The first intimation you're onto something unusual with Obsession enters in the initial cut, where Eric Van Aro takes a Paul Anka song, I'm Not Anyone, and turns it upside down from a pop track into a stage interlude, a segue between acts where the lead singer steps forward and paints the mid-play coda. Then he does much the same to Since I Fell for You, which has been done and re-done forever and a day except, in this version, you feel like an adult is finally singing it rather than hearing yet another Burt Bacharach ditty candy cover. By the time Dr. John's Rain rises, you understand that when van Aro says Sammy Davis fascinated him, he isn't kidding around, 'cause what Sammy had, he has.
I remember my first exposure to Davis. I was a teen-ager walking from the kitchen through the parlor to exit the front of the house and trot on down to the local park to play a little racquetball when I espied the unattended TV. Someone, probably one of my brothers, had left it on, and there was Jerry Lewis in one of his telethons. "Oh sweet Jesus", I thought, "not another goop festival!" and moved to shut it off when suddenly this black guy I'd never seen before comes on and starts in on…well, I still don't know what. He wasn't just singing, he was INTO IT, whatever it was, and I was spellbound. I'd never seen anything like it, as though what he was doing bypassed the eyes and ears and went straight for the brain and heart.
That's what I get with Obsession as well. In each cut here, you feel like van Aro wrote the tune and is telling you back exactly what you also have known and experienced but in a way you could never have framed. He does it in such a manner that I'm strongly reminded of E.J. Decker's (here) ground-level proletarian baseline, where you think "This guy's one of us…except, man, where did he ever learn to do that!" Then there are the omnipresent stage atmospherics made all the more palpable by pianist Fabio Gianni, van Aro's chief accompanist, with a few other instruments here and there as well as a duet with singer Sheri Pedigo. Gianni, however, is simultaneously the perfect contrast and complement. The two work together like hand in glove…a hand that has lived quite a few things and a glove frayed at the edges because of that, the two acting as one pensée on the human condition.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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