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03/21/2017
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ZUCCHERO – Black Cat (2016)

The head shot of Zucchero (‘Adelmo Fornaciari’ or ‘Adelmo Fornaciari Cavaliere di Gran Croce’ or even, as the liner notes aver, ‘Sugar Fornaciari’) in ornate head-dress – well, a fully festooned top-hat actually - is immediately mindful of Dr. John in his 60s/70s Night Tripper phase, but this guy’s music is significantly different while carrying many of the elements informing Mac Rebbenack’s oeuvre. Where the mighty Doc might be said to be akin to Leon Russell and Mose Allison, Zucchero is much more Dionysian; a combination of Johnny Winter and Mike Sponza would be apt comparatives in tone and energy.

What Alexis Korner was to Brit blues and what John Mayall is to American Blues, Zucchero has been to Italian blues, and his work in what is actually a multi-genred hybrid has long been recognized. Italy even awarded the gent the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (OMRI), that land’s equivalent of the OBE (Order of the British Empire), and Adelmo is critically recognized as being one of the few European blues artists still enjoying widespread international success after the heyday of earlier decades. His work with Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Brian May, David Sancious, Miles Davis, Ray Charles, B. B. King, Sting, Paul Young, Peter Gabriel, Mike Shrieve, Luciano Pavarotti, and Andrea Bocelli among others - and then, on this CD, Bono, Don Was, Mark Knopfler, and T-Bone Burnett - indicate the respect lavished on him by artists around the globe.

And the fact that the man is an infinite threat on all fronts, not only in writing but arranging and singing while playing guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards, makes him the sort of cat who needn’t explain a damn thing on any front. By the time you finish listening to any of his CDs, things make themselves a given. His vocals are vigorous, gritty, demanding, and Bacchanalian, the manifestation of someone who takes an artist’s anarchic pleasures in life. Whether in the middle of a stomp, a gospel rave-up, a ballad, or a rockin’ boogie, Zucchero is a force to be reckoned with. In Black Cat, we find all the aforegoing as well as the sort of folk elements adopted by Premiata Formeria Marconi in their post-prog period. More, cuts like “Streets of Surrender” would have been perfectly at home on a Riccardo Cocciante LP.

Were y’all impressed by the list of past collaborators and sessioneers cited above? Well, there’s actually a hell of a lot more, as Nathan East, Lenny Castro, Jamie Muhoberac, Jim Keltner, Tim Pierce, Mike Finnegan, Colin Linden (!!!), Jerry Douglas, and many other estimables appear all though this festive romp occasionally restrained in reflective moments (“Terra Incognita”, which nonetheless vaults into magisteriality as it progresses, and one or two others). All that said, though, I’d really like to see a future meeting of Zucchero and Sponza: Mike's last and this one by Adelmo indicate their many sympathies, and a combination of the two would be fiery.