with intelligence and passion, in which the artist conveys his intellectual and social concerns through a medium that dominates to perfection: music.
A music characterized by melodic and dynamic elements equally, with interludes, preparing musical shows that determine moods and feelings, which are guiding the narrative purpose of this extraordinary concept album composed of huge noise exposures are but one excuse, blessed excuse to raise a progressive rock of high quality and very great emotion, not without a high technical level, without which there would be no possibility of true spiritual and musical enjoyment representing the hearing of this musical novel.
Feeling, message, mind and heart are the guidelines that goes perfectly this progressive displays, again, of great quality, which presents a musician and a group at its peak of inspiration.
His fluency and enormous feeling exposed make this album one of the unforgettable genre and one of the classics of the future of progressive style, no doubt. This is one of those called to write his name in golden letters in the extraordinary progressive Bible of all time. One of my favorite and certainly one of you after listening carefully to lead to a major hearing satisfactions long. Recommended for his honesty and his expressive endeavor. For his big heart and his extraordinary feeling.
You get the feeling that Dean Madonia is going to achieve his goal of creating a rock opera for Halloween that will rival Christmas’ TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA. He’s being methodical and working within his means; this year he’s performing two concerts of his rock opera SHADOW TO SHADOW: DEAN MADONIA’S FRANKENSTEIN in Nashville.
In Dean’s FRANKENSTEIN, Dean Madonia’s Frankenstein shows that “The Monster” is still alive after over 200 years, and telling his cautionary tale to a genetic researcher about to make the first human clone. Recently MUSIC NEWS NASHVILLE caught up with Dean at his home in Music City.
Growing up, were there ever inklings that you would become this obsessed with a project of this magnitude? Did you believe you’d finish this project?
Yes! When I was quite young I saw Disney’s “Fantasia,” with my parents. At the time, I was blown away by what I felt was a perfect fusion of music and art. Since that day I have wanted to create something amazing on that grand of a scale. My original plan was to compose music (not necessarily classical) and art that followed a story. When I started “Shadow To Shadow,” I thought of it as a fun diversion and something that might bring that old dream to fruition. I even bought a light table so I could experiment with animation. I am nothing if not ambitious… I have released many albums so I thought it would be easy.
Silly rabbit! When STS took over my life for four years, I realized that I had taken a very big bite. I was asking a lot from the muse, my family, the band and myself. I worked on this in my “spare” time while still playing 3 – 4 out-of-town gigs a week. This schedule ran me down so badly that I had to get a personal trainer for awhile, just to get myself in better shape to handle the strain…
During the editing and mixing, I began to worry that I might die and leave it unfinished (like the epic Kevin Gilbert CD, “The Shaming Of the True”). In fact, STS was supposed to be released along with a companion graphic novel, so in a sense, this project has NOT been completed, but I am still working on the novel.
You say you want to get this to be the next TSO; this Halloween you’ll be doing two shows in Nashville. What do you think you’ll be getting from those shows?>/B>
I had planned a big show for Halloween back in 2012 at The Darkhorse Theater. I had dancers, original video that would be projected during the show, a small choir and string section ready to go and I planned to record video and the live audio as well.
Unfortunately, the mixes I had sent out for the CD were not ready so I wouldn’t have had any product at the show. While I waited for the mixes, I realized that I probably needed to write a few more songs to finish telling the story. At that point I cancelled the show. I was very upset about it at the time but I can see now that it was the right thing to do. I decided to try to just take my time and finish the album first and see how people like it and if there is any interest in the songs and in me playing them live.
The CD is better for it and I realize now that if I do a show of that size, even once, I will need a backer to pull it off the way I feel I need to. These stripped-down Nashville shows are baby steps, hopefully leading towards bigger shows and eventually my “Big Show.”
Your version of Frankenstein has the Monster communicating a cautionary tale to man against messing with DNA. What do you supposed helped the Monster become a great communicator?
In the Mary Shelley novel, the monster learns to speak words while spying on the “cottagers,” a family who lives in the building attached to the “low hovel’ where the monster hides. He makes the connection between the sounds they make when communicating and the sounds they make when reading to the old blind man who lives there. When a foreigner conveniently comes to stay with the family, he learns, “…the science of letters,” as they teach her from the book, “Ruins of Empires,” by Volney.
Another Deus Ex Machina in the plot occurs when the monster coincidentally finds a satchel of books including Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” a volume of Plutarch’s “Lives,” and the Johan Wolfgang von Goeth’s, “Sorrows of Werter.”
Now in my version, the monster still lives after over 200 years. I personally read at least 1 book per week. If the monster were to read as much as me, he would be well over 10,000 books by now. That would produce a very well-read and articulate monster!
What does SHADOW TO SHADOW mean?
The Monster must always remain in hiding, his countenance is hideous and bright light is not his friend. He lives in the cracks and shadows of society.
Describe the whole Dean Madonia’s FRANKENSTEIN empire.
“Shadow To Shadow, Dean Madonia’s Frankenstein,” is a 29 track CD, an upcoming graphic novel of the same name and hopefully, someday, a multi-media road-show similar to a Halloween season TSO type show or the maybe the recent “War Of the Worlds,” tour… You know – world domination…
I'm a sucker for a great concept album, especially one with a horror theme. The moment "Shadow to Shadow: Dean Madonia's Frankenstein" crossed my desk, I couldn't wait to hear it.
I'll admit I knew absolutely nothing about Dean Madonia prior to listening to this CD and I didn't know what to expect. Would "Shadow to Shadow" be a classic rock showcase like The Who's "Tommy?" Would it be more of a sinister rock chapter book like Alice Cooper's "Welcome to My Nightmare?" An avant garde rock opera along the lines of Pink Floyd's "The Wall?" Or maybe more in the vein of a Broadway musical, like Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera?" I had no idea.
Interestingly enough, "Shadow to Shadow" is probably more akin to The Alan Parsons Project's "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" than any of the other recordings listed above. It's heavy on keyboard and piano and is buoyed by impressive production and songwriting. It focuses strongly on the story here, keeping faithful to the classic Mary Shelley novel (at least as far as I can remember; it's been at least ten years since I last read it) and adding a modern angle as well. As you listen to this terrific two CD set, the story unfolds in your mind, much like a classic radio mystery set to music, and it's easy to visualize the individual characters and settings.
The music, for the most part, is slow- to medium-paced and vocal driven. Although there are some hard rock moments, most of "Shadow to Shadow" is softer, striving to tell a story rather than to put a boot to your rock'n'roll ass. It works just fine as is but I would have preferred perhaps just a little more variety in style.
Madonia and crew are experienced musicians and their expertise shines through every track here. I would recommend listening to the two CDs here in one sitting, using a nice pair of headphones and with a lyric sheet in front of you. I can't imagine a better way to experience this particular re-telling of a legendary horror classic.
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REVIEW OF "SHADOW TO SHADOW, DEAN MADONIA'S FRANKENSTEIN" (In Italian)
A prescindere da ciò che penso dell'album, un complimento a Dean Madonia è d'obbligo. Realizzare un’opera rock mi è sempre sembrato un lavoro titanico, qualcosa da pianificare con largo anticipo e da curare in tutti gli aspetti, soprattutto nella perfetta integrazione tra musica e liriche. Questo, ovviamente, dando per scontato che si parli di un’opera rock di qualità. Un progetto basato sulla figura di Frankenstein non è certo originale (tanto per fare un esempio che ci riguarda, il cantautore Enrico Ruggeri ha pubblicato proprio quest'anno un lavoro simile), ma Dean Madonia si è almeno dato da fare per rivedere la storia e aggiornarla, non basandosi unicamente sul testo di Mary Shelley ma trasferendolo duecento anni nel futuro e inserendo riferimenti all'ingegneria genetica. Uno sforzo forse minimo o banale, ma che renderà felici coloro che sono interessati al racconto, oltre che alla musica.
