MIKE MASSEY – Attack of the Delicious
Attack of the Delicious is the second CD release from Mike Massey in 2005 following, this summer’s release of Be Careful How You Say Pianist, and it’s a beautiful collection of his solo piano pieces. Attack of the Delicious is decidedly different, an album of pop and rock songs with band arrangements. At times Massey is the band, manning all or most of the instruments, so as with Be Careful How You Say Pianist, there is a very personal touch injected into every nuance of the music. Personal messages also adorn the credits for the songs, many of which are dedicated to people in Massey’s life.
Some outstanding guitar work can be found throughout this recording, courtesy of Michael John Ripp, who rips a very Brian May-like guitar solo on “Silent Illusion.” Drums on several of the tracks are handled by longtime associate and fellow Chaser/Boys in White member Tony Cerniglia, who was also in Seventeen Rhinos. Steve Johnson, who was also in Chaser and Seventeen Rhinos, engineered the album. So things really come full circle in many ways.
The sound quality on Attack of the Delicious is outstanding. The mix is crystal clear, the bass warm and full. But it’s the performances that stand out and the excellent level of song craftsmanship. Massey’s singing can come off a bit Bowie-esque at times, but it suits this material and there is no denying his vocal prowess; his tone is appealing and his phrasing smooth and decorated. Also noteworthy is the fine bass-playing he delivers.
The album starts off with an incredible masterpiece, “Smile for the Ages,” surely the best pop song of the year. It’s powerful and gripping. Joy Dragland adds backup vocals, Bob Westfall contributes mandolin, and Massey adds a very nice touch on accordion as well. Every song is pleasing and musically challenging, like different facets of the same personality, and this is the quality that superior albums and performers are made of. He sings with soul on “Silent Illusion,” with funk on “Get a Life” (which also includes some killer sax from bro Nate Massey) and his vocal performances on the ballads, especially “Shadow in the Window” are exceptional.
Massey is also known as “Fabrisio” in the immensely popular cabaret show held Thursdays at the Slipper Club. His involvement with that production and the interaction with that cast of musicians has re-energized him, and is what prompted his return to active performing and recording. Once the swaggering front man for Madison supergroups Chaser and Boys in White, Massey has performed more than one man’s share of personal-demon exorcisms. He has been absent from the music scene for too long and this album is an exultant return to pop form. Like Be Careful How You Say Pianist, the songs on this CD span several years. One of them, “Teen Dream,” was written in 1982 and “Goodbye Again” was penned in 1985. This practically qualifies them as Chaser/Boys in White outtakes.
As I listened to this CD I was reminded of Elton John in many significant ways. Massey has a similar way with melody, arrangements, and more importantly emotion, that makes his music supremely endearing. And we haven’t even mentioned the keyboards, the love of Massey’s life, the excellence of which hardly needs stating. Hats off to a great album, a triumphant reappearance, and many more excellent songs like these to come.