Bello released its first recording, Bello Means Beautiful, in 2012 to much-deserved local acclaim (read a review here). The trio, Ida Jo, Mike Droho and Scott Lamps, have worked together closely on each other’s projects but in Bello they combine forces and allow each other equivalent weight in the process; all eight original songs are given equal writing credit. What is surprising is that the recording’s nine songs play in less than twenty-four minutes.
The formula has not changed. Simple structures, instrumentation that boils down to acoustic guitars, bass, violin and rhythmic programming, and gorgeous three-part harmonies. As ensemble vocalists Bello are difficult to top.
At times the songs seem oversimplified; not superficial but a bit too shiny/happy. There is also a lot of repetition suggesting that the compositions could have been more developed, especially given the average track time of under three minutes. This is further evidenced in that there is not a single bridge in any of the arrangements. Of course, it could be argued that a decent pop song is by definition the three-minute variety.
The most surprising track has to be a rendition of “On Wisconsin,” reduced to a slow ballad. The vocal arrangement is quite beautiful and they stick to the first stanza of the second verse, repeated twice. It’s a curious choice, for sure.
The best tracks are “All I Need” and “Into Tomorrow,” which give some weight to what is otherwise light pop. They also sneak some keyboards onto the latter track which helps to add some variation. “Sun Rises” is also a really good song, a fitting opener filled with optimism.
Bello (blue) is a really good vocal record in the end but can come off as an exercise. Given the stature of these three – and they are hugely talented – it might be more satisfying to put a little more meat on the bones. Their sunny positivity, the band’s credo, would not have to be sacrificed in the process.