Tony Moreno, Frankie Moreno, photo credit: Mark Knopf
This article was originally published in "The Best of Frankie Tease Magazine Vol.2" during 2013, via iTunes, Amazon, Nook.
Frankie Moreno (35) is a Father, brother, and musical star who is becoming a household name in Vegas and around the world. His talent is on showcase four nights a week, one show a night, at the 300 seat remodeled showroom atop the Stratosphere Hotel. The showroom has a lot of booths and feels spacious. The 1148 ft. hotel (9th tallest free standing structure in U.S., tallest in Vegas) has just celebrated with Moreno the show's one year anniversary Nov. 19. The success of the show is a milestone and followed the release of his self-titled album Sept. 19. 2012 is proving to be a big one when you add his spectacular three minute appearance on Dancing with the Stars (ABC) Oct. 9th. Moreno garnered a whole new group of music fans when he performed his own song "Tangerine Honey" combined with "Wild One" along with dancer and choreographer Lacey Schwimmer (who made the introduction of Moreno to producers). To say the least, the man stays busy. But he and his band have been wowing crowds for over a decade in Vegas, this just seems like the next stage of the evolution of an icon.
It was time for me to get an interview with Moreno as rumors swelled in Vegas of his new role as producer of a sexy evening show with a pin-up theme. In fact, it's called "Pin-Up". I had never seen Frankie Moreno live, and after everything was arranged, here is how it all went.
I walked into the stratosphere camera and notepad in hand armed with music-focused questions of this composer, singer, and piano man. I chatted with the bartender who was one of many people I met at the Stratosphere very proud to work for the "Frankie Moreno Live" Show. They were all still excited about working at his show and he'd already been there a year, a pretty great sign.
My contact led me down a hall and into what is one of the darkest rooms I've ever seen. The green room is affectionately known as the black room, adorned with Moreno's favorite trinkets, a wet bar, as well as tons of animal print in the first room. The adjoining room houses his Baldwin grand piano (not baby grand), one of many companies that sponsors Moreno. I sat a minute and then he came in. The tall and slender man shook my hand and offered me a drink as I told him it was "so dark in here I feel like we're on a date". He laughed. I sipped my little plastic shooter of Crown Royal whiskey (not bad!), yet another company that he is sponsored by. I started my questioning with the topic of the new show and went from there.
6:30pm The Interview
Tell us about your new Burlesque Show at the Stratosphere.
It's not really a burlesque show. The new show is called "Pin Up". It's kind of like a 40's theme. If there is burlesque in it, it'll be authentic burlesque, not Las Vegas burlesque. They kind of lost the art of it. It's more of a variety show. It was going in that direction at first, then we said let's go more like some of the "Bob Hope Special".
FT: Where were you born and raised?
FM: Santa Cruz California. I grew up there and moved out when I was 19, to Nashville.
FT: I've heard a little bit of country occasionally in your music, is that right?
FM: I was doing - I hate to say 50's and 60's rock 'n roll - because I was writing my own music, but it was that vibe, it was very rockabilly, but not rockabilly. Like actual Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, 1950's music.
FT: [I interrupt] Is Jerry Lee Lewis one of your piano heroes?
FM: Yes he was for a long time, I mean, he still is, but I've opened my horizons. Harry Conick Jr. is a fantastic piano player. He got real coined in what he does, but he's actually a phenomenal piano player. He's sick! Where a lot of people... like Elvis Presley, I wouldn't call him a guitar player. I'm a huge Elvis fan. But, he used it kind of like a prop. He played three cords, he's not a guitarist. He was an entertainer.
FT: How is it playing two instruments and highly developing skills with singing and piano? You are literally spectacular at both.
FM: I play every instrument. [I gasp] I play every single one. I just play a couple on stage. They wanted me to do like - play them all on stage. I said no. It's very Barbara Mandrell-ish. And kind of Wayne Newton does that in his show, and I just didn't want to become the Vegas "look at me, look what I can do." The only reason I'm playing guitar in the show is because certain songs I write on the guitar, and it makes more sense to me on the guitar, the song calls for it. Like I do a song in my show called "Moonlight Matinee". Some songs just call for the acoustic guitar sound, and certain songs call for the piano, you know.