Dean Madonia ha iniziato ad occuparsi di musica sin da bambino, arrivando poi a collaborare con svariate band per finire con realizzare le proprie produzioni, che nel corso degli anni hanno spaziato dal country, al rock, al pop, al progressive, oltre ad essersi occupato di musiche per film. Tutta questa versatilità ed esperienza (forte di otto precedenti album) è stata senza dubbio fondamentale nella realizzazione di "Shadow to shadow", che si presenta in maniera curatissima sotto il profilo musicale, nella produzione e nella registrazione. La musica è un progressive dalle forti tinte pop e rock, con una struttura delle composizioni incentrata sulla forma canzone. Non sono presenti quindi complesse trame strumentali, variazioni ritmiche, assoli stratosferici, commistioni di genere, e altre "amenità" progressive, perché l'intera trama musicale è focalizzata a raccontare la storia, con un risultato che scorre via fluido in entrambi i cd di cui è composto il lavoro. Le canzoni sono ben scritte e tutte basate su giri armonici semplici ma efficaci, guidate sovente da una chitarra acustica che accompagna la voce dello stesso Madonia, gradevole ed adeguata al contesto. L'autore ha preferito concentrarsi sulla costruzione di strofe e ritornelli, più che privilegiare arrangiamenti elaborati. Questi sono comunque ben realizzati, mantenendosi scarni nelle ballate e arricchendosi nei brani più rock. In generale, si percepisce lo sforzo fatto per mantenere equilibrio e omogeneità, tanto che è difficile identificare un brano guida o una traccia che spicca in maniera evidente. Di tanto in tanto spuntano intermezzi strumentali più elaborati dal netto sapore cinematografico, sparsi qua e là all'interno dei brani, quando non interamente elaborati e indipendenti, come nella cupa "Chimera", mentre è frequente una tendenza ad un hard rock melodico confinante con l'AOR. Il tutto ricamato sui suoni delle già menzionate chitarre acustiche, del pianoforte, da ben dosati e poco invadenti suoni di synth, dei cori, e della chitarra elettrica nei brani più frizzanti. Di tanto in tanto alcune linee melodiche diventano ricorrenti, accentuando l'impressione di omogeneità e l'intento di voler caratterizzare il lavoro in senso "operistico", come la tradizione del genere impone.
"Shadow to shadow" non è un album impegnativo. Si ascolta facilmente e con gusto, ma questo non significa che soffra di eccessiva banalità o semplicità. L'autore è inoltre riuscito abbastanza efficacemente a rendere la musica funzionale alla storia, caratterizzando la disperazione della creatura grazie all'atmosfera creata dalle canzoni. Dean Madonia merita senz'altro un ascolto, soprattutto se vi piacciono le opere rock o il progressive annacquato ma gradevole.
Un ultimo appunto di natura letteraria: Victor Frankenstein e il mostro sono ovviamente due persone diverse, contrariamente a quanto la maggior parte di coloro che non hanno mai letto il romanzo di Mary Shelley credono. Mi auguro che non sia necessario questo album per ribadirlo.
REVIEW OF "TO SHADOW SHADOW, MADONIA DEAN'S FRANKENSTEIN" (In English)
Regardless of what you think of the album, a compliment to Dean Madonia is a must. Achieving a rock opera has always seemed a titanic work, something to plan well in advance and to treat in all aspects, especially in the seamless integration between music and lyrics. This, of course, assuming that there is talk of a rock opera quality. A project based on the figure of Frankenstein is not original (just as an example that concerns us, the singer Enrico Ruggeri has published just this year a similar work), but Dean Madonia has at least worked hard to review the history and update it, not relying solely on the text of Mary Shelley but transferring two hundred years in the future and by including references to genetic engineering. An effort perhaps minimal or trivial, but that will please those who are interested in the story, as well as the music.
Dean Madonia became involved in music as a child, then coming to work with a variety of bands and ending with realizing their own productions, which over the years have ranged from country, rock, pop, progressive, as well as having occupied film music. All this versatility and experience (strong eight previous album) was undoubtedly essential in the creation of "shadow to shadow," which is presented in a well-kept in terms of music, in the production and recording. The music is progressive from the strong hues pop and rock, with a structure of the compositions focused on song form. There are no so complex instrumental textures, rhythmic variations, stratospheric solos, commingling gender, and other "amenities" progressive, because the entire plot is focused music to tell the story, with a result that runs off fluid in both CD which is composed of the job. The songs are well-written, and all based on harmonic turns simple but effective, often guided by an acoustic guitar that accompanies the entry of the same Madonia, pleasant and appropriate to the context. The author has chosen to focus on the construction of verses and choruses, which favor more elaborate arrangements. These are however well made, staying skinny ballads and enriched in the more rock songs. In general, you perceive the effort to maintain balance and uniformity, so that it is difficult to identify a track guide or a track that stands out in a clear manner. Occasionally sprout more elaborate instrumental interludes from net cinematic flavor, scattered here and there in the songs, when not fully developed and independent, as in the dark "Chimera", while it is often a tendency to a melodic hard rock bordering the AOR. All embroidered on the sounds of the already mentioned acoustic guitars, piano, by carefully measured and unobtrusive synth sounds, choirs, and the electric guitar in the songs more sparkling. Occasionally some melodic lines become recurrent, accentuating the impression of homogeneity and the intent of wanting to characterize the work in a "opera", as the tradition of the genre requires.
"Shadow to shadow" is not an album challenging. Listening easily and with taste, but that does not mean suffering from excessive banality or simplicity. The author is also managed quite effectively to make functional music history, featuring the desperation of the creature because of the atmosphere created by the songs. Dean Madonia is well worth a listen, especially if you like progressive rock operas or watered down but pleasant.
A final point of a literary nature: Victor Frankenstein and the monster are obviously two different people, contrary to what most of those who have never read the novel by Mary Shelley believe. I hope that it is not necessary to repeat this album.
Dean Madonia has achieved recent success in the country market with the Tim Dugger single, "(I Called Her) Tennessee" (Curb Records) as well as two film placements: "Honor Is Ours" in the 2013 Threshold Entertainment film Foodfight! and the song, "Just Like Love," from his band Pretty Little Horses, in the movie, The Stream, in theaters in October 2013.
What He is most excited about right now is his newly finished project, Shadow To Shadow, Dean Madonia's Frankenstein, is a 29 track concept CD (or rock opera), based on Mary Shelley's famous novel, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. The storyline has been straightened out chronologically with new ideas added as bookends. In this version, the monster is still alive after over 200 years, telling his cautionary tale, to a genetic researcher who is about to make the first human clone. These are crazy times, and right now, a 200 year old, ugly, rejected monster who knows a thing or two about being an outcast, could probably give some good advice to a modern day Victor Frankenstein!
The writing began in airports, planes, hotel rooms and bandhouses from coast to coast, was recorded in Dean's home studio in Nashville, TN. It was inspired by concept CDs of the past: Pink Floyd's "Dark Side" or "The Wall," The Who's "Quadrophenia" or "Tommy," The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's," Queensryche's "Operation Mindcrime," Any Alan Parsons Project CD, Kevin Gilbert's amazing work, "The Shaming Of the True," Frank Zappa - "Joe's Garage," and Genesis' "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway." If this project is indeed folly, Dean is in good company!
