Domenic Troiano

Burnin' at the Stake

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The third edition of Domenic Troiano on his own, Burnin' at the Stake, is more jazz and funk mixed in with the rock than his self-titled first solo effort from 1972, and features Randy Brecker and Richard Landis at the helm producing. This act is actually called the Domenic Troiano Band, which now consists of bassist Neil Jason, Fred Mandel, and Dave Tyson on keyboards and synths, with Steve Ferrone playing the drums. It's a different flavor than the subtle angst brought to the first album by drummer Penti Glan and bassist John Prakash, who were off recording The Alice Cooper Show live album for the shock-rocker around the time of this release. Compare Burnin' at the Stake to something lackluster like 1973's Roaring by Elton John's sessionmen, Hookfoot, to see the difference between a creative player who subs as a side musician, and those who lack vision and the ability to communicate outside of a given structure. Troiano communicates well vocally and instrumentally on nine of his own compositions, with a style completely different from his work with the James Gang and the Guess Who. This Capitol debut came four years after his second and final Mercury recording, and though the Steely Dan flavors return on an essay like "Peace of Mind," there is a more focused jazz direction inside the instrumental title track, "Burnin' at the Stake," and other songs scattered around these two sides. "Savour the Flavour" brings in the funk that dominates this project, and the main inspiration here seems to be the Brothers Johnson rather than Joe Walsh -- a hint that maybe co-producer Randy Brecker was listening to lots of Quincy Jones -- but the result is actually quite impressive. This isn't the James Gang's "Funk 49," and though much of the inspiration seems to be taken from radio of the day, the album still seems to have influenced a record like Bobby Caldwell's Top Ten hit from 1979, "What You Won't Do for Love." The traces of that are here two years earlier. There are sensual girl group backing vocals, the Brecker Brothers on horns, and smooth jazz on the exquisite instrumental "Lonely Girl," which is one of the album's best moments. "The Outer Limits of My Soul" is right up there with "Lonely Girl," only this number has eerie instrumentation, vocal trade-offs, and an identity for Troiano that may have been the direction the entire project should have taken. The spacy, airy montage of sounds seems to be more in line with what the guitarist is all about. Despite the album's tendency to intentionally fit into the times, the musicianship and execution is top-notch, with satisfying results.

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