DAN MASTROIANNI-TEARS AND WHISPERS.
DAN MASTROIANNI-TEARS AND WHISPERS.
All too often, an album fails to find the audience it deserves first time round. This can be a result of a number of reasons. The albums was released on the wrong label, it wasn’t promoted properly or it was too far ahead of its time. There can be any number of reasons. Time and time again I’ve written about these albums. Often, it’s hard to believe that these albums weren’t released to widespread commercial success and critically acclaim. Sadly, often it’s only much later that these albums are appreciated. Another example is Dan Mastroianni’s Tears and Whispers, which was recently rereleased by BBE Records as part of their Masters We Love series. In their press release Tears and Whispers is described as a unique album. That’s no exaggeration.
When Tears and Whispers was released in 1984, it was described as an experimental and innovative album. That’s apparent from the opening bars of Lead On, right through to the closing note of When You Say Goodnite. The eight tracks find Dan Mastroianni constantly pushing musical boundaries. To do that Dan, a talented keyboardist embraced musical technology. However, he didn’t turn his back on traditional musical methods.
No. Tears and Whispers is a marriage of musicians and technology. To augment the synths, sequencers, keyboards and drum machines Dan had amassed, he brought onboard some of his musical friends. The result was Tears and Whispers, a compelling melting pot of soul, funk, boogie and even psychedelic synths that was recorded in 1984.
The story behind Tears and Whispers begins in 1984. That’s when Dan Mastroianni set about recording his debut album Tears and Whispers. It featured eight tracks written by Dan. He was a talented keyboardist, who embraced the new musical technology.
That’s apparent throughout Tears and Whispers. During the eight tracks, Dan plays keyboards and synths. He also programmed drum machines and sequencers. Dan used samples on Tears and Whispers. Especially, horn and drum samples. This makes Dan Mastroianni one of the pioneers of samples. He was way ahead of the musical curve. However, Dan was still something of a traditionalist. Augmenting Dan’s technology were some of his musician friends.
For the recording of Tears and Whispers, Dan brought onboard his brother John Mastroianni. John played flute and saxophone. Al Shulick played drums, and arranged the drums and percussion with Sam Eckhardt and Dan. Vocalists included George “Cooter” McCallister and Dave Smith. These were the only musicians to feature on Tears and Whispers. Mostly, Tears and Whispers was Dan’s musical “baby” He arranged Tears and Whispers and produced the album with Sam Eckhardt. Tears and Whispers was released later in 1984.
Tears and Whispers was released as a private pressing in 1984. It was a fusion of man and machine. Musicians and technology became one. The result was a genre-melting album of experimental, groundbreaking music. Boogie, funk, soul and psychedelia synths all melt into one on Tears and Whispers. There was a problem though.
Maybe, just maybe, Tears and Whispers was way ahead of the musical curve? Here was another case of an album that if it was released a couple of years laters, might have much more successful. Sadly, Tears and Whispers, failed commercially. What didn’t help was that Tears and Whispers was a private pressing.
With private pressings, the labels haven’t the same resources as a major label. Sometimes, the label is owned by the artist. It’s sometimes been setup for the release of this one album. This means that it’s unlikely that the album will reach a much wider audience. Often though, the release will be only a short run, maybe one or two thousand copies. In this case, the best the artist can hope is that the album is picked up by a bigger label. Sadly, Tears and Whispers disappeared without trace.
Since then, thirty years have passed. Just like many albums, Tears and Whispers has belatedly found an audience. It’s only now, that people realise just how groundbreaking an album Tears and Whispers is. Sadly, copies of Tears and Whispers were extremely rare. Copies were few and far between. When they came up for sale, the price was prohibitive to most people. Then BBE Records announced they were rereleasing Tears and Whispers. Belatedly, Dan Mastroianni’s Tears and Whispers can now be heard by a wider audience. They can enjoy Tears and Whispers, which I’ll now tell you about.
Tears and Whispers opens with Lead On. Dramatic drums and swells of synths rise up. Then banks edgy keyboards make their presence felt. So do drums and a fluttering bass. George “Cooter” McCallister adds a hurt-filled, needy vocal. Harmonies accompany him, adding to the soulful sound. Meanwhile, synths beep, squeak and then gradually, rise towards a crescendo. That’s the signal for this delicious fusion of blue-eyed soul meets boogie to kick loose, before reaching a dramatic ending.
Thirty years ago, You and I would be described as new age soul. It was very different to much of the soul being released. In fact, it was very different to much of the music being released in 1984. Oozing quality, emotion and beauty, You and I features a soul searching vocal from Dave Smith. He delivers it against an arrangement that comes courtesy of a a myriad of synths and banks of keyboards. This allows Dan the opportunity to dawn the role of musical alchemist. He unleashes some spellbinding solos. They veer between dramatic to thoughtful and wistful. It’s the perfect foil for the soulful delights of Dave Smith’s vocal.