FT: How did you discover your knack for mixing modern ideas with old style sounds of music? That's a real juxtaposition.
FM: I guess I've been doing that since nine years old when I started writing music. I just always wanted to write music. I first wrote on piano. Writing music to me has always been - growing up in Santa Cruz - it's all about being creative, and new and different. It's about being creative and unique. My first instincts on life was just to do something no one else had done yet. Even at nine, ten years old when I started writing, I wanted it to sound like Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. I wanted people who were fans of them to hear my stuff and say "oh that's a new song." There were all these guys coming out with stuff - I don't know if you remember guys like Orien or Mickey Gilley was not a new guy, he's Jerry Lee Lewis' cousin - and he was doing the same thing Jerry Lee Lewis was doing (sings piano pattern) but new songs. So I'm like that's what I want to do, that old sound, but new songs. So, I started doing that. But when people tried to categorize my music, they couldn't because it's not old music 50's 60's, it's new music.
FT: You also go genre hopping which you're very clever at.
FM: But only because no one knows where to put me. So, I moved to Nashville because I was like well, I guess this is kinda country. So I moved to Nashville and they were like "this is too rock 'n roll" so I moved to Vegas and they're like "we don't have originals here." So I started lying and going "this is by Matchbox 20. This is an old song by Ray Charles you never heard before." No one had any idea, and I did that for a decade.
FT: What was your favorite haunt before you began your show at the Stratosphere?
FM: I had good times every place I played. I played a long time at this little bar at the Golden Nugget. We would pack it and fill the place up. Here it's different, there's lights and production. I have to kind of stay on a schedule, however - if you watch our show, it's very candid. Everyone is following me. We don't know what's going to happen.
FT: You said that you like to change it up.
FM: I have to. I change it all the time. I am locked in a sense that once we start playing the song, I can't stray from the song too much, like "more solos, more solos" - because the lighting cues - so I'm a little handcuffed in that department. But, as far as the shows, it's very candid. When we used to play in the bars you're talking about, that was just whatever happens. Each night was different. Most the videos from the Golden Nugget were taken in a series of one week. They look like it's been over a longer time. It just happened, it was just in that vibe at the time. We were doing blues and some Bruce Hornsby at that time. I love all types of music, but I grew up on classical, Elvis, Glen Miller.
FT: You cut your chops in Vegas for ten years, what made you want to stay? Did you realize that the audience was here for you?
FM: I started touring a lot and it became a place where it was nice to have a place where I can come and play regularly, and fill up a room. Because not only will you get locals, you'll get tourists. In Santa Cruz if I play the same room four nights in a row, they're not all going to come. You'll see the show tonight and if you love it, you wouldn't necessarily come back tomorrow. You might come back Friday. [door knocking- a tall man enters] That's my brother Tony.
FT: Hi Tony. Let's talk about your brothers. Is your writing team with your two brothers your secret back-up plan? I mean you have an amazing collaboration going. It has brought us a lot of music.
FM: You know how people make jokes about "you're either a Beatles or an Elvis fan?" We grew up being very much of both. My dad was really into Elvis. I loved Elvis as an entertainer, but Elvis doesn't write songs. I mean he's got his name on a couple, but he didn't really write songs. So, the Beatles really turned me on because of their song writing. So we wanted to do like - "what if Elvis had like a John Lennon Paul McCartney thing going on where they were writing, imagine how big he'd be?" You know what I mean? So we go like, "we're definitely like an Elvis on stage, but let's form our little Beatles within the band." So it's like the Beatles and Elvis together that's what we're going for. And all the Beatles things where they go to India to write and get inspired? We started going to different countries, and just coming up with all kinds of different ideas in different countries.
FT: I've been to Vienna, Austria, and I heard it's one of your favorite places to write. What's your favorite haunt in Vienna?
FM: You've been? Wow, I love Vienna. The coolest thing for me in Vienna, we like doing the stupid stuff to write music. Like, going to the parks that Beethoven and Mozart went to write in. Au Graten Park. St. Stevens Cathedral, or Stephensplatz.
