Sal Valentino,
Dreamin' Man
(Global, 2011)

In the 1960s, Sal Valentino was the voice of the Beau Brummels, a San Francisco group that predated the Summer of Love by a few years and had a few hits, most notably "Laugh, Laugh." The Beau Brummels went the way of all bands and Valentino put together a new group, Stoneground, which featured John Blakely, the producer of this album, on guitar. After Stoneground went its way also, Blakely wanted to produce a solo album "designed for and sculptured around his uniquely dark and smoky tenor voice." Finally, after many starts and stops -- Blakely says they began recording during the analog tape era and finished in the computer age -- the album finally exists.

The question becomes: was it worth the wait and all the effort that went into it?

Not being a huge Beau Brummels fan, I can't compare it what Valentino did in the past, which would not be a fair assessment anyway. What I can say is that Blakely was onto something when he decided to do an album specifically designed for Valentino's voice, which is one of the unusual instruments in rock. Valentino's tenor is unique and unmistakable. It is also flexible and comfortable with a lot of musical genres; he's equally at home with ballads, rockers and anything else that comes down the pike.

Producer Blakely plays all of the guitars, also contributing mandolin, mandola and dobro work, along with a scattering of keyboard work. A rhythm sections fills in the combo. What type of record is Dreamin' Man? It can probably be best described by quoting Blakely:

Dreamin' Man is not pop, it's not crassly commercial and it doesn't reach for the easy listening, nostalgic buck. It's a deeply felt compilation of spiritually candid, soulful honest music."

Listeners will have to decide about the last part of Blakely's statement for themselves. I can attest, however, that the first part is true: it's not pop, not commercial and not easy listening. It defies categorization and a lot of it rewards the challenge it presents.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

10 December 2011

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