The "official" release date is set for Janurary 13, 2014, however the CD is available now on Amazon and iTunes.
The Living Proof
What I Believe
The Spark Of Life
Frightful Fiend (spoken)
Running From the Moon
He Calls Me
When He Plays His Guitar
Let Me In
Did I Request Thee? (spoken)
You Made Me
Letters From Home
Back To Meet My Maker
Shadow To Shadow
The Sweetest Part Of Me
Into the White
Into the Cold
Falling Into the Sky
The Living Proof
Dean Madonia - vocals, keys, guitar
Val Lupescu - guitars
Travis Vance - bass
Michael Walter - drums
Country of Origin: USA
Record Label: CD Baby (Soft Monkey Music)
Catalogue #: EANTCD 10005
Year of Release: 2014
Time: CD 1: 50:40
CD 2: 56:54
Info: Dean Madonia
CD 1: Pale Student (spoken) 0:53 The Living Proof (3:16), Chimera (2:07), What I Believe (5:01), The Spark of Life (4:50), Alive Anew (4:15), Frightful Fiend (spoken) (0:29), Running From the Moon (5:07), Trusted Friend (2:09), He Calls Me (3:53), When He Plays His Guitar (3:38), Let Me In (6:01), Wrong (3:09), Alone (5:52)
CD 2: Did I Request Thee (spoken) (0:15), You Made Me (5:59), Letter From Home (1:02), Fool's Gold (7:32), Back to Meet My Maker (4:18), Shadow to Shadow (2:48), Wedding Night (4:18), The Promise (4:42), The Sweetest Part of Me (2:05), Murdering Elizabeth (4:20), Into the White (5:53), Spark Redux (2:18), Into the Cold (3:49), Falling into the Sky (4:28), The Living Proof (Part 2) (3:24)
Feed my Frankenstein sang Alice Cooper some twenty odd years ago. Well, I've struggled with this one, truly I have, Firstly the cover is just bad, it looks like an early 80's heavy metal album from some anonymous sub-metal B grade band on Metal Blade or something equally hideous, it does the music and the concept very few favours, yes I know budget for artwork is an issue but this really lets things down before you even play the disc. Dean have strived to offer a release of class and quality and this sleeve thwarts that majorly.
When you get past the cover you find an album of variety and herein lies my dilemma, it's long (just under two hours) and requires careful and repeated listens, it's also very wordy, too wordy and it lacks sufficient instrumental parts to break up all those words and to enhance the concept. Oh yes, it's a concept album based on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein but this time around it poses questions about scientific advancements and the potential inherent dangers thereof.
It is an interesting twist on a familiar tale where the "creature" warns of the perils and repercussions of tampering with nature the opening and closing piece The Living Proof deal with this dilemma. There are some good points though too, there is some fabulous music on here and Dean Madonia has a fabulous voice, sort of a cross between Steve Walsh of Kansas and Neal Morse but with a touch of Nashville. As I mentioned previously it's an album that only releases its magic very slowly so you will have to bear with it and take a fair few listens to get the potency of what is on offer here.
It's not immediate and I guess a lot of people won't want to stay the course, which is a pity as it is ultimately a fine effort, Yes its overlong and sprawling but it improves with repeated listens. That said, it's not an album that I would have on heavy rotation either, it's also fairly gentle in parts and even paced throughout and hardly ever rocks out but it has been lovingly crafted by a musician of skill and calibre.
What Dean needs to do is to capitalize on this release with his next project being more concise and balanced but with the same high degree of careful crafting, skilful playing and attention to detail.
One of the standout moments for me comes during Letters from Home in which a mournful accordion plays gently and evocatively – this album has several moments like that and so it is far from being a turkey or a load of old dross but it's not a blinder either however it certainly is one that grows in stature the more you listen to it, I am a great believer in giving music time to percolate and filter through one's mind.
I would love to hear what Dean does next as there is great potential herein and so on this basis happy to award 6/10.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
DEAN MADONIA’S FRANKENSTEIN – Shadow To Shadow
Soft Monkey Music 2014
A well-known story as seen through the Creature’s eyes – shiny but not brilliant.
Ever since Mary Shelley’s magnum opus became a mass culture domain, the perception of it has been one of a horror tale rather than a treatise on responsibility. The best attempt to address the issue was made by Mel Brooks, in humorous terms, but such a slant rarely manifests itself in art rock, and art lies in the very heart of Nashville’s Dean Madonia’s latest endeavor, which is a double album and a graphic novel. There’s another progressive aspect to it: it’s the Monster who tells the story now, in the present, to warn a scientist against human cloning. Yet moralising doesn’t get in the way of music that, thankfully, evades the opera trap and, within the constrictions of its genre, focuses on songs to serve up the concept.
Just like its central figure, the album’s stitched from various parts – organically so, so while the smooth pop of “Wrong” scatters its sultry beats miles away from “Chimera” with its orchestral sweep or equally dramatic guitar instrumental “Murdering Elizabeth,” the delicate nostalgia of “When He Plays His Guitar” and accordion dream of “Letters From Home” sit comfortably alongside sharp riffs of the soulful “He Calls Me” and “Into the Cold,” arguably the heaviest, if cosmic, piece on offer. It’s the least expected turns that are most riveting here, and even though both “Running From The Moon” and “What I Believe” resolve in atmospheric passages, the former comes out too plastic-funky to deliver its message, whereas the latter’s similar knee-jerk seems quite elegant. Yet the vaudeville of “The Spark Of Life” sounds too much out of context to impress and loses its impetus to the strings-drenched sincerity of “The Sweetest Part Of Me.”
The more generic prog tropes are at play – as in “Fool’s Gold” which overstays its harmonic welcome, or in the piano-splashed “You Made Me” – the less intriguing it all gets. As a result, what could have been a tension-filled experience emerged as a smooth story low on memorability.
"Shadow to Shadow is a re-reading of the famous bestseller "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley from a different perspective. Dean Madonia, its author, chose the point of view of the monster to immerse the listener into the meanderings of that famous scientific experiment. Will this new illumination be accompanied by previously unheard of sound experiments?
Separated into two CDs, the first part of the work helps us understand the framing of the project. The tracks alternate between short tracks in which a female voice reads passages from the book ('The pale student', 'Frightful Fiend'), melancholy ballads ('The living proof', 'Trusted friends' with its piano that recalls some slow pieces by Van der Graaf Generator), slightly removed rock pieces ('What I believe') and pieces developing the unsettling atmosphere of the chosen theme ('Chimera and its crescendo of percussion, 'Alive anew' which is close to being industrial rock with a profound vocal interpretation). Progressive rock lovers will appreciate 'The Spark of life' and its double pop-reggae movement or 'Running from the moon' that alternates guitar and synthesizer solos.
The album undertakes to create often oppressive atmospheres but seems to let them go along the way, giving the impression of an absence of mastery of the genre. The hard riffs follow one another but go nowhere ('He calls me'), and the ballads pile up, serving the rhythmic progression ('When he plays his guitar, which should have opened the album). The sometimes bland singing is quite demonstrative like in musical comedies when the singer comments on his own action ('Let me in').
