In the wake of “Bohemian Rhapsody” movie opening this month on Friday the 2nd, I am honored to review a band called Ivory Tower Project who keeps the candle burning at both ends for the Power Rock icons of the past (like Queen) by staying true to melodies kissed with pure band instrumentation arrangements, vocal harmonies that escapes the gut and settles into the mind, messages in the music, and pure craftsmanship when it comes to playing the music.
Ivory Tower Project is a Rock duo hailing from New York USA and incudes: Mark Regula (vocals, keyboards, acoustic guitar, bass, percussion) and Tony Novarro (guitars, bass, percussion and engineer).
Ivory Tower Project were double nominated in this year’s Nashville Universe and triple nominated in The Josie Music Awards. Their debut album is entitled “Red Hot” and it is HOT peeps. The latest album to come off the reel-to-reel is “How Much More” and will be featured in this review.
Fourteen tracks stockpiled with Classic Rock enthusiasm and energy are sketched onto this ivory tower wall of music:
- How Much More? (Alternate Version)
- The Ideas of March (Et Tu Brute?) [Alt. Version)
- Gotcha’ (Club Mix) (Alt. Version)
- Ring Around Rosie (Alt. Version)
- Way Too Late (Full Length Remix)
- Always (Alt. Version)
- When Friends Become Lovers
- Please Tell Me (Alt. Version)
- Woman of The Times (Alt. Version)
- Burning (Full Length Remix)
- Surf Song
- You Can See It in My Eyes (Remix)
- Le Dare Un Anillo a Rosi
- My Name (DJ Distortion Remix)
The eight featured in this review dominantly displays that iconic Classic Rock prowess that made us fall in love with Queen and Foreigner - pure power illustrated with majestic music arrangements and surgical vocalizations, but not too shy to blend and try something new. This is my interpretation.
The album opens with “How Much More? (Alternate Version)” - an enigmatic track with beautiful soundscapes and mystical instrumentation. It is pulled-back and seductive. Mark Regula’s vocal melody hugs the instrumentation through every hill and valley. This goes on for both verses, and layers are surgically added when the tempo picks up and extra instrumentation is incorporated. Love being a mistake in the making is the storyline of this Classic, yet Modern, Rock track. It's almost fairytale lyrical premise blends well with the modern production of mixed tempo treatments. Regula’s vocals are like that of Steve Perry – powerfully mellow and in your face at the same time. The hook is kissed with harmonies and the guitars act like a third, fourth, or even fifth band member by being outspoken! This is a rich track that will never die and gives proof that both Regula and Novarro are masterminds on the strings – Slash-worthy, I might add. The song fades reminiscent of 1980s Classic Rock cuts. YESSS!!! I am in love!
Remember the quote that Al Pacino’s character “Michael Corleone” said in the Godfather – Part II film, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer?” Well, Ivory Tower Project’s second track “The Ides of March (Et Tu Brute?) [Alt. Version)” alludes to this very fact and highlights the importance of knowing fully who you surround yourself with in your lifetime. Regula sings: so, I trusted in the friends I had and I found out way too late / but deep inside their smiles was jealousy and hate, but the Ides of March is the time I will be free / when I feel the wounds and I meet my destiny / and I thought that I’ve had something more to say / as my soul is laid to rest Et Tu Brute.” Using both Latin terms within the song’s title romanticizes this splendid Rock track and places this harsh universal reality into the Millennium. The guitars are wailing, shouting, and talking in this theatrical track, and the dual playing of the guitars in harmony just sets the melodramatic storyline up top and just makes you replay the entire track. Another great asset is at the three minutes / 27 seconds mark when a guitar solo begins and plays on to the outro. WOW! I see why this song was the 2018 Nashville Universe Awards Song of the Year. A tragedy put to music – the curtain closes, and we move on to the third track.
“Gotcha’ (Club Mix) (Alt. Version)” starts off with classic 80s soundscapes and give a nod to bands like Cameo with its Pop Rock Funk blend. The bass on this song has such attitude and purpose. This track has limited vocals, but that’s alright, as the music is so welcoming and give you time to just think. Like old school songs that would have music breaks within the tracks. The brass section in the background and the electronic percussions also salute a time in music where the MUSIC was the most important factor. This trend has since been lost but now found thanks to Ivory Tower Project. That textured, layered sax-infused hook just plays on and on in your mind once the song stops with extra keys and drums. Just as the song’s premise states “now, I gotcha” – speaking in terms of the male character finally having his woman, symbolically, this song will have YOU at the initial pluck of the bass guitar! Ya’ll that hook is awesome. Give this a listen.
