Harbor may be Marc Douglas Berardo's album, but he would be the first one to tell you that he didn't do it alone. The songs are his, true, and he is the voice, but each person involved added his or her own touch, always to the betterment of the music. On the whole, these are ensemble pieces and Professor Dick Neal and Marc Douglas gathered the best of the best to lay them down. No big names here, or at least names you might recognize away from the East Coast, but man, they can play. And they do.
Take the bi-polar So, Regarding Me and You with its early Steely Dan sound—a dirge with attitude which allows Liam Bailey to show why a resonator guitar resonates, his fingers making no less magic than those of Jeff Baxter for Steely Dan. Add the string arrangement (and strings) of Larry Deming and you have one of the many highlights of Harbor.
No less so than Working, which leans more toward the mid-Steely Dan sound, rock and light jazz combining for that soft but rocking feel. The story of a musician finding his way, it could very well be the life story of Marc Douglas Berardo the Musician, a testament to what music and performing means to him personally. The CTI-sounding acoustic guitar toward the end is an especially nice touch, reminding one of the wonder days of George Benson and Phil Upchurch in the seventies.
And if you want personal, Marc Douglas delivers that as well. Indeed, it is at his most personal that he excels. The album is peppered with excellent reflective songs, not the least of which is Harbor. Light plucked acoustic guitar and voice create a sort of morning dream, quiet and floating, until the strings (Larry Deming again) and the secluded french horn of Susan Spaulding carry Berardo to the end. This is a way of life, Berardo says, for me and for many before me. This song tells us why we love the Coast so much, simple as that.
Perhaps Where the Road Turns to Shell and Sand tells us why and how Berardo got to where he is. From Madison Avenue to jack of all trades at the docks is a huge step, backwards by today's skewed standards, but he would not be the first one to throw away money and success for inner peace. This is an explanation in tone poem, supported by strings and french horn in an orchestral splendor of sorts. Hollywood could make a movie based on this song alone (and if they did it right, it would be a damn good one).
While most of us hate abuse, Berardo feels it more than most. Abuse is a cry against abusers, especially those who target children, and if it wasn't a damn fine song it would be worth hearing for message alone. "And the sins of the mother and the father," he sings, "Are passed on to the daughter and the son, And the words that abuse live forever, deep inside the little one." A beautiful song with a message we should revisit often.
In the liner notes, Professor Dick Neal gives thanks to Marc Douglas "for inviting me to collaborate on this project and then bringing superb material, ideas and performances." From a musician as accomplished as Neal, this is high praise. A few listens to Harbor might have you wondering if the praise is high enough.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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