And unfortunately we find in the second CD just about all the faults cited above. Not everything is a throwaway... a riff sometimes makes you turn your ear ('Murdering Elizabeth and its guitar reminischent of Carlos Santana), an accordion offers a little freshness ('Letters from home' and 'Fool's gold') and one atmospheric piece corresponds well to the intentions of the author ('Into the white' and it's oppressive immaculate atmosphere), but the whole is too soft and not original enough to hold the attention of the listener all the way through.
A half-defeat despite laudable intentions, "Shadow to shadow" would have deserved a shorter treatment, on one single CD, possibly supplementing with a bonus CD. Listening to this album is hard to digest in one sitting, which is too bad, because certain songs could rival those having earned their way onto the airwaves.
More information about https://www.facebook.com/shadowtoshadow
Classic Horror Book Turned Into Rock Opera
BY ANGEL ROMERO – SEPTEMBER 23, 2014
POSTED IN: CD REVIEWS
Dean Madonia - Shadow To Shadow: Dean Madonia's Frankenstein
Dean Madonia – Shadow To Shadow: Dean Madonia’s Frankenstein
Shadow To Shadow: Dean Madonia’s Frankenstein (Soft Monkey Music, 2014)
This ambitious double album appeared promising: a new rock opera based on Mary Shelley’s popular Frankenstein novel, with a progressive rock edge. Dean Madonia indicates that “the Monster” is still alive after over 200 years and his rock opera warns about the risks involved when a genetic researcher prepares to make the first human clone.
Despite the progressive rock influences, most of Shadow To Shadow contains various forms of rock, but very little progressive rock. The pieces on Disc 1 have folk rock, funk, pop, ballads and hard rock influences. There is an occasional notable solo, but that’s basically it. The best cut by far is a cinematic symphonic instrumental piece titled ‘Chimera’.
Disc 2 follows in a similar direction except for track 10, ‘Murdering Elizabeth’, where the guitarist finally gets an opportunity to demonstrate his talent; and track 11, ‘Into the White’, which features great keyboard and electronic music work.
The lineup on Shadow To Shadow includes Dean Madonia on vocals, keyboards, guitars; Val “The Count” Lupescu on acoustic and electric guitars; Travis “Mr. T” Vance on bass and Michael Walter on drums. Guests featured: John Catchings on cello and viola; Tim Lorsch on violin; Bruce Bouton on pedal steel; Jeff Taylor on accordion; and spoken word provided by Karen Keeley.
About Angel Romero
Angel Romero has been writing about progressive music and world music for many years. Publications include Eurock (USA), Marquee (Japan), and Nuevas Músicas (Spain). He founded the websites progressiverockcentral.com and worldmusiccentral.org. Angel also produced Musica NA, a music show for TVE (Spain) featuring fusion, avant-garde, world music, new age and electronic artists.
BRET MICHAELS AND JAY DEMARCUS SIT IN WITH DEAN MADONIA!
Bret, Jay make singing tour of Music Row bars
Poison lead singer Bret Michaels continues to hang out in Nashville and make country friends.
Bret and Jay DeMarcus from Rascal Flatts cruised up and down the new Music Row bars area Friday and Saturday nights. Bret and Jay crashed new piano bar Chitown and sang a few with pianists Dean Madonia and Jimmy Maddox.
Yes, Bret did Every Rose Has Its Thorn, and the ladies went wild. There was a crush of cell phone photography. Bret and Jay also did some covers of Doobie Brothers and Elton John songs.
Then, the dynamic duo headed to Tin Roof and did it all over again.
Bret is on the verge of a deal with new country indie label Lofton Creek Records, so I imagine he's trying to meet and collaborate with as many Nashville music makers as possible.
By Brian Hyman
Published on May 14, 1998
What you see is what you get when singer-songwriter Dean Madonia takes the stage. In faded jeans, a comfortable T-shirt, and old Nikes, Madonia and his pop-rock songs are as easygoing and fan-friendly as those of his major influences, Paul Simon and James Taylor. Like them, Madonia weaves personal experiences into songs about loss, rites of passage, and -- of course -- love. Sound old-fashioned? Maybe, but that doesn't bother Madonia.
"Everybody's so damn mad all the time," he says about today's popular bands. "I'm happy." So what's his advice to those perturbed young souls? "Life has a certain amount of suckage, so get used to it and stop bitching!"
Madonia's debut CD, Deep Sky, which will be released May 25, steers clear of the angry-young-man thing, mainly because Madonia isn't in that frame of mind. "I don't feel comfortable writing about what I don't feel comfortable about," he says. "I have to write about what I know."
Noteworthy tracks on Deep Sky include a moving, Elton John-esque, piano-and-strings song called "Without a Net," which is about a woman Madonia knew, loved, and tragically lost. "The Big Crunch (Stephen Says)," is a trippy ode to scientist and writer Stephen Hawking and the opinions expressed in his book A Brief History of Time.
The hard-working Madonia has many weekly solo gigs: Shenanigan's Sports Pub in Hollywood Wednesday and Thursday; Mulvaney's Irish Pub in West Palm Beach Friday; and Tuna's Waterfront Grill in Miami Saturday. But he also performs with the newly formed Dean Madonia Band, which includes Cory Mauro on bass, Scott Tryon on drums, Jimmy Ruccolo on guitar, and Michael Waxman on keyboards.
The group will compete in a Battle of the Bands contest at Chili Pepper this Sunday and perform at Madonia's CD-release party at the Poor House May 24. Both clubs are located in Fort Lauderdale.
For more information on Madonia, including where you can get his CD, Deep Sky, visit his Website at www.gate.net/ ~madonia/deep.htm. And when you see him at a local gig, ask him why fans and friends call him Underdog, or at least get ready to make a request; Madonia's list of covers contains 179 songs.
Playing songs in dark hole-in-the-wall bars for smatterings of drunks who'd just as soon listen to the second hand on their watches ticking.... Spending your days laboring over writing songs only to have bar proprietors tell you that you can't play originals.... Watching bar patrons search for the table furthest from the stage and speakers.... Glumly strumming Jimmy Buffett songs for tourists Music
By Brendan Kelley
Published: Thursday, April 15, 1999
bent on getting their Floridian culture fix.... As romantic as the starving artist notion is, the reality of being a professional musician locally is a grim one, and making a living off of music is a trick that few musicians can (or want to) pull off.
Fort Lauderdale songwriter-performer Dean Madonia knows this dichotomy well. He spends five nights a week in Broward County bars, playing cover songs from his library of nearly 200 tracks, sneaking in the occasional original whenever possible. In the daytime Madonia works at home, composing and arranging the tracks that he records and plays with his band, the Dean Madonia Band. As an original artist, Madonia performs folky, narrative-style, adult-contemporary tunes that appeal to the middle-aged James Taylor/Sting crowd. But when he punches the clock, Madonia becomes Underdog, the alter ego who plays everything from Dave Matthews and Tonic covers to Simon and Garfunkel and Cat Stevens songs. Madonia smartly makes no pretensions about the artistic validity of the latter performances. "I don't consider the cover gigs a part of the music business -- that's the bar business," he says. "You're there to move booze."
Unfortunately in South Florida artists as a rule can't make a living by playing originals. Playing other bands' songs is a necessary evil if one is serious about quitting his or her day job. "I try to pay the bills that way," Madonia says with a grin, drinking iced tea at a downtown Fort Lauderdale bar on a recent Saturday afternoon. "It's really frustrating because a lot of people can't tell the difference between karaoke and a real band." Despite the dismal realities, Madonia retains his commitment to succeeding as an original artist, and spends up to ten hours a day working on his own songs. Last year brought a small but satisfying milestone to Madonia: the release of the first Dean Madonia CD, Deep Sky, on his self-started Soft Monkey Music label.