The 2018 Nashville Universe Awards Music Video of the year went to Ivory Tower Project’s fourth track “Ring Around Rosie (Alt. Version)” and I see why. The video is excitingly modern with its illustrations and creative concept. It has everything to get across the message of the song: the character’s eyes meeting, humor, drama, tragedy, and a soundtrack that speaks about love, a never-dying emotion. The song itself features vocal modulations in the hook and a classic Pop Rock execution that opens with the guitar roaring which falls right into the lead which sings these words: like a fairytale in a story book, you walked into my life and that’s all it took for me to love you / I’m gonna put a ring around Rosie tonight. It’s a soft ballad with its melody, and a power ballad with its driving guitars. It simply closes with the traditional melody of “ring around the rosie” played by a guitar solo.
The most Progressive in its execution is the “Surf Song” – an instrumental Pop Rock Punk track that at first sight you would think it is a remixed Beach Boys’ track, but nah son, this song may be influenced by bands such as the Beach Boys’ stylizations, but this track is so NOW with its tapestry of textures weaved in and out of melodies and tempos. The song’s instrumentation that builds this bombastic high-energy track are simple non-Rock instruments really – guitars, organ, drums, maraca, bongos (congas), tambourines, some keys, but, boy do they create a Pop Rock Punk track that is memorable. And it is not all over the place, it is sensible. Blending these non-traditional instruments in such a way that composes an instrumental like this is merciful on the ears and demonstrates skillful production and creativity. Still, that threading melody is driven by guitars, guitars, guitars and evolves from low tide to high tide in just two minutes and 59 seconds.
A song for lovers is “You Can See It in My Eyes (Remix)” with its heavy sax-driven foundation. This track offers a spotlight on more layered synthesizers and heavy distorted guitars all marrying to the subtle lead vocal that sings about being lost in love. The vocal harmony notes are a bit old school R&B with their modulating scales, but the entire song reads Soft Pop Rock and has wonderful 1980s styling, yet it is polished and modern. It’s been a while since I have heard an honest track where a man confesses his love. It was nice to hear and promises that true love still exists. And boy, oh boy, that saxophone solo is just impressive! This track has great commercial capacity. Hand-dance anyone?
The thirteenth track “Le Dare Un Anillo a Rosi” is the wonderful Spanish version of the fourth track “Ring Around Rosie” and is more scaled back than its forerunner but will surely give you an escape to innocence!
Which brings us to a concert opener – the final track “My Name (DJ Distortion Remix)” an exhilarating EDM track with some Pop Rock elements that nicely concludes the EP. The track starts low and then rises to a fever pitch with soft synths, digital vocal FX, and light percussions; but, this track is driven. This ah-some drive is illustrated at the two minutes mark - here, additional percussions sneak in and adds layers and follows a melody that is trippy. The music pulls back at the two minutes / 45 seconds mark and is covered in an echo-effect that catapults you and keeps you stranded in Ivory Tower Project’s grasp. As the music rebuilds itself, it meanders between sci-fi-licious and Hip-Hop slamming and evolves into a new shape of eclecticism that just works. This instrumental monster is hypnotic and cleverly sexy. I see it as a nod to an artist’s brand as their name is a principle part of an artist’s brand.
This is not the typical t-shirt and jeans type of Rock, it is a top-hat with tux and tails matched with Converses type of Rock. No gimmicks, over-excited FX, too much digital, or lazy vocals. Each track on this EP gives us the Ying and Yang that the listening audience craves daily – a perfect balance of music, passion, drive, and melody; and, this illustrates that there is a place for Classic Rock in the Millennium. Ivory Tower Project is justly named as it is as if they were placed on top in a tower by the Classic Rock gods.
With mainstream music actually burning down the bridges that connects society to pure music by using artificial techniques to make music and sacrificing the music just to garner Instagram likes (LOL), Ivory Tower Project are rebuilding these musical bridges with guitar strings and solid melodies thus connecting all of us back to the real roots of classic Rock.
Additional power players on this EP are: Ivan Elias (Bass – formerly of Patty Smyth & Scandal), Richie Cannata (tenor saxophone – formerly with Billy Joel), Michael Carbone, Tex Prothro, Joey Bruno, Zoe Grella, Tyrone Johnson, and DJ Distortion.
This is music that is openminded, engraved, and complex. The gates are opened; welcome to the Tower!
Download and listen to samples here!