“You’re always sorry,
You’re always grateful,
You hold her thinking, “I’m not alone.”
You’re still alone.”
There is a lot to like about Tony Lucca’s latest CD, Rendezvous with the Angels. His subject matter, “the ebb and flow” of love, is universal. His songwriting is earnest. His voice — sometimes smoky, usually evocative, always versatile — is easy enough on the ears. He is an accomplished musician, playing acoustic guitar, piano, organ, and even percussion. This Michigan native and former Mouseketeer can deliver a song with heartfelt intensity and soulfulness reminiscent of Donald Fagen, Rod Stewart, Sting, and even Joni Mitchell.
Despite these strengths, Rendezvous with the Angels is a matter of some of its parts being greater than the whole. The album lacks cohesiveness. Lucca strives to confront love in all its facets. His lyrics paint love as ambivalent, steadfast, contentious, and unconditional, but individual songs seem randomly placed, the work providing no arc, no sense of journey, no romantic goal. He pleads, “Just say you’ll stay with me tonight” but avers “nothing ever hurt like love” before declaring “I just want to make you mine” prior to deciding “we’ll try it again some other time” as a preface to “I’m gonna love you always.” His observation that “conviction’s hard to find” sums up the entire CD. Vocally, he’s Steely Dan on the promising opening tune “Like Love” then morphs into Rod Stewart on both “Make You Mine” and “Long Love Letter” before channeling a little Sting in “Undertow.” Transitions — from one emotion to another, from one beat or tempo to the next — are abrupt, and the result is chaotic and unfocused. It’s a cubist portrait by Picasso — an eye here, an ear there, a nose somewhere near a foot — but, with so universal a theme as love, I wanted a musical Mona Lisa, better designed, balanced, and harmonious.
Yep, there is a lot to like about Rendezvous with the Angels. I just can’t commit to love.