A Million and One bursts urgently into life and a magical musical adventure unfolds. This urgency reminds me of the White Rabbit at the start of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. What follows is akin to a lysergic trip through the looking glass. Swells of synths, banks of synths and an uber funky bass line join drums and shimmering harmonies. They’re the backdrop for George’s urgent, soulful vocal. Later, a braying swirling saxophone is added as boogie, funk and soul combine seamlessly to create a dance-floor friendly track.
Slow, soulful and sultry described Shine. George’s scatted vocal gives the way to the sultry sound of a saxophone. When it drops out, George’s heartfelt, needy vocal enters. Sometimes, his vocal becomes a jazzy scat. All the time, drums provide the heartbeat. Later, harmonies float in. However, it’s George’s vocal and John’s saxophone that play starring roles in what’s the most soulful track on Tears and Whispers.
Stabs of keyboards linger, adding to the emotion in Dave’s vocal on Blame It On Love. They’re part of what looks like an understated arrangement. That’s until Dan throws a curveball. Then the arrangement bursts into life. It becomes an irresistible explosion of joy, emotion and hooks. This reminds me of Dan Hartman. Providing the backdrop to Dave’s vocal is Dan. He dawns the role of one man band. Banks of keyboards and synths take charge. He unleashes some peerless solos. Later, drums and blazing horns augment Dan’s one man band during this irresistible, hook-laden track.
Tears and Whispers sees the tempo drop and things get deeply soulful. George take charge of the vocal. It’s full of emotion and soulfulness. Dan provides the backdrop for the vocal. His keyboards and synths provide a multilayered arrangement. Drums provide the heartbeat and like the saxophone, add to the drama. They frame George’s vocal as he revels in the role of troubled troubadour.
Just One Touch is another boogie track. From the get-go, the arrangement bursts into life. Keyboards, synths and drums propel the arrangement along. Unlike previous tracks, the two vocalists feature. George and Dave are like yin and yang, complimenting each other perfectly. They drive each other to greater heights of soulfulness. This seems to spur Dan on. He unleashes some of his best solos on Tears and Whispers. When George and Dave return, this solo spurs them on. They surpass their previous efforts on this soulful slice of boogie.
When You Say Goodnite closes Tears and Whispers. The swathes of synths give the track a cinematic sound. So does the flute that swirls above the arrangement. It’s very different from the rest of Tears and Whispers. Then it’s all change. Rolls of drums and George’s urgent, melancholy vocal combine. A slapped bass and rolls of drums makes their presence felt. They add to the drama and emotion on this wistful fusion of electronica, funk and soul.
Belatedly, Dan Mastroianni’s debut album Tears and Whispers can be heard by a wider audience. Previously, copies of Tears and Whispers were extremely rare. Dan had released Tears and Whispers as a private pressing. This meant, that Tears and Whispers was a limited run. Very few copies seem to change hands. When they did, the price of a copy of Tears and Whispers was beyond most people. That was a great shame, because many people were desperate to hear Tears and Whispers.
Over the past few years, interest in Tears and Whispers was growing. A few discerning music lovers had discovered copies of Tears and Whispers. Soon, the word was out. Tears and Whispers was another hidden gem. It had lain undiscovered for nearly thirty years. Then the story got even more interesting.
Last year, 2013, a track from Tears and Whispers, Just One Touch, featured on Americana 2, a compilation released by BBE Records. This resulted in even more interest in Tears and Whispers. Suddenly, it was obvious, there was a new audience who were hungrily awaiting a rerelease of Tears and Whispers.
Nearly a year later, and BBE Records have rereleased Dan Mastroianni’s debut album Tears and Whispers. This is just in time to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Tears and Whispers. Listening to Tears and Whispers, it’s hard to believe that Dan Mastroianni recorded the album in 1984. It’s a truly timeless album that was way ahead of the musical curve. However, innovative is only one half of the story.
The music on Tears and Whispers is experimental. Dan a talented keyboardist, pioneered the use of samples, sequencers, synths and drum machines. This resulted in Tears and Whispers’ experimental and innovative sound. Experimentation and innovation are the two threads that run through Tears and Whispers. They’re constants. So is the quality of the vocal and musicianship. All this meant that Tears and Whispers should’ve transformed Dan Mastroianni’s career.
Sadly, that wasn’t the case. This wasn’t helped by the fact that Dan decided that Tears and Whispers should be a private pressing. With private pressings, the labels haven’t the same resources as a major label. This means that it’s unlikely that the album will reach a much wider audience. That was the case with Dan Mastroianni’s Tears and Whispers.
As a result, Dan Mastroianni’s groundbreaking and experimental fusion of man and machine Tears and Whispers, failed commercially. Thirty years later, and somewhat belatedly, Tears and Whispers, Dan Mastroianni’s debut album is receiving the critical acclaim it so richly deserves. Even better, Tears and Whispers is being heard by the wider audience it deserves. No longer is Dan Mastroianni’s Tears and Whispers a hidden gem awaiting discovery.
DAN MASTROIANNI-TEARS AND WHISPERS.