Tony: The Opera House, of course.
FM: So this really is one of those inspired places for you? How many times have you been?
FM: I've been to Vienna, I don't know- half a dozen times. But we go and we'll sit in front of that church and late at night one am, we'll bring a guitar, just sit out there and write. We'll go to places like that or Florence (Italy) just to be inspired and write songs.
FT: What is Frankie Moreno Day in Vegas, Sept. 19th all about?
FM: It's the day they named for me in Vegas. It was the date of our album release.
FT: Oh, when is your birthday?
FM: But my birthday is February 7th, the same day as Babe Ruth and Garth Brooks. I'm an Aquarius. [Someone walks in] That's my brother Ricky.
FT: Oh, when is your birthday?
FM: But my birthday is February 7th, the same day as Babe Ruth and Garth Brooks. I'm an Aquarius. [Someone walks in] That's my brother Ricky.
FT: The shy one. Can I call you shy Ricky?
Ricky: Yeah I'm very shy, actually [He exits the room - we all laugh].
FT: He's not in the show?
FM: He's in the show kinda, like silly comedy stuff. The three of us write everything. Even if you know, I get an idea and I write most of it in my head, I still bring it to them. And the same with them. If they get something and it's almost finished, we'll still bring it to the table so all of us can work on it.
FT: Is it my imagination or do you love minor chords?
FM: I love deep lyrics, which usually goes more sad. I just love that. I love being touched by a song. Minor, that's going back to classical roots. Sad is minor. I use a lot of minor. We're really big on lyrics, and I guess that's why we get coined country a lot. Everything is about the lyric and the story and the picture kind of thing. I'm like a humongous Mozart fan. There's no lyrics in those songs. There are melodies. But you can tell what he's talking about through the melodies.
FT: Have you ever been listening to Mozart and thought of an idea for a song?
FM: Almost all my songs. The melody needs to set up what you're trying to say. If the song is called "You Broke My Heart", it's not happy. You put it in a minor key and you make it dark. And then you write your lyric around that. So, if you take the lyrics out of it, the song still makes you feel sad. And if you take the song out of it, the lyric has to work. Everything has to work together.
FT: So when you listen to classical you can understand what they're saying?
FM: I try. Or at least I imagine what they're saying. But I studied enough to know what they were trying to talk about. Like "this guy's talking about the ocean."
FT: It sounds like you started writing before you started learning about music.
FM: For me it's more melodic. Tony is more - we all do equal in everything - But, I would say the strong points are he's more lyrical, and I'm more melodic. Ricky's more melodic.
FT: Have you done any film scores yet?
FM: "B" film scores and student films yes. When I was living in Nashville I did a lot of television. I've written full-out symphonies.
FT: Do you write in traditional manner with charts?
FM: If it's something that needs that I will. But if it's something where we're just jammin' on the guitar I won't.
Tony: He'll arrange all the strings and the horns too.
FM: That's what's cool about this show for me. Everything on that stage, there's ten players, there's crew, all that stuff. The three of us sat down on a beach in Mexico or on the sand in front of a pyramid, or in the snow in front of a snowman and wrote an idea. We took that idea and I think we're different in this respect: as we're writing an idea, we're not just writing a song. I hear the horns and the strings we hear what we want it to be on stage. It's done. By the time we bring it here, I'll sit with the band and I'll write out the horn chart and the string chart. Everything we wrote - when you hear the trumpet hit this note, or the guitar hit this note - everything is from our brain.
FT: It's got to be satisfying how organic it is.
FM: That's the thing. When we're standing there at the end of the show going "tah dah". If people don't like it, it's okay because I'm givin' it my 100%, and it's real. If I cooked a dinner and it's my favorite thing and you go "I hate this" well... but if I cooked a dinner and you hate it because I used a recipe I've never tried, and this person told me to do this, it's like "I'm sorry it's not what I wanted to do". No. This is what I've got.
Myself, and Frankie Moreno and cast at pre-show rehearsal.
photo credit: Frankie Tease
FT: It sounds like your inspiration for writing songs comes from all different places.
