“Script 2020” is the latest installment in John Tabacco’s musical diary. A process that’s been going on for decades.
On this disc we find Tabacco grappling with the current state of affairs regarding the Coronavirus, political hypocrisy, A.I. take over, his mother’s weakening medical condition and his ongoing struggle to figure exactly why he is here. 18 tracks in all, this 55 minute disc once again showcases Tabacco’s skill as producer, arranger, vocalist and recording engineer working at full force on a less than an austere budget. His catchy melodies, unexpected chord changes, bizarre sense of humor and thoughtful lyrics that can be sarcastic but never mean spirited have not diminished with time.
The disc opens and closes with a short, bare bones, classical piano prelude that if anything else expresses a deep sadness that can be felt through out this collection. The first tune is actually an upbeat cover of the 1945 standard “The More I See You.” In this case it’s hard to tell if the song is aimed at a friend or a family member or about himself. Knowing Tabacco’s penchant for self reflectivity I go with the latter. This song gives way to a live, bluesy lounge recording called “Venetian Blinds and Curtains” which then quickly settles into a catchy pop – rock number called “You Can Keep On Your Mask.” Clearly a sign of the times tune lyrically. From there we plunge into an honest rocking cover of an early Beatles number called “Misery” (the first of two Beatle covers), the other being “Old Brown Shoe.” In fact, this CD contains 5 cover songs which may be a new record for Tabacco’s discs, (they usually house all original material). This is not a bad thing since Tabacco makes the covers his own with his enthusiastic, confident vocals and tight arrangements.
The sweetest tune in the batch follows. It’s a melodic r&b number entitled “She Is A Painscape.” It is highlighted by some beautiful background vocals by singer-songwriter Marci Geller and virtuoso guitar playing and soloing by Chris Fury. Fury is also heard all over the snarky, humorous tune “Lemmings Are Beautiful.” Further humor with a techno feel (the song is about A.I. folks) can be found on the cautious prog-rocker “Ones and Zeroes” co – written with Sweden’s legendary composer Hans Annellsson and featuring the progressive drumming of Matts Olberg.
As with most of Tabacco’s CDs there is always one instrumental lurking in the fold. This disc is no exception with the five minute track “Daytal Mating Groove / Funky Narcissist.” This expertly crafted little intermission keeps the groove pumping from the previous number, the George Harrison penned “Old Brown Shoe.” And what in the world is a funky little tune written about the 40’s legendary crime stopper Elliot Ness doing here? I’m not sure but it works among a few other songs dealing with bizarre people; including a tuba infested cover of Steely Dan’s shortest tune “Through With Buzz” and an acapella song about a baton twirling transgender by the name of “Monikka Brawn.”
The mood starts to get more personal during the the last 1/4 of the disc with the catchy lockdown rocker “Panic Agenda” co-written with his long time musical cohort Anthony Pomes. That’s quickly seeded into the quirky, dark existential rocker “Who Am I?” answered perhaps by the next tune, “You Are A Bird.” “Bird” is one of those melodic art- rock songs with a sophisticated form that Tabacco is so well versed in writing. One wonders if it’s about a certain political leader. The jury is out. The closing song, “Sorry” is a skewed 50’s type of tune clearly aimed at his ailing mother. It is a frustrated, sad song that ultimately leads us to a variation of the above mentioned piano prelude. We’ve come first circle.
Overall, Tabacco gives us plenty of user friendly music that deserves repeated listenings. For the serious fan it contains plenty of continuity references to his ongoing life’s work (check out www.johntabacco.bandcamp.com) for more info. As for the title of this disc, it appears to me that Tabacco sees his life as if it was just a program following a script. The idea of freewill – non existent. A constant theme in all of Tabacco’s work. If nothing else he is consistent. Another JT CD worth checking out if you’re going that way… Available at most digital retailers.
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