Madonia is currently working on an ambitious project -- a show this Friday at Miami's Bayside Hard Rock Cafe, with beer-equipped coach buses chartered to take fans from Shenanigans Sports Pub in Hollywood to the show in Miami. The event is somewhat of a Catch-22: Madonia is losing "a ton of money" on the project, but it will offer his fans, the majority of whom live in Broward County, a chance to see a first-rate showcase of the songs from the Deep Sky CD, complete with string section and previews of songs from the album Madonia is preparing to record. The Dean Madonia Band has played only one show with the viola and cello players who appear on Deep Sky, so the added texture and dimension will be a well-appreciated treat for fans.
Madonia's placid, introspective music doesn't exactly conjure images of beer-swilling, bus-partying revelers, a notion he acknowledges with a smile. "I know the record-buying public is, what, 13- to 20-year-olds? I don't really appeal to them," he says. "We're not for the 'everybody-get-fucked-up' crowd either. I think we appeal to a well-read, intelligent crowd that can recognize quality music and understand the occasional literary reference."
The bus gimmick is simply an attempt to get his audience to the show. Because Madonia's audience is based in Broward, they're not likely to drive a long distance for a show they could catch near home. "If you don't invite people, they won't come," Madonia says. "You can't make it difficult for them."
Madonia's learned those lessons through experience, having played in several bands spanning several musical genres over the last decade. He tells a horror story of being invited to play a charity event at a Bloomingdales in West Palm Beach. The organizers told Madonia and his band that the event attracted an audience of 10,000 the previous year, but Madonia and crew took the stage to a sparse and unappreciative crowd of shoppers and Bloomingdales employees. "It was all old people," he laughs. "It was like Dawn of the Dead. All these old folks and employees were complaining about the volume, and we were playing really quietly and laughing about it while we played. There were absolutely no fans there."
So Madonia takes the bull by the horns these days, inviting fans to his gigs via the band's mailing list and Website, which is http://www.gate.net/~madonia/deep.htm. He and the band are preparing to hit the studio again in the coming months, and Madonia continues filling his hours working on demos for the new record, when he's not playing cover gigs, that is. As Underdog (his solo cover act) and with the Underdog Show (backed by his cover band) Madonia will continue to fill his evenings playing to slumped-over drunks and culture-seeking tourists. Just don't ask to hear Jimmy Buffett -- unless you meet the requirements.
"I have a policy about Buffett songs," Madonia says. "You've gotta have $20 and an out-of-state driver's license. Then I'll do one song."
The Dean Madonia Band plays April 16, at the Hard Rock Cafe, 401 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Admission is free. Showtime is 11 p.m. Call 954-467-2524 for more information.
Last week Ear Infection mistakenly printed that the Swarm shows at Elwood's in Delray Beach occur every other Tuesday. The Swarm series actually takes place every other Wednesday, and the the next show features Whirlaway and dot Fash Wednesday, April 28th, at 9 p.m. Elwood's is located at 301 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach. For information, call 561-276-6635.
-- Brendan Kelley
Send music news, gossip, love letters, and witty commentary to Ear Infection at P.O. Box 14128, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33302. Or by e-mail: Brendan_Kelley@newtimesbpb.com
members: Dean Madonia (vocals, guitar, keyboards).
comments: After saturating the market with original live music for a few years, Madonia is taking a brief hiatus from performing and preparing the followup to his debut CD, the progressive Deep Sky. Madonia says the new CD will â€œstill have a progressive influence but will be more commercial, more radio-friendly in terms of the production.â€ Deep Sky sold about 1,500 copies and attracted curious attention overseas, where DJs in Russia made it a favorite. Deep Sky also found a fan base in Ireland, Germany, Latvia and on MP3.com, where Madonia is seeing about 100 downloads per month. His Web site is www.gate.net/~madonia/deep.htm.
contact: 954/467-2524 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hard Sell At Hard Rock For Dean Madonia
SEAN PICCOLI MUSIC WRITER
April 16, 1999|By SEAN PICCOLI MUSIC WRITER
It's not the fault of a few hard-working local musicians that they picked this weekend, of all weekends, to put on important shows. The news that hip-hop superstar Wyclef Jean would be staging his third annual Carnival benefit concert this Saturday in Miami only surfaced a couple of weeks ago. Local com-mitments already had been made when this competing diversion landed on our calendar with an anvil-weight thud.
And it's easier nowadays for big-ticket organizers to spring a one-off festival on a particular market -- with zip for notice -- than it is for local artists to back out of conflicting dates. So if you're not going to Carnival '99 on Saturday or to any pre-Carnival events, there are some home-grown alternatives.
Start with the Dean Madonia Band -- please. This weekend could be life or death, avocationally speaking, for bandleader Dean Madonia. His group throws a free concert tonight at the Hard Rock Cafe in Miami, and with enough pricey fanfare to underwrite a disaster movie.
Subsidizing attendance is just one of several gestures in support of what Madonia calls "the biggest show we've ever done."
He is bringing along a three-man video crew to document the concert and a 32-track digital sound console to record every note. Because that many cameras and microphones need something else to point at, Madonia is chartering a pair of buses to shuttle fans to the Hard Rock. Passengers are promised free beer and prizes en route.
The concert itself will feature three string players from a local philharmonic orchestra, sitting in with the band. Madonia's new percussion player, a recent arrival from Brazil, makes his debut that night. The buzz-baiting doesn't stop there: Madonia and his entertainment lawyer are inviting journalists and assorted music-industry heavies to check out the performance.
In other words, it's going to be a really huge night whether anybody shows up or not.
This is what it takes, apparently, for an unsigned local band to make a dent. Madonia does have some commercial sponsors lined up to help defray costs. But it's clear that he, like most musicians, doesn't have the resources to be leasing Friday-night floor space at the Hard Rock on a regular basis.
So lend a hand, live music fans. Get on the bus! Help make this high-wire stunt a success, so Madonia can have a whack at stardom, and maybe start charging his audiences down the road.
The bus fleet sails this evening from Shenanigans nightclub, 3303 Sheridan St., Hollywood, site of the band's pre-party. Call 954-981-9702 for details. The Hard Rock Cafe is at 401 N. Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305-377-3110.
Also this weekend, South Florida groove zealots the Baboons are throwing a CD release party on Saturday night at Tobacco Road, 626 S. Miami Ave., Miami, 305-374-1198. The album, Evolution, is the band's first. The concert is most certainly not. Doors open to the public at 10 p.m. For more information, drop the band an e-mail at email@example.com.
Sean Piccoli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4832.
Sing us a song, piano man
Nashville pianist plays The Penguin
PHOTO COURTESY OF JONNO DEILY-SWEARINGEN
Dueling piano player Dean Madonia lost part of his ring finger in a lawnmower accident in 2004, but his missing digit hasnâ€™t kept him from tickling the ivories. Madonia spends his weekends trekking across the country to perform well-loved classics and original tunes.
BY KELSEY WHIPPLE
MARCH 19, 2009 | 12:00 A.M. CST
Sooner or later, every musician has to decide whether or not he or she has made it. So far, Dean Madonia hasnâ€™t.