FM: The inspiration truly comes from either life things that have happened, or stuff from people that we know around us. Or what we like to do a lot too is flip flop. If we just heard a story from a friend who's girlfriend just left him, we'll flip flop that story, and make it a happy story. When you see what we do, we've changed our show recently, so it's a lot different. What we're doing in the show now, it sounds very modern, but it has that feel like if you were watching a show 1965, Bobby Darren. It's kind of a journey.
Tony: It's a party.
FT: Did you really get a gift from Dancing with the Stars of a piano? What's the story on that, and why did you want this particular piano?
FM: Well I kind of went in on it with them. It's a long story. It's looks like it's marble. You'll see. This piano in here (in the Black Room) was given to me as a gift from Baldwin.
FT: Are they all baby grands?
FM: They are full grands. They're grands.
FT: Oh, you don't mess with the baby grands, I see.
FM: I have a Yamaha Grand at home, I have Baldwin Grand, this one is custom. I have about a half-dozen pianos.
FT: You have a no walls show. You have complete support and a commitment from the venue, and I saw your Vegas Video Network "Talk Tales" interview with Chris back in 2011. Was your family friend Peggy Armstrong helpful in getting this deal? How did it take place.
FM: She just did stuff like helping with some of the instruments we needed for the show and stuff like that. Yeah, no one is doing that anymore [fully sponsoring artists]. When I came here I had already toured with some big names. I had already done a lot of stuff. In town all I was doing was lounges. But I was doing world-tours with Sting. I had written a lot of songs. I wrote a hit song - Number Seven - for Air Supply that basically paid my bills. It sold thousands and thousands of albums. Financially I was fine. So that's why when I came in here I was like "this is a gamble for me too". It's a gamble for the Stratosphere because no one has heard of this guy, and he's doing new original music. It just made no sense.
FT: And you hadn't released your album yet when you were signed.
FM: Right. I just released my album (Sept. 2012) and then did Dancing with the Stars and [makes an explosion sound]. We're half way to gold already. We're trying to make it about music. If you're going to go on stage, do something we haven't seen, yet familiar. You're going to look at my show and you'll be reminded of 50 different people. But yet, it's different.
FT: You've obviously grown into the persona that you are now, it took a minute.
FM: Yeah, we'd been doing exactly what I'm doing for years. But when you're in a lounge, people just give it a different thing. You know what I mean. I was wearing this and playing a lounge [points to his pre-show jeans]. I started working with Sony records, and they said "start wearing suits". So, for a year before I came here I started wearing a suit, and putting the band in suits. We were like, this is working out. And then we were at the Palms and they [from Stratosphere] came and saw us doing exactly this show. This show's a lot better here because of the lighting, and the production. We have a production value to it. It's funny because it took someone going "yeah I believe in this".
FT: Which is rare these days, but then again is talent more rare these days?
FM: I don't know if talent is rare. I don't think people work as hard for it as much as they used to, because you don't need to now. It's image and what you're wearing. I do all the stuff you're supposed to do to be popular I guess, you know, but I don't care about any of that. I do it because I love music. Whether the Stratosphere gave me a deal, or I'm sitting at home playing my grand piano. I'm still gonna play music. I just love it. It's about my songs.
As we concluded the 15 minute interview (turned 25 min.) Moreno sat at the piano to play a few licks while I took photos. He starts with "Chopstix" and then rolls into some lightening quick ragtime music. I thought about how strong those hands must be. There is no one that could be happier than this piano man when he's playing, and very few are as charming or handsome to boot. I ask for a set-list. I was escorted to the showroom to watch the sound-check. As I got the set list, all three Moreno Brothers (Frankie, Tony, Ricky) had signed it. They sure know how to treat the press. After sound check Moreno invited me to stay for the after-party where there'd be a lot of drinking. A theme that seems to run through the Moreno society.
8:00 pm The Show
As the show room fills up for Thanksgiving Eve 2012, I watch the Frankie Moreno videos up on the screen about the brothers, jokes of Tony and Frankie tweeting each other and other such media. I checked my set list and tried to contain my excitement because the opening number listed was "Jungle Book". This was one of my all time favorite swing songs I'd danced to in Hollywood for years. Meanwhile as seats filled, I caught a photo of four V.I.P's sitting in the center most booth. It just happened to be Ricky Moreno, Daddy Moreno, Mother Moreno and journalist John Katsilometes. Later I found out that the Moreno parents attend every show from this booth. It's a family affair, and they get the best seat in the house. Why not? They made the guy.
