Russell Trunk's Exclusive Magazine (Sept 21, 2020)
For those not in the know, rock music and biomedical science might seem to be strange bedfellows, but it is the bed that Peacock Sunrise recording artist, John Blangero, has made for himself.
In fact, just one listen to his soulful new album, Delta Tales by alter-ego Sun King Rising will make the oddness of that pairing seem almost normal.
Furthermore, neither his music nor his work as a renowned genetic scientist are strange at all, it turns out. Call it “The Genetics of Soul,” if you will.
Blangero’s prodigious musical gifts were revealed when he started taking piano lessons at the age of five in his hometown of New Castle, Pennsylvania.
Five years later, he had absorbed not only the fundamentals of classical music but also gospel and rock music. He joined his first rock band at 14 and was soon composing and singing his own music.
Apprenticeships in a series of area bands culminated in the formation of his own original band called Harlequin. By then his music had evolved into a combination of prog-rock and glam, presented with all the theatrics such music generally entails. Harlequin attained retained regional popularity throughout the fertile Pennsylvania/Ohio/West Virginia market.
At the height of the band’s popularity, though, he gave up music to obtain his Ph.D. and become an active biomedical research scientist. During his twenty-year hiatus from music, he ascended to rock star stature in the international scientific community. But the musical beast within him could not be stilled forever. Playing casually with blues bands in San Antonio revived that beast and rekindled Blangero’s creative spark.
Now, he has completed the recording of his first solo album, the aforementioned Delta Tales. While prog-rock remains dear to Blangero’s heart, his soul and gospel influences that have come to fore in this album.
1. 'The Snake'
2. 'Milkweed and Thistle'
3. 'Down the Delta Road'
4. 'In a State of Grace'
5. 'Take it Down'
6. 'Beneath the Southern Sun'
7. 'Evangeline in the Morning'
8. 'Love Turns Grey'
9. 'Drive Me to Nashville'
10. 'Let There Be Light'
Produced by Steven “Ace” Acker, formerly of notable 1970s MCA recording artists, LAW, Delta Tales is a collection of nine original songs and one rather obscure 1969 R&B gem titled, and which kicks this whole musical experience off nicely, 'The Snake' (a song written by civil-rights activist Oscar Brown in 1963 and released as a single by American singer Al Wilson in 1968).
Opening with some mood setting, earthy snare and bass drum, before some divine, and righteously funk-emboldened, soulful gospel singers ask us to “Come on in”, now infused with some deep bass sax, the track is a right royal music rendition of the highest order.
Next up is the guitar-led, Bob Seger-esque magnificence of 'Milkweed and Thistle' which in turn is backed by the finger-snappin', slide blues guitar work of 'Down the Delta Road,' the profoundly resonating storytelling on a bed of horn percussion of 'In a State of Grace,' and then the low slung ballad (complete with an enthusiastic guitar solo) 'Take it Down.'
A complex, yet ultimately rewarding production, involving multiple studios and numerous top players and singers scattered throughout the country, next up is the gently frenetic rocker 'Beneath the Southern Sun' and the Bruce Springsteen-esque southern ballad 'Evangeline in the Morning' (which, yet again here, showcase Blangero's emotionally atmospheric vocals to a tee).
Then we get the upbeat, maracas' enriched 'Love Turns Grey,' with the album rounding out on the Americana troubadour rumblings of 'Drive Me to Nashville,' closing on the brilliant AOR radio rock of 'Let There Be Light' (complete with its lush organ fade out).
The recording of Delta Tales was a fascinating task, spanning four months, from January 2020 to mid-May. The Coronavirus shutdown in April forced Blangero and producer Ace Acker to complete the production remotely with players and singers recording in several different studios across the country rather than recording additional live, full-band studio sessions.
Says Blangero, “It was a logistical challenge, but I think we captured the magic that I’ve always heard in my head. Great background singers, classic horn parts, tight rhythm sections, killer guitar, funky keys, and my own acoustic piano parts."
"It sounds like it could have been recorded in the early '70s, which is the vibe I was going for.”
In closing, Blangero adds, “I tried to capture my southern soul on this album. I hope that the overall message it conveys is one of positivity, especially in these dark times."
"I think we have put together strong songs that will make people tap their feet and sing along, too! For me, the song is everything.”