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Davide Pannozzo: Unconditional Love (Unconditional Love Global Publishing) 19th October 2017

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)




If Steve Jordan, superstar drummer and mega producer, and Will Lee, superstar bassist and mega producer – both Grammy winners – want to work with you, and you get the invite to go live in New York from your home in Italy; what is there to think about?

Guitarist Davide Pannozzo had that very nice dilemma to consider, after he sent Mr Jordan some of his music completely unsolicited, which made quite an impact. 33-year-old Davide’s prowess on guitar has turned some VIP’s heads thus far and this, his third solo album, will take him further up the ladder and land him a few more well-connected pals, I bet.

If the likes of Eric Johnson, Robben Ford, Carl Verheyen, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Larry Carlton are your cup of tea, this album and this cool cat are most definitely for you. Steve Jordan and Will Lee both play on the record and they both take turns in producing the 10 tracks in total. Recorded at two studios in New York, where Davide has now made his home after the move from his native Italy.

Davide’s debut album was released in 2003. He plays on eight albums altogether – three solo records, three with two different bands and two improvisational tutorial albums. Plus an EP. His acclaimed album “Born Electric”, was released by EmArcy/Universal Music featuring special guests Robben Ford, Carl Verheyen and David Garfield.

The set on “Unconditional Love”, opens with Davide Pannozzo’s co-write with Ivan Franzini, “Six Wires”, a mid-tempo cut in a retro 70s blues rock vibe, at almost five minutes in duration. Like many tracks on this record, Davide’s vocal is not too far away from Mr Clapton’s timbre. Nice hooky core riff, grunged-up solo and you think you have him sussed until he veers into Eric Johnson fretboard territory with a cleaner tone. A wee teaser to show us what he is capable of and what might be to come.

A light reggae flavour to “Living Loving & Giving”, penned by Davide with his wife Federica Piacentini.  A commercial cut, but it didn’t hold my attention. Horns would have lifted it perhaps. The lyrical content seemed a bit twee to me: “Living, loving and giving, that’s all we need to change the world, what goes around, comes around…”

But the Pannozzo song, “I Heard You”, is a soulful cut, a song ready made for Robert Cray. It slows down the pace, and offers up a gorgeous clean-toned and restrained solo. The vocal is strong. Again, a subtle horn arrangement may well have added value here. Another co-write with Piacentini, “Bring Me To The Light”, kicks off with some slide guitar, and then a Mark Knopfler tone on lead guitar. Brushes on the snare drum from Shawn Pelton.

A country foundation to the song. Another Clapton-ish, relaxed vocal. The arrangement is cool. Blissful tone on the guitar solo and uber-skill involved in those hands on that fretboard. It’s not the gear, it’s all in the fingers, you know! “One & Only” nails a fine groove across just over five minutes. It’s funky and has an infectious riff. Will Lee on bass and Pelton on drums are right on it, and there’s a real killer guitar solo from Davide, which lasts for more than a minute until the track ends.

Guitarists and tone nerds will be playing that section a few times and shaking their heads in disbelief! The song written by Davide and Franzini. Keyboard player Ricky Peterson helps out nicely.

Distorted guitar, chilled vocal, Jeff Beck-esque guitar and a touch of Jimi H – where Davide wraps the vocal around the guitar part – on “Chasing Illusions”. Maybe even slight Cream vibes here. Written with Piacentini. One of two covers; “Wah Wah”, a George Harrison-penned song from his famed 1970 Phil Spector produced, triple LP “All Things Must Pass”. I think George would be happy with this homage.

The guitars sound really, really nice. A good fit song for Davide. You can hear the Harrison Eastern influences, and Davide finds a good groove. Showing another side to his playing. I think he and producer Steve Jordan got this dead right.

Three instrumentals on the trot to finish the set. The first; “The Purest Thing”, written by Davide and weighing in at almost eight and a half minutes. Fabulously laid back and simply stunning, guitar skills. Electric piano and organ from Oli Rockberger, Steve Jordan’s drums and Will Lee’s bass are the perfect foundation for DP’s formidable contribution. Jazz fusion flavours, and the whole ambience is pretty serene.

Eric Johnson, Robben Ford and Carl Verheyen territory, and as classy as those cats too. A lovely song and it sounds live. His runs are other-worldly, but that band never waiver from their solid path. One may think eight and a half minutes is going to be more than enough for an instrumental; it’s not! Steve Jordan produces this one.

Drumming legend Billy Cobham composed and first recorded this next tune, “Stratus”, for his pioneering debut solo album “Spectrum”, which came out in 1973. His cut was almost 10 minutes long; this one is just over seven minutes. Davide is superb on this one. Tommy Bolin played guitar on the original. It’s a blissful blend of jazz and funk colours. Shawn Pelton’s snare cuts thru like a bitch here and there’s a real Mutha of a bass line from Will Lee, who also produced this track. The guitars sound fabulous.

He makes the guitar have a conversation. I’m listening… If Miles was still with us, I’d bet Davide would be getting the call anytime now…………..

The final track, “Lord Knows What’s In My Heart”, is a Pannozzo tune, with Will Lee on bass duties, Oli Rockberger on keyboards, Steve Jordan on drums and in the producer’s seat. The jury is out as to whether three non-vocal tracks in a row is a good move to close proceedings.

Bassist for the Brecker Brothers, Spyro Gyra, George Benson and many more huge stars, plus he’s a big name prioducer too, Will Lee has much praise for Mr Pannozzo: “There are very few artists these days that can inspire and are filled with inspiration and great ideas, Davide Pannozzo is one of them. When you first hear his music, you know there is something special going on…”

Steve Jordan is a fan too, of course. He’s played with John Mayer, Stevie Wonder, Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, BB King, Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton and so many more. Steve has produced Robert Cray, Keith Richards, John Mayer, Herbie Hancock, Boz Scaggs and the soundtrack to the box office hit Beyonce movie Cadillac Records, plus lots more artists. Supertramp guitarist and “A List” L.A. session man Carl Verheyen, who is also a brilliant solo artist, says: “Tone just drips from Davide’s fingers”.

In 2015, when I reviewed Davide’s tribute album to Jim Hendrix, out at the time, I said he was surely “an important part of the future of the blues”. I have not changed my mind; apart from to say, he is not the future, he’s the now.

If this guy doesn’t get snapped up to score music for big movies while he’s based across the pond, the Hollywood suits really are missing out. Brillante talento…


By Simon Redley





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