Ricky Moreno, Daddy Moreno, Mother Moreno, Johnny Kats
Photo credit: Frankie Tease
The lights dim, applause rings out, and the big band becomes visible on the spaciously large modern stage. Two violins and a cellist, a guitar player, three horns, a drummer, and Tony Moreno on electric bass fill the stage. A spotlight follows Frankie Moreno stepping in from stage right to the center mic to a steady bass-beat drum. "I'm the king of swingin', I'm a jungle V.I.P. ... Ooo be doo I want to be like you, I wanna walk like you, talk like you do" mixes with a light show and sexy Elvis moves to jump-start this crowd. The dark-haired baritone wastes no time with his opening number showing us what we're in for. Two verses in, a waitress comes in stage left and sets a tray with shots on the piano. Nothing but the drum accompanies Moreno passing out shots to the band. The drummer plays on until coaxed to just stop and take his medicine. The crowd applauds the momentary silence as the drummer does his Crown Royal whiskey shot and Moreno asks us "you ready for a great show? Happy Thanksgiving Eve". The song resumes into an interlude of "Sing Sing Sing" - another great choice with this skilled band - while Moreno delves into the piano situated center stage. His tinkering becomes chops with sides of hand, as he digs into illustrating the piano skills he's famous for. Here is an opening number I won't ever forget.
Another swingin' number scored by the Moreno Brothers is next called "Tangerine Honey". This is one of those songs that really will stick with you. Piano and vocals mix with the big band producing a rich complex musical atmosphere as the horns swell and Frankie's hips gyrate to "she can really put the spice in the night, she can show you how wrong can be right". We continue to be seduced by the piano opening the next original number alone slowly joined by gorgeous horns and strings. "I'm Sorry" (conceptually the only thing a woman wants to hear from her man) brings luscious tones in a song that's both a lament and ray of hope for a very personal relationship. Gorgeous solos from lead violinist Jennifer Lynn make it so delectable I forget about the first two songs (temporarily).
Massive lighting changes keep the power-punch going with the dark and mysterious "Black Mascara". A song that packs a modern punch with lyrics like the "blowing off the radar- freaky like a porn star", the band was rockin' that house with a massive sound. The idea that this is an original composition is something important. As this modern artist carries on the tradition of great music with such precision adding his own new style, hope springs eternal. We are spared from the adrenaline high for a minute and lead next to a quiet and classic cover in "Daydream". A piano and guitar strum meets a gasp of familiarity from the crowd at the first few notes - it's that popular. "What a day for a daydream, what a day for a day-dreamin' boy, and I'm lost in a daydream, dreamin' bout my bundle of joy" Moreno croons while tinkling the ivories. This is what the term crowd-pleaser is all about.
Frankie Moreno and show cast, photo credit: Frankie Tease
Pretty soon Moreno says "Dino"! and an aging bald man in stagehand black comes out with a tray and a bottle of Crown Royal. A welcome Rat Pack tribute, Moreno starts with a shot and asks the audience (to my shock), "Who wants a refill? You gotta bring your own glass though." A half a dozen people rush the stage and one lucky fan gets to keep the bottle once its emptied. You have to admit, entertainers rarely pour the audience a drink, how fun. We are led into another recognizable hit cover "Bridge Over Troubled Water" handled masterfully by the horns and string sections. A little video break comes on to tell us how the songs are conceived showing the three brothers in a gondola in Florence Italy. Next, to our surprise Moreno is in the audience as the song opens with him strumming on the acoustic guitar for "Moonlight Matinee". "You're lookin' Hollywood how can I look away? A starlet attitude in everything that you don't say" he sings and soon heads for the stage. Catching me and my camera off-guard, Moreno turns to me and says "how do you like the show so far"? Before thinking I yell over the music "I love you" and then turned bright red as I thought "I mean I love your music." The band joins in to move into a very upbeat number "I Think About You", showing some of those Nashville roots with wonderful vocal highs and lows.
