Usually when the phrase “YouTube’s…” is associated with a particular person, the natural reaction is to dry heave. The scourge of the modern age is the arrival of social media celebrities and “influencers”. But for every KSI there is a Laura Cox, and for every Logan Paul there is a Carl Baldassarre. Known as YouTube’s “Professor Of Classic Rock”, Baldassarre is a Cleveland-born and raised guitarist/educator/composer who already had a lengthy career in music before turning to YouTube during the covid pandemic. As well as focussing on the inspiration behind favourites from rock giants such as Led Zeppelin, he also specialises in breaking down and demonstrating some of the most famous classic rock guitar riffs – his episode on Deep Purple’s ‘Deep Purple In Rock’ album is essential viewing to even a layman. And now Baldassarre has gotten around to delivering his debut solo album – ‘Grand Boulevard’.
At sixteen tracks in length, ‘Grand Boulevard’ is a hefty debut. But remarkably, it never really lags and the button marked “filler material” is nowhere in sight. Most of this down to Baldassarre’s joie de vivre which at times is infectious (opening track ‘You’re Gonna Be Right’ being a prime example), but the variety found within ‘Grand Boulevard’ also plays a major role in keeping the listener interested. The inspirational and uplifting ‘You’re Gonna Be Right’ is quickly followed by the wah wah-infused ‘Dead Ballet’ which begins like a Michael Mann soundtrack with a dreamy electronic beat. This explodes to life with some gnarly, big-assed riffs from Baldassarre which never overpower the vocals of Charles Iverson – and that’s crucial to the album. It’s a guitar player’s album, but it’s never flash or in your face. Why play ten notes when one will do, and why drop an extended solo in when the song doesn’t call for it? The songs are key, as is that variety touched on earlier, and after the fireworks of the two opening tracks Baldassarre slows it down with the lounge-lizard tones of ‘Ready Fire Aim’ which again features the dulcet tones of Iverson, similar in pacing and tempo to the sultry, jazzy strains on ‘So Seville Good’ and the, even more, laidback ‘Gin With Alice’ which appears later on and casually drops some smooth saxophone into proceedings. The pairing of ‘Another Day’ and ‘Wait’ one straight after the other offers up more of an uptempo vibe, and again the guitar work is exemplary. Simple, never flash, but really, really effective…as are the vocal hooks on the latter.
Although Iverson handles the lion’s share of the lead vocals, Marcus Scott (Tower Of Power) handles vocal duties on five tracks; the pick of the bunch includes the Zeppelin-inspired ‘Sands Of Tarifa’ which has some stunning Middle-Eastern arrangements that sound huge through a decent pair of cans, and Scott does have the trademark Robert Plant howl down pat. What is different about ‘Sands Of Tarifa’ from so many other Zeppelin-inspired epics is that other artists usually deliver a two-minute guitar solo mid-song, it’s a UN regulation when doing a Middle-Eastern Zeppelin take that you must include a lengthy solo; not here though as Baldassarre shows great restraint in allowing the song to shine without heaps of guitar acrobatics. As he does on another Marcus Scott track; the reggae-infused ‘A Little Bit Of Heaven’, which is so laidback it doesn’t walk – it glides. ‘You’re Wrong (Dead Wrong)’ is an unashamed tip of the hat to AC/DC and Scott and Baldassarre combine to great effect on a track that sounds better the louder it gets.
Because of the variety found in the album, it’s easy to consume over a few visits rather than in one sitting. If they keep coming back to the table for more, then the listener will discover something different each time (such as the Beach Boys-like surf guitar on the aforementioned ‘Wait’).
Available now, more information here.
Review – Dave
Photo credit: Erick Anderson