As he explains: â€œI always thought the fat guy with the scar was going to come up and go, â€˜Hey, kid, youâ€™re great, Sign this, and youâ€™re going to be famous.â€™â€ Although itâ€™s clear where the anecdote is headed, disappointment is noticeably absent from his voice. â€œBut that didnâ€™t happen. Itâ€™s kind of weird playing the dueling pianos when you thought you were going to be the next Elvis or The Beatles.â€
Madoniaâ€™s life, one spent as a dueling piano player in cities on and between both coasts, is the perfect opportunity for a rocky road metaphor, but he wonâ€™t let you use it. As he plays the Yamaha grand over the phone in his Nashville home, Madonia doesnâ€™t waste his memories. Instead, he recycles them, building on each one to complete an engaging version of his life story so far.
â€œMy parents got divorced when I was 9, so my piano lessons came to a pretty complete halt,â€ Madonia says. His father moved to California and left his piano to Madonia in Michigan. â€œI guess that was kind of like my tie to my father, so I just kept playing.â€
Although the lessons stopped, Madonia did not, and the results of the 38 years that have passed are best expressed in numbers: four solo albums, around 40 bands, one record label and a 3-year-old son. Along the way, Madonia has also gained a second home.
â€œIâ€™ve played there so many times, I feel like I know Columbia better than Nashville,â€ Madonia says. â€œIâ€™ve already turned over a whole graduating class, at least. ... Whenever I see people there, theyâ€™ll say, â€˜Hey, I havenâ€™t seen you in a long time,â€™ and I have to be like, â€˜Dude, I donâ€™t live here.â€™â€
Madoniaâ€™s voice is as deliberate as his story is romantic. It never falters but is tested as he describes his lastest setback.
Almost five years ago, while struggling with heat stroke and an unyielding lawnmower in his front yard, an accident cost Madonia part of his right ring finger and the tip of his pinky.
â€œSometimes I look down at it, and Iâ€™m like, â€˜God, that was really, really dumb,â€™â€ Madonia says, and itâ€™s easy to imagine heâ€™s doing so as he speaks â€” until he laughs. For a while, he thought his career was over. â€œI donâ€™t believe that the universe is trying to tell me something or anything,â€ he says. â€œBut I think that when things happen, you have to draw the lessons you can from them. ... I probably play almost as well as I ever played.â€ He pauses. â€œMaybe better.â€
If Madonia had a least important finger, it was the one he lost. â€œI have to focus on the positive aspect because if you focus on the negative side in something like this, thatâ€™s what sends you down the big spiral,â€ he says.
Fellow dueling pianist Brad Heron, who calls â€œnine-fingered Deanâ€ one of the top duelers around, says heâ€™s â€œabout the best there is on Meatloafâ€™s â€˜Paradise by the Dashboard Lights.â€™â€ Heron admires Madoniaâ€™s humility. â€œIf I only had nine fingers and I played as good as he did, Iâ€™d be telling everyone I know,â€ he says.
Today, Madonia has learned to play smarter, and he focuses on his son, Wolfgang, and his original music on the four days a week he sets aside from trips. Eventually, heâ€™d like to play his own music. Madoniaâ€™s original composition â€œHonor Is Oursâ€ will be featured in the animated movie Foodfight!, starring Charlie Sheen and the Duff sisters, this summer.
â€œWhen I first met Dean, I realized he was more of a professional musician than just a dueling piano player,â€ says Keith Daly, general manager of The Penguin Piano Bar where Madonia has played countless times. Daly says Madonia isnâ€™t a showman and doesnâ€™t rely on gimmicks. â€œEarly in the night or on Thursday nights when weâ€™re not busy, heâ€™ll play some of his original music for the staff and me, and itâ€™s really good.â€
At 47, Madonia is still firmly focused on a songwriting career and constantly has a smattering of projects in the works. No, he hasnâ€™t made it â€” but heâ€™d like to add â€œyetâ€ to the end of that sentence.
â€œItâ€™s not the story everybody wants to hear about the dueling pianos,â€ Madonia says, â€œbut itâ€™s my story.â€
Who: Dean Madoniaâ€¨When: March 19, 20, 21â€¨Where: The Penguin Piano Barâ€¨Cost: 3/19 â€“ Free; 3/20 â€“ Free for women, $5 for men; 3/21 â€“ $5 â€¨Call: 449-8005
Friday, 10 September 2010 00:00
A Great Night of Music at NSAIâ€™s Radio Show!!
Written by David W Edwards
James Breedwell of the Nashville Music Group hosted the NSAI Radio Show at Hotel Indigo on Sunday, August 29th, 2010. It was a great night of music with a variety of talented songwriters on hand. There was especially a buzz in the air with hit songwriter Monty Powell on the scene to perform with his daughter Rebeka Powell. Monty has written many hit songs for Keith Urban, Diamond Rio, Chris Cagle, and many other artists over the years. He is Keith Urbanâ€™s right hand man when it comes to writing hits. Check out his website www.montypowell.com!! You will be amazed at the sheer amount of cuts and hits he has had.
The whole evening was not only about great music but a celebration of what NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) does to help songwriters. Through workshops, Pitch a Song to a Publisher Nights, song critiquing, and many other events throughout the year, NSAI is a great place for a new songwriter to start when entering the world of songwriting. They have helped so many songwriters over the years realize their dreams of becoming professional songwriters. Check out their website at www.nashvillesongwriters.com. You can listen to the broadcast of this monthly program on www.wbrn.fm.
As usual James Breedwell did a wonderful job hosting the evening with songwriter Dean Madonia helping to introduce the acts. Pat of the Nashville Music Group was on hand to keep everything going smoothly and organized as always.
The night started out with a performance by Rebeka Powell, the daughter of jazz singer Anna Wilson and hit song maker Monty Powell. She was accompanied by Monty on acoustic guitar and performed an amazing set. This girl has it all with her beautiful voice and a natural ability to write songs which she obviously inherited from her father and mother. After her performance, I had a chance to talk to Monty and of course he was very proud of his daughter. â€œShe is the complete package with her voice and songwriting skillsâ€ said Monty. He commented that he wished he would have been at her level of songwriting when he was 20 years old and jokingly said that he could have already been retired. Of course, we will continue to see Monty at the top of the charts and it wonâ€™t be long before Rebeka is riding high on the charts herself. Check Rebeka out at www.facebook.com/rebekahp.
David G. Smith was next up and did a great job with several clever songs including â€œHer Body Wonâ€™t Lieâ€ and a song called â€œAgelessâ€. David co-writes with several different songwriters around town. Check out David G. Smith at www.myspace.com/davidgsmithmusic.
The night continued with Bruce Miller performing next! He sang a great song called â€œMiraclesâ€. It was about a young man who died just after turning 18 years old. The day after he died a white lily popped up in the back yard at his Mom and Dadâ€™s house. This type of flower never grew in the area because of the soil and climate. They took it as a sign that it was their son sending them a message. The next day 5 more white lilies appeared surrounding the first white lily. That same day they got a call telling them that by their son donating his organs he had saved 5 individuals lifeâ€™s. Wow, what a story and what a song! James interviewed Bruce afterwards and asked him what his favorite song was that he had ever written. A true songwriter, Bruce replied â€œthe last one he wroteâ€. He said he loved new songs because they are kind of like a new girlfriend â€œnew and excitingâ€. He then joked that it didnâ€™t really apply to him though, he was married. He also gave advise to the audience to not let anyone try to change who you are or what your style of music is, just be yourself. Check out Bruce Miller at www.brucemichaelmiller.com.