We're met with another video about the song's conception before "Missin You" commences. The number features luscious muted trumpet by Chandler Judkins, among other treats. It's time for some swing again, my favorite. An amazing rendition to stir my heart of "Birth of the Blues" rings out. Wow. New Orleans is in the house as the horn section joined by third brother in the Moreno team, and writer Ricky Moreno, stroll through the crowd surrounding us by a massive sound. I'm delighted and soaking up the jazz touch.
Just as we're recovering from all the excitement, we get an absolutely stirring rendition of "Elanor Rigby" as Moreno displays his roots in and love of the Beatles. Lindsey Springer masterfully executes the cello and Moreno carefully navigates the piano on this complicated world-class story that took on new meaning for me after hearing it live with Moreno. Rich and magnificent, this version lingers with me today. The closing number is about to eclipse the opener as mighty band leader Moreno saddles into "Wild One" bringing the audience to its feet. A one-man piano circus ensues and it's an eyeful. Moreno proceeds to do poses I never thought possible while playing piano including standing on the piano and laying upside down while he plays. At the same time he never misses a note. He's totally done this before. The ovation is thunderous and like many, I thought about how and when I'd return to the show, and who I must bring.
Frankie Moreno, photo credit: Frankie Tease
Frankie jumps off stage exiting the showroom quickly to mingle with exited show goers, take photos with fans, and offer Moreno merchandise and autographs. Several people begin to hang out in the lobby in anticipation of the after-invite. We stand and chat loudly. Energy still on high, we are led down a long hollow Stratosphere corridor to the atmospheric black room. Members of the band, select fans, and Johnny Kats form the after-party set to loud hip-hop music. Crown Royal drinks are poured and mingling is in full swing. I also get to see the guitar that Moreno loves up-close. It has a scenic airbrush of Salzburg Austria on the face of its blonde wood. Gorgeous. There is a fan who tells me how jealous of me he was because I got to take pictures during the show. Several band members and returning guests invited directly by Frankie post-show fill the room. Some Vegas locals tell me stories of how many times they've been to the show. As things finally wind down, we all make our exits and I am gifted with a Moreno CD, and other gorgeous keepsakes. As I leave the Stratosphere backstage, I am riding on a Moreno high. What's that? Well it's something that this story won't do justice to, and you have to experience in this lifetime. I'm just sayin'. Like Moreno says to conclude his rendition of "Wild One" "My name is Frankie Moreno and I'm damn sure here to stay".
Frankie Moreno Backstage, photo credit: Frankie Tease
The Album Review
After seeing the Frankie Moreno Live show at the Stratosphere Thanksgiving Eve, I became a new fan of the man and the band. A writer, a thinker, a ridiculously intuitive entertainer, and someone that can give you the chills many times in one night from sheer talent, I buckled into the task of reviewing his first self-titled album. No pressure. The album is a completely different experience and feeling than seeing the band live. The album also totally captures the feeling of the band live. Let me explain.
The live show is a mix of massive musical hits that are highly recognizable to the audience (swing, blues, rock) and the original music that the Moreno Brothers compose while abroad every year. The originals in the show are stand-outs for those of us who thrive on new music. The album is nothing but pure Moreno goodness with piano and vocal front-man Frankie Moreno displaying the skills of his musical depth, which have no limits. What I found is that there were three different albums within this album. Here they are.
I began listening to the 11 song album of originals in the car on the way home from the show. Still buzzing from the experience, I immediately wanted to section off certain songs to keep the high upbeat energy of the Frankie Moreno Live Show going. Songs I'd heard live I wanted to hear first. My after-show playlist from the album would be tracks five, six, and 10... I'd just heard these live and in that order on the playlist (among the rest of the show's set). "I'm Sorry", "Black Mascara", and "Tangerine Honey" are the most dramatic songs, most vintage arrangements musically, and they conjured great memories of times dancing - they stood out. More about those in a minute.
