The Music in Me
                                                                  A review by Jay Sorensen

Ok, so The Music in Me cover photo of Joe Santucci looks like a slightly younger Paul McCartney. There, I said it. But that’s pretty good company. 
I’ve known Joe since I played drums (if you can call it playing) in the band he fronted called Saint Productions back in the early ‘70s. I knew I was among talent then, and I certainly know it now. 
I’ve listened to his new album several times (are they still called albums?) I hear something new each time, as I have a critical ear for not only vocals, but the way all of the other sounds mesh on recordings. 
I will start with the power of the tracks, lyrically. You don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate depth and feeling. They sure hit home if you are a Christian.  But let’s talk about the music for a moment.
I had only heard bits and pieces of the compositions for this set that Joe has been working on for several years now. So when I popped the completed work into the CD player (how ‘80s of me) to hear the final mix, I was floored by the absolute power of the instrumentation, the immeasurably beautiful arrangements and yes, the production. Oh; did I mention that VOICE? I know I’ve used the word “power? a few times; with good reason.
Joe was what I called a “singer-songwriter? when we first met. He has always the innate ability to do justice to cover versions of songs, and when he writes his OWN material, I always know it comes from way down deep inside of him. Only now, with maturity and wisdom, he’s put together a bunch of songs that almost smack you upside the head! That’s power.
The CD opens with a song that would have been a huge hit in 1979. “It’s A New Day? is a song you will find yourself singing in your head when you least expect it…and perhaps the stand out track from the album. It has melody and lines that gnaw at your brain, striking all the right chords. 
When I mentioned 1979, I don’t mean that to sound like it’s dated. On the contrary…many of the cuts on this compilation of tunes have a sort of retro-feel, for lack of a better description, and that’s ok! That was done purposely, I would later find out. On “It’s A New Day? (and all of the tracks with horns) have a bright punch, yet not overpowering—and are obviously being played by top-notch players. 
I found out that my instincts were correct when I told Joe the tracks with the funky horns sound like Blood, Sweat & Tears, The Memphis Horns and perhaps the Average White Band in their primes. I was told by Joe, “There’s a reason for that. Steve Jankowski has played with Chicago, The Funk Brothers (the MOTOWN band) and Blood, Sweat & Tears.? So that’s how he got that “sound.? Arranging horns is not an easy task, but Steve got the gutsy players to blast the songs home when called for. For me, the horns draw attention to the feeling in the tunes as if they were live voices! 
Speaking of live voices…I’m a fan of background singers. I’ve always sung those parts out loud while listening to music. It’s almost an instinct. And I was enthralled by the truly marvelous blend that makes up the backing vocals. It’s obvious they feel the “power? of the songs.
Another outstanding feature of this album is the rich slap-bass by Ed “Mr. Funk? James; he’s hands-down astounding. The thundering drums by John Allen are perfect for each of the songs he played on, perfectly matching the groove as a rhythm master.  Overall, many of the tracks with that funky retro feel have pure, unadulterated soul oozing from the speakers. The more rock-leaning tracks are showcases for the guitar work of Don Russo…and his slick licks are evident on virtually every track.
Keyboards are handled by John Drymon, and David Nunez. They help make the overall sound of the tracks they played on cohesive, and finely decorate the rest of the instrumentation. 
When I found out the strings were recorded in a church, I was truly amazed. I detected a natural openness that I couldn’t describe. The late Tom Howard arranged some of the most irresistible strings I’ve heard on the recordings of “You Are Mine?, and “Be Not of This World.? The strings DO sound other-worldly! The church reverberation and arrangements bring them to life. There is something spiritual about how the string players hit my ears.  
I’ve heard the versions of “Funky Lick? for years now. Finally, Joe was able to nail the perfect adaptation…and the wait was worth it! 
The slower tempo songs are uplifting and frankly, beautiful. I’ve not delved into the lyrics yet, but here goes. The one that stands out for me is “Suddenly?…which was written for Joe’s beloved wife June for their 22nd wedding anniversary. Joe sang that for me and my wife Andrea when we renewed our vows a few years back. It’s a simply astonishing, soothing, yet stunning poem about someone who appreciates the love someone gives to another, unconditionally. It means more now that I hear it in recorded form with all of its elegance. If I could write music and lyrics like this, I’d be a billionaire. 
Joe managed to finish the album with another great melody and lyric to “Donna.? The song tells of someone who’s been hitting the bar scene just a bit much, looking for something, only to find that spirituality is the key to happiness and redemption.
Finally, there is Joe’s voice. It’s like fine wine…it’s matured with age and has a texture that is strong, yet tender and sincere all at once. Joe has the ability to extend his range when necessary to bring a point home. I’ve always thought that his vocal dexterity is among the best I’ve ever heard, including yours, Sir Paul.  
You are going to listen to The Music in Me over and over like I did, and find something new each time you push play. I sure hope that Joe’s follow-up recording doesn’t take too long next time, because he’s certainly got a lifetime of music in him!
Here’s that word again to describe this selection of well thought out songs: powerful!
BE BIG!  

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