Next up was Dean Madonia who doubled as co-host of the eveningâ€™s festivities. Dean is an awesome musician and a very talented songwriter. Dean entertained the crowd with an amazing set. He has been playing the piano since he was 8 years old and has been playing the guitar since the age of 13. He has played with several Nashville acts. Be sure to catch him live if you get the chance, it is worth the effort to go see him. Check out Dean at www.deanmadonia.com.
The night continued with a trio of talented ladies that included Sherri Gough, Roxy Randle, and Anne DeChant. Sherri Gough had a great set with songs including Jesus and a fun song called Hot Coal. She gave some great advise that Jeffrey Steele had given her. â€œYou canâ€™t hear what you canâ€™t see. You have to be out there playing and letting people hear youâ€. Check out Sherri had www.myspace.com/sherrigough.
Next up was the very entertaining Roxy Randle. Not only a great entertainer but her quirky personality got her set off to a bang when she moved the recorder used for the radio program during her introduction. She is a fun performer, great songwriter, and has a wonderful voice to match. Check her out at www.myspace.com/roxierandle. The last of the super trio was Anne DeChant. This veteran songwriter and performer has performed at the Lilith Fair, the White House, and has opened for Nora Jones, Train, Vonda Shepard, and Stevie Nicks to name just a few artists. Her high energy set was rare for a songwriterâ€™s night. She stood throughout the set and occasionally would kick her leg up in rock and roll fashion. She sang an excellent song called Running Red Lights. She was a little under the weather and still did an amazing job!! Check her out at www.anneedechant.com and www.myspace.com/anneedechant.
Now for me one of the highlights of the night was catching Canadian singer/songwriter Declan McGarry. He started out the set with a awesome song called Summer Heat. It had catchy lyrics such as â€œI could have kissed you but I was smiling too muchâ€. Declan can flat out jam and he has a great stage presence also. He sang a song called Headlights Glow which was one of the best songs of the night. It had a bit of a Steve Earle feel to it and was just an awesome song. Expect to hear big things in the future from Declan McGarry. Check him out at www.myspace.com/declanmcgarry , www.facebook.com/declanmcgarry, and www.declanmcgarry.com.
The night concluded with James Breedwell playing a few tunes. As always Jamesâ€™ tender voice and amazing lyrics were right on to end the evening on a high note. The night was a major success and a great tribute to what NSAI does for songwriters everywhere. Keep up the great job James and NSAI. Be sure to check James Breedwell and the Nashville Music Group out at www.myspace.com/jamesbreedwell.
Keep up the great job James and Pat!! For membership information for the NSAI go to www.nashvillesongwriters.com.
Before I moved my family to Nashville in 2002, I read about and immediately joined NSAI and started to attend song camps and workshops. Flying out of town every Thursday through Sunday left me little time for my family and zero time for networking, so instead I focused on writing the best songs I could - while staying in touch with and writing with many of my fellow campers.
What has kept me going all this time is the belief that a good song will find it's way to the right people. There is NO DOUBT IN MY MIND that NSAI staff members, evaluators, one-on-one mentoring, seminars, workshops and song camps gave me the tools I needed to refine my craft and write my catalog of songs. Not many have heard these songs outside my immediate circle and the staff at NSAI, I hope "(I Called Her) Tennessee," is going to change all of that!
I met engineer/producer Kelly Schoenfeld of Daredevilproduction.com through a mutual friend, (it's always someone you know). Kelly knew that I had been writing with the band "Heartland) and asked me if I wanted to write with an artist from Alabama that he was producing. I always say yes, which is both a blessing and a curse to me (time management issues).
Kelly showed up at my studio with Tim and his dad and left us alone for a few hours, we talked for awhile and really hit it off. Tim has been playing in bars with his band since he was 14 and was still performing somewhere every week, (reminded me of myself at that age), I was impressed with his talent, dedication and maturity.
Tim wanted to write a song about spring break. I had lived and performed in Fort Lauderdale, FL for 20 years, so I know everything about spring break. We just started writing a song about this high school boy who meets a girl sitting on a UT blanket. We didn't have a hook... Tim threw out the line with "... a thing or three." My mom always uses that expression, but We're from MI, so I wasn't sure... He told me that his dad says that all the time, so that was good enough for me. Then all of a sudden it hit me - "I never knew her name, so I called her Tennessee." We knew the song was solid, but that gave it the extra something - Tim looked at me and grinned - we both knew we had something.
Tim cut that song and released it on his indy CD "Getting There." When Curb singed him four years later, they took the song and the tracks that Kelly produced, and now it's Tim's new single! I have been writing with and for Kelly and his partner Johnny Dwinell and their artists for 4 years now, and I hope that this single charts, and Daredevil really takes off!
Powerful musical tribute shows the lasting impact of a quality leader
Posted on February 18, 2015 by Bryan Wendell in Video // 24 Comments
It doesn’t take much for you, a Scout leader, to have a profound impact on the life of a young person.
Put another way: “The smallest gesture can spark a life.”
In the case of Cub Scout leader and Nashville singer-songwriter Dean Madonia, that leader was a Scoutmaster named Ernest.
Ernest was so special to Madonia that the musician was inspired to write a moving song about the man. It’s called “Doesn’t Take Much Light (To Shine in the Dark),” and it’s written by Dean Madonia and David G Smith.
Watch the song performed by David G Smith below. It’s a reminder that the impact of a quality Scout leader can last a lifetime.
Called my old scoutmaster Ernest J out of the blue
His wife said he’s having a bad day _he’ll be glad to hear from you
Ernest J came on the line _and I talked about
Me growing up poor_ and not having my dad around
I figured out where the money came for summer camp
Because of you those were some of the best days I ever had
I haven’t forgotten and I wanted to tell you that
It’s why I called
The smal-lest gesture can spark a life
Kin-dle the courage to fight the good fight
To get the picture look up at any star
It doesn’t take much light / to shine in the dark
Ernest J your wife tells me you’re not feeling well because
You’ve got something doctors think is Parkinson’s
Yeah, he said, I’ve had it for a few years it’s been rough (like they say)
Some days you’re the windshield__ Some days you’re the bug
Some days I can take it__ Some days not so much
Sometimes I tell myself I’m gonna win
Sometimes I just wanna toss the towel in
On days like today it’s good to get help to
Remind me who I am
Hey Ernest J I’m meeting with my scouts tonight
Gonna set up a telescope and point it at the sky
Put it into focus
Gonna tell em what you always told us
Elton John: Huntsville musicians on the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's best albums and more
Print Email Matt Wake | email@example.com By Matt Wake | firstname.lastname@example.org
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on September 07, 2012 at 10:23 AM, updated September 07, 2012 at 10:25 AM
ELTON JOHN YELLOW
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Elton John is on the minds of local musicians in advance of the singer's Huntsville concert. (File photo)
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Elton John's sense of melody is so deep you could probably hum the liner notes to one his albums and score a Top 20 hit. Plus, the guy has a voice like a sexy female singer's -- think Tina Turner.
When a pop star possesses both of these attributes, it typically makes that person very, very rich. Just ask Rod Stewart. And in case you're wondering, therichest.org estimates John's net worth at $355 million. (Yo, Elton, want to adopt a 40-year-old son?)
In advance of Wednesday's Von Braun Center concert, I asked three local musicians to espouse further on the songs, singing and piano playing that's made Elton John a hitmaker since the days when you could still advertise cigarettes on TV.
Dean Madonia (songwriter, pianist)
Favorite Elton John song: "I'm kind of partial to 'Levon' because it had some meaning for my dad as he was getting older. That song still punches me in the gut when I hear it."
