Peace On Earth Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge
CD Review by Ray D'Ariano / 11/2005
1. Medley: Peace On Earth/Let There Be Peace On Earth 2. I Believe
3. What A Wonderful World 4. Ave Maria (Schubert) 5. Let It Be
6. Medley: Hail Mary/Gentle Woman 8. Ave Maria (Bach) 9. Glory Hallelujah
10. Medley: Whisper'd In A Holy Dream/Lady Queen of Peace
11. I Want To See Heaven 12. You'll Never Walk Alone
Brian Wilson called "Smile" a teenage symphony to God. "Peace on Earth" is The Brooklyn Bridges' "Smile." This time the symphony to the universal creator has been co-created by a group of talented gentlemen who've been providing us with some of the smoothest rock harmony sounds for five decades. This collection works magnificently on every level. Yeah, it presents a positive, hopeful, and inspiring message, and yet if you insist of resisting it on that level of consciousness you still will not be able to deny this gorgeous and sophisticated harmony-drenched music.
To the casual fan, The Brooklyn Bridge are one hit wonders who scored big with Jim Webb's "Worst That Could Happen" back in the late 60's. Truth is there's a lot more to their story. Two of the fellows were in a group called The Del Satins. They backed up Dion on all of his so-called solo hits like "Runaround Sue, " and "The Wanderer." Then there's The Bridges' lead singer, Johnny Maestro. He's one of the few truly great voices in rock and roll and sang lead on many hits like "16 Candles," "Step By Step," and "Isn't It Amazing" with his first group, The Crests.
Today Fred Ferrara, Les Cauchi (the former Del-Satins), James Rosica, Louis Agresta, Martin D'Amico, James Sarle, and Johnny Maestro make up The Brooklyn Bridge. They are in fact, the classiest act in rock and roll and they consistently turn in a great live performance. You can get a taste of it at home as SRO Entertainment released a DVD of their show this year.
I recently had the pleasure of emceeing one of their concerts and I was given a copy of 'Peace On Earth." Although they released it a few years ago I never even knew it existed. Well, there are no accidents in life because I was meant to hear it just as you were meant to read this review after which I'm sure you'll hear it too. In the tradition of Dion and Bob Dylan, with his LP's "Slow Train Coming" and "Saved," Johnny & the Bridge have taken a spiritual step forward and created a work that is much more than another collection of pop tunes. This collection is a departure from everything we've learned to expect from these artists. The group's lush and perfect harmonies and Johnny Maestro's inspired lead vocals are still here, of course.
"Peace On Earth" is their masterwork. It reminds me of the first time I heard Sgt. Pepper. I couldn't believe it was The Beatles. Of course, it was and after some adjusting to the new sound I came to understand and love the album. Starting off with "Medley: Peace On Earth/Let There Be Peace On Earth," the agenda is set as Maestro debuts, and to insure that there is no misunderstanding about the music's intent, it begins with a prayer Let there be peace on earth. From the opening line, "Peace on earth, try it," they are singing about the big picture, but on another level it's a lyric about the CD itself. This collection may not be what you expected, but it's called "Peace On Earth" and you're invited to try it. The group doesn't try to hide it, try to sneak it in subliminally, or disguise it with clever lyrics . . . this is a spiritual CD. Brian Wilson did it with "God Only Knows," Billy Preston had a huge hit with "That's The Way God Planned It," and of course George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" is a classic. Like those artists, Johnny and The Bridge boldly take their sound to a higher plane.
In the 50's Maestro had hits with The Crests that were a preview of things to come. Remember "Trouble In Paradise?" How about "The Angels Listened In" and "Pretty Little Angel?" With the Bridge there was "Blessed Is The Rain," and a tune they've performed thousands of times to close their concerts, the dynamic "I Believe." They were doo wop/pop, but the roots of spirituality were always there. Maestro and original Brooklyn Bridge member Tommy Sullivan produced this disc and the production quality overall is equal to that of U2's producer, Nigel Godrich or the gentleman who did Dylan's "Oh Mercy," Daniel Lanois.
Cut two, a new arrangement of "I Believe" sneaks up on you with haunting wind chimes and subtle 10CC-type harmonies which build under Maestro's lead vocal. This cut is a masterpiece a perfect record that would be at home on any smooth contemporary jazz station. Next "Wonderful World" is a journey through mellow acoustic jazz. Somewhere above, Satchmo is looking down smiling and thinking, "Yeah man, that's a cool way to do it too." Maestro doing "Ave Maria" this is the perfect match of artist and material with the instruments building under a flawless vocal. And the group harmonies on this cut or on the entire CD for that matter are equal or superior to anything recorded by The 4 Freshman or The Manhattan Transfer. The subtle blend of Maestro's lead vocals with the background harmonies of his long-time collaborators weave a beautiful rich sound.
Sir Paul McCartney is represented with his wonderful "Let It Be." After a soft opening with Johnny solo over bass, vibe, and guitar, the Bridge slide in with harmonies that rival anything The Beach Boys ever did. In fact, Brian Wilson will love this album. "There will be an answer, let it be" . . . and let it wash over your headphones. This is another perfect cut. Elton John has often said, "When in doubt write a hymn." On "Hail Mary" Johnny sings a prayer. That's what this is plain and simple a prayer sung over a melody inspired by Curtis Mayfield. Near the middle there's a brief tribute to George Martin with a quick "Eleanor Rigby" string interlude and the lead vocal is replaced with the group harmony asking that we be taught wisdom and love.
There are many more gems in this collection, and it's worthy of a Grammy, but here's the bottom line: you don't have to subscribe to its lyrical message if it's not your thing. You will still marvel at the sensational arrangements, orchestration and vocals. If you do relate to the lyrics, you may find it even more rewarding. Either way "Peace On Earth" is a classic from a classic group. You can purchase it at the group's web site: www.j-maestro-bklyn-bridge.com