At the school of romantic heartland rock, John Taglieri probably graduated at the top of his class.
His earnest songs aren’t much leavened with humor a la John Mellencamp, but he’s less histrionic than Bon Jovi, delivering his passionate paeans to lovers and dreamers in a remarkably powerful, sweet tenor that’s closer to Kansas’s Steve Walsh than to the typical rootsy singer-songwriter of the heartland tradition.
Reflecting his recent solo tours, the new CD by the New Jersey troubadour is an acoustic record comprised of six studio and six live tracks (hence the title). On the evidence of the latter in particular, it’s clear that Taglieri is a charismatic performer with the top-notch vocal and instrumental chops needed to put across his anthems and love songs convincingly whether performing solo or with a band.
And put them across he does. The choruses are a little too middle-of-the-road for my taste, and the lyrics depend too much on commonplaces, but to the extent the writing is a little less than sharp, Taglieri’s delivery makes up for it.
“Stay With Me” exemplifies what’s best about this work.
And now I’m begging you to stay here
And I’m begging you to please
And I’m crumbling in front of you
Dropping to my knees…
Oh please stay with me
The singer is begging his lover to please… what? But when you think about it, people’s real live talk, especially in emotional moments, is full of just this kind of semantic fuzziness. This is the kind of music where we get what the song’s about without having to absorb every word intellectually. The meaning is in the melodies, the rhythms, the tone and most of all the singing. And when Taglieri throws caution to the winds and puts everything he’s got into his highest notes, there’s no stopping him.
It was wise not to release an all-live album; the recording quality of the live tracks isn’t great. But paired with the studio set they prove John Taglieri a worthy troubador for our troubled times.