Album: "Even though it's clearly not his best album, I'm partial to 'Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player.' I used to play the piano a lot at school, and a kid whose parents owned a record store stole that tape and gave it to me. He thought I should have it. I didn't have a tape player so I went out and bought a $15 or $20 Radio Shack one, and wore that tape out."
Elton John's niche among '70s superstars: "The thing about Elton is he could take (Bernie Taupin's) lyrics and write a melody and chord changes like nobody. He had a distinctive voice. And that pop sensibility, but it was just artistic enough to be different than everything on the radio."
First memory: "AM radio. When was 'Your Song,' 1970? I was 8 years old in 1970, lived in the country and didn't have a baby sitter and would listen to AM radio all summer, all day. Elton John, Three Dog Night and CCR (Creedence Clearwater Revival) pretty much dominated the radio back in those days."
Dean Madonia plays Jefferson Street Pub (111 Jefferson St.) each Wednesday at 8 p.m. through October.
Jim Parker (singer/songwriter)
Favorite Elton John song: " 'Tiny Dancer'…The imagery, man. It's such a well-crafted song and the interesting thing about Elton John and (lyricist) Bernie Taupin was they really didn't sit together during the writing sessions. Bernie would submit the lyrics and Elton would put it to together and it was beyond me how you couldn't sit face-to-face to co-write and have such genius pour out."
Album: " 'Madman Across the Water.' I was really trying to be a singer-songwriter instead of being a band member, and thought that particular combination of singer and songwriting was amazing. And the arrangements were cool. (John) had steel guitar on (the album), and that was cool. I'm from Texas, so I'd heard steel, but this was steel guitar on pop."
Elton's niche among '70s superstars: "It was more of a singles thing, as opposed to a big band that was four guys slamming away out there, like The Who. It was just Elton."
First memory: "It was probably the (self-titled) 'Elton John' album. 'Your Song' was a big hit, and 'Take Me to the Pilot' and 'Border Song' were on there."
Jim Parker hosts the next installment of his ongoing Songwriters Series at the Von Braun Center Playhouse (700 Monroe St.) on Oct. 5.
Jay Robertson (singer, pianist, The Robertsons)
Favorite Elton John song: "I'd probably have to go with 'Bennie and the Jets.' The whole feel of it -- it had kind of funky groove and combine that with the piano playing, and combine that with the singing. He plays like a songwriter would play, filling in between the vocal lines and not stepping on the vocal melody with piano flourishes."
Album: " 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.' I recommend any musician watch the 'Classic Albums' (documentary) series, and there's one on that (album). I think Elton had a comment in there about how today technology seems to get in the way (of making albums), but, at this time, they were coming in and recording things simple and organic."
Elton's niche among '70s superstars: "It would have to be the melody and song. I love all those other artists, but when you think of Elton you don't think of blazing solos and all that. You think of songs and melodies and being able to sing along to it."
The Local Scene - SANDRA SCHULMAN
December 22, 1995|SANDRA SCHULMAN
Like the sign on the highway says - "Patience pays."
The members of Nectar have been buzzing together since late 1994 after their former bands - Planet Boom and Velvet Revolution - broke up in the same week. "We were all together in the same rehearsal studio bumming out in the hallway," says vocalist Randy Bates. "But then we started eyeing each other's bands for a new lineup."
Bates in particular has had more than his share of the biz's hard knocks. Starting out in Los Angeles, Bates fronted two bands, Talk of War and East of Gideon. The latter signed a bum record deal, played gigs with Nirvana and Lenny Kravitz and promptly broke up. About that time he got a call from Phil Varone of Saigon Kick who asked him to move, oh, just a short distance - to Florida - and start a band with him. That band became Planet Boom.
In the six months they were together, Planet Boom played some great shows and recorded some never-released tunes. They broke up the week they got international publicity, when Varone returned to Saigon Kick.
Guitarist Sean Snyder and drummer/percussionist Chris Johns had been in Velvet Revolution for three years and needed a new direction. They hooked up with bassist Dave Poole, who is a tattoo artist and has left his mark on several band members, and Bates to form Nectar. The band's music is an aggressive combination of alternative rock, metal lite and melodic liquid grooves, given the full sonic treatment on their new self-titled 11 track CD. One thousand copies have been printed. The single Celebration has been the most requested song on Fort Lauderdale's high school station WKPX. Airplay also has extended to stations WZTA, WSHE and University of Miami's WVUM, where the band sat in last Sunday for a live on-air interview with Locals Only major domo Glenn Richards. A video crew caught the whole show, including Bates' MOUTH T-shirt, Chris's gleaming fresh tattoos and Richards pulling out a dusty copy of the only DAT tape in existence of Planet Boom. Clips will make their way into a full length band video.
Nectar has been heavily touring the state, and is making plans for an ASCAP showcase in New Yorkand an appearance at a music conference in Nashville.
On their way to Music City, the band plans an unusual tour of in-store performances at Spec's stores across the state. They also played at a swinging party at the new offices of Pyramid Records (home to The Band, Joe Walsh, Earthrise album) in North Miami two weeks ago.
With all the detours and promises-gone-wrong hopefully behind them, the band celebrates a year together and their new CD tonight at Fort Lauderdale's Crash Club with free drinks, T-shirts and CDs. Drink it in.
Miami Hits 100
I sat in on a panel last week to pick the official song for Miami's centennial birthday coming up in '96. Myself, Joel Levy of Criteria Studios, hit songwriter Desmond Child, manager Kevin Jones and several others chose the song Happy Birthday Miami by Mike Adams (of Fort Lauderdale, go figure) that will be played ad nauseam at all events. You've been warned.
New Year's Tunes
Dean Madonia, formerly of Third Wish, has a few new projects going with a band called Soft Monkey and also as a solo artist. Look for new releases in the spring and lots of local dates.
For New Years there are too many choices, as usual. Coral Springs' New World Cafe has the in sync sounds of Inhouse, The Resistance rocks the Jupiter Civic Center, fave raves Rocket 88 bring down the house rockabilly style at the Sapphire Supper Club in Orlando, Midnite Johnny & Smokestack Lightnin hit the Mo Blues Room in Boynton Beach, Squeeze lets the girls play with JOJ and Pills, Pills, Pills.
It's been a wild year. Y'all, have a happy.
Sandra Schulman's column appears every other week. To rock her world send info to The Local Scene, Entertainment Dept., Sun-Sentinel, 200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, Fl. 33301.
Dean Madonia is a singer/song writer who lives in Nashville. Dean recently released a cd called Shadow To Shadow: Dean Madonia’s Frankenstein. The story is told from the Monster’s point of view, in the present time, as he tries to warn others about the dangers of human cloning. Dean wrote the music, sing and plays on the cd and even did the paintings that are featured on the cd. The song entwine into a rock opera like Tommy or The Wall. I had the pleasure to sitting down and talking to Dean and his guitar player Val Lupescu this past weekend. We talked about his music background, past and present and of course Shadow To Shadow. Join me as I talk to Dean Madonia and Val Lupescu
Dean Madonia is a prog-rock musician originating from Michigan. Dean has spent time in Florida and now makes Nashville his home. Dean recently developed the album "Shadow to Shadow," a concept album about Frankenstein. We talk about concept albums, prog, touring, Marilyn Manson's beginnings, writing songs in Nashville, working on Music Row and come up with a few new slogans for Dean and his guitarist, Val. We listen to a track from the album and Dean and Val treat us to a live performance.