Every single song on the album brings the quality of Frankie Moreno's gorgeous addictive baritone vocal talent, with clever meaningful lyrics that explore various states of being in love, (or lust) and the journey of life. Every song articulates what we cannot, with great style. This combined with addictive rhythms and melodies, a skilled back-up band, and originality, yet familiarity, makes for an album that Frankie told me was "half way to gold" after his appearance on Dancing with the Stars in October, 2012. It's no surprise.
The Album's Core, Tracks: 1,2,3,4,7
Album opener "A Million Roads" is a song that could be heard on any radio anywhere in America, anytime U.S.A. A great travelling sing-a-long about the journey of life. Lovely voice dips (almost yodeling at times) and a wide vocal range between highs and lows reminded me of another great favorite of mine, Chris Isaak. Then classic stuff like "Moonlight Matinee" carefully paints a picture of cherished late-nights in young love we have all experienced. The rambling guitar and piano parts on "Story" mixed with those tender vocals and delectable, catchy lyrics like "this is a story of forever, the time that I want us to be together" would make anyone sigh. Piano-intro-ed, and waltz-timed "Beautiful" quickly conjures a Beatleesque quality, then launches into a full melodic chorus with "b-b-baby, just keep on doin' what you do, 'cause it makes me feel beautiful too", so Elvis. Loved that. "Missin' You" hearkens to a love lost and the valid sentimentality that comes with the clarity of hindsight, and the hope that it's not over. Lovely guitar and horns are featured.
The Album's Break-Up Songs, Tracks: 8, 9,11
Some of the Capitol Years of Sinatra brought us whole albums of break-up songs like Only the Lonely. "Gotta Move On" is on the 'album within album' of stellar break-up songs, as well as "Just a Memory". A candid love song with gorgeous delicate piano and drums, with a little hint of country ballad in its style as in "with each word we slip farther away". Again helping define those moments we can't deny take place in the process of love, Just A Memory has some very Beatlesque guitar licks that were tantalizing. "Never Mine" offers classic piano and lyrics like: "chasing sunlight 'cross the cold and lonely sky". The song rings out with gorgeous cello and violin parts elevating it higher and higher as it escalates to "there's nothin' left to say". Just gorgeous stuff, which made me long to hear it live.
The Blockbusters, My favorites: Tracks: 5,6,10
"I'm Sorry" showcases the piano man, and ads a rock vibe and big band horns to create a rich atmosphere which wrangled me in immediately. "How can anyone fight on a night like tonight?" sets the scene, and we journey to I'm Sorry with every luscious note from the backing band. If a rainbow had sound, this may be the audio for the visual. Half-way through the live show I was loving the song: "Black Mascara", said to be written on an Egypt trip. This song hearkens to an amazing Jazz classic called Caravan. The beckoning words, the minor key, and the progression to a major key in the chorus have the same style but with a completely contemporary modern feel. This is the new Caravan for me, thanks Moreno Brothers (Caravan was composed by Jaun Tizol and first played by Duke Ellington '36). Horns and chunky guitar stirred with violin and cello accents sound like a journey into the unknown, and then burst into "gotta find a way to make 'ya love me, love me." It's bold and stupendous in style. It's hot.
But can he swing? The man can swing. The band can swing. They wrote my favorite song "Tangerine Honey" while in Paris looking at the Eiffel Tower on a Moreno Brothers writing trip. The building was glowing a bright orange which spawned the name and led to a story of a lusciously desirable woman who "can really put the spice in the night - she can show you how a wrong can be right." With all the sophistication and panache of Brian Setzer or Cab Calloway, and all the sexual tension of Elvis, Moreno then adds the piano superiority and precision of Harry Connick Jr., and the tricks of Jerry Lee Lewis. Moreno powers through the big band arrangement with timeless lyrics, spectacular muted trumpet backings and swelling swinging horns which make Tangerine Honey something you'll never tire of. But nothing beats seeing this performance live. Swaggering musical talent Frankie Moreno is taking over the strip, and next: the world. It's time to meet the new Vegas Royalty, if you haven't already.
(2012) Bermuda Records
Score: ***** (5 OF 5 STARS)
Highly Recommended by Frankie Tease Magazine