Castellano, Tony - Fun Size

Year of Release: 1997
Label: Cleefo Records
Catalog Number: AVL97279
Format: CD
Total Time: 25:10:00

Tony Castellano's brand of progressive music is in a similar vein to many American progressive acts that have come to attention of late ... say in the last ten years. I am thinking specifically of such folks as the late Kevin Gilbert, Spock's Beard, Timothy Pure, Discipline, and others. It is this sense of irony, a surface humor that reveals something quite telling about the human condition or one aspect of the human condition - whether a positive or negative aspect (usually the latter). Of course, the letter two comparisons (at least) can hardly be said to have that surface humor-deeper meaning structure to their music - with them it is all deeper meaning. But there is a certain character musically, and some cases lyrically, to those mentioned above. For instance, whereas the classic European prog (Yes, ELP, etc.) were more concerned with the larger issues - spirituality in the case of Yes - and creating music on the scale of classical music (aside from that based on classical music)... current American prog deals more with issues on an individual basis. That is, more "down to earth." Even if these "real world" concerns are told with large, lush, brush strokes. These are, of course, generalizations and I'm sure there are exceptions...Iluvatar might be one of them. The best comparison, however, is to the prolific Rick Ray - here is a multi-instrumentalist making thematically challenging music. Castellano is a better vocalist than Ray, but other than that, the two compare favourably.

Fun Size is an EP consisting of five tracks, three of which are instrumental. The first track, "Billy's Xmas Spirit" is, on the one hand, amusing (that would be the first verse) and on the other chillingly telling (that'd be the second verse). There are a number of layers of meaning here, that the moment you pick one, you think, "well, that's not quite it, because it could also be this." One reading, and perhaps the one most easily come by, is that Billy initially has expectations that in being a good boy, he will get all those things he wants for Christmas ? didn't we all think that at one time (even if Christmas was the payoff event)? Oh, the disappointment to know that it doesn't always make a difference. But, in part two, Billy turns to a life of crime ? when you don't get what you want by being good, you take what you want by being bad. Of course, one can also see this as the dark side of making things happen for you instead of waiting for them to happen to you.

The second vocal track (number 3), "Flagrant Offender" tackles the corporate world. The arrangement is light and bouncy ? think Gilbert here mostly, or maybe Jimmy Buffett ? deceptively cheerful. Of the several lines I like, there comes this one: "The Christmas bonus was a calendar." I liken this to giving a prisoner a piece of chalk to mark the days. I don't know if this is what Castellano meant, but it is how I read it, in contrast to the lines above: "Got a pay freeze on the warehouse crew / Got a banquet in the conference room / Got a limo with own chauffeur?" I wouldn't be too surprised if this were the "bonus" I'll get this year - one of the products sold by my "day job" employer is calendars (though products aren't their/our primary "business"). Which in my case would be no bonus at all since it is expected that the "company calendar" be the calendar of choice for our office wall ? and they give it away free at the end of the sale period ? but I digress.

Back to Fun Size? the musical pieces are equally interesting and diverse?and it wasn't until that I was reading the album credits that I discovered that this was performed all by one person - sometimes that isn't the best option an artist can make. Here it works and works very well. There is a beautiful keyboard and guitar section on "Billy's Redemption" that's quite nice...though the keys are a little parpy. I liked this album from the first moment I played it, it was that instant. And I would have written the review right then and there, but I new I need to give a fair shake? hmm?would there be irony in me having played this all day today in that same office?

Fun Size was released in 1997 and is one of three (so far) releases on the Cleefo label. Tony Castellano has been the bassist for Holding Pattern (another Cleefo release), Balance of Power, The Bud Collins Trio, and Ludent Tremmel's Gno. There were a couple of moments where I thought about, of all things, the Doctor Who theme?mainly down to a particular keyboard sound that I associate with the Who theme?it appears at the beginning of "Billy's Xmas Spirit" and again in "Billy's Redemption." Also, given the Christmas time theme, I hear vague references to Christmas songs? I want to say "We Three Kings"? but I'll admit my knowledge of Christmas music beyond "Carol Of The Bells" and the "Little Drummer Boy" is rather ? spotty, at best. [Actually, on a further listen, it's "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful" that I'm thinking of].

"Rifts & Festoons" is a percussion and bass heavy track, though guitar takes the true lead?with hints of Rush in there?I'm thinking of "YYZ" but mainly tone wise as the arrangement is in a different direction. That this track lasts a little more than 2 minutes makes it rather short. But, for a much stronger Rush like feel, you'll have to wait a bit for the 6-plus minute "Knives." Actually, at nearly 25 minutes, it goes by all too fast.

Billy's Xmas Spirit (4:53) / Rifts & Festoons (2:26) / Flagrant Offender (4:28) / Knives (6:23) / Billy's Redeption (7:00)

Tony Castellano - everything

Fun Size (1997)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: June 29th 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Hits: 1094
Language: english


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