Album Review : Fabrizzio Grossi – Soul Garage Experience

Review by Peter Coates –

Released – Sept 10th 2021 

This record is hard to describe, and impossible to pigeonhole – Crazy, Eclectic, Uplifting and Fabulous all in the one release!

There is more crossover here than in an underground record store after an earthquake, with Blues, Soul, Funk, Grunge, Gospel, Reggae and straight ahead Rock’n’Roll blended into an infectious groove-laden melange of old school roots, blues and rock.

Fabrizio “Fab” Grossi is a bass-player and producer first and foremost, and is probably best known for his work with Supersonic Blues Machine (with hris Barras, Kenny Aronoff and a cast of legends), Starbreaker (with Tony Harnell), and Goodfellas (with Steve Lukather) as well as all the production work for Frontiers Records in Italy (Glenn Hughes, James Christian, Robin Beck, House of Lords and Dave Navarro among others).   He has also worked with Billy Gibbons, Pat Travers, Steve Vai, Alice Cooper, Eric Gales, and the man who brought the funk, George Clinton and his Parliament Funkadelics, and is currently producing Gary Clark Jr, Aaron Keylock and Susan Santos.

It seems this encounter with George Clinton brought about a significant influence on Fab’s playing and writing, and this all built up to 2017 when he formed an ensemble in LA called Drop The Needle with Stephen Perkins and Alex Alessandroni, inspired by the 60’s California jam movement, with tribal funk jazz grooves tones, and this sound has wormed its way into the Soul Garage Experience vibe, and what a joy it is!

Taken from the Press Release – The record features some pretty solid cats; Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction, Porno for Pyros), Hermann Matthews (Tower of Power, Stevie Wonder), Kenny Aronoff (John Fogerty, Joe Satriani, Smashing Pumpkins, Paul McCartney), Bette Smith, Alastair Greene (Alan Parsons), Diimond Meeks (American Idol & America’s Got Talent finalist), Alex Alessandroni Jr. (Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston, Pink, Natalie Cole), Derek Day, Dylan Meek, The Supersonettes (Francis Benitez & Andrea Grossi Benitez), Chris Hansen, Fabio Drusin and more. 

Twenty-four-year-old fellow LA based rising star Derek Day provides the incendiary guitar playing on most of the record.  He infuses his music with the power of Rock N’ Roll, and a big chunk of Soul alongside R&B.  Derek has opened for and performed with luminaries in Steve Vai, Moby, and Slash. Together with star drummer Stephen Perkins, keyboards wizards Alex Alessandroni Jr, and Dylan Meek, and vocalist uber talent Diimond Meeks, Derek is part of the touring core of Soul Garage Experience.

Slave To My Rhythm opens up the record with a slightly trashy groove, and features the impressive counterpoint and backing vocals of Francis Benitez (Mrs Fab) and Andrea Grossi, working in a divine partnership with Fab’s lead vocal line, while the band keeps the tempo running, and sees Derek Day pull the first of many ripping solos, and lets Kenny Aronoff show off a bit with some crisp drum patterns.  The bass kicks off Right Down Below, before an Andy Summers style reggae riff kicks in, and we are in a melange of I Shot The Sheriff and Roxanne, with Fab providing just the right tone in the voice – he will be the first one to admit he is not a pure vocalist, but he is able to bring a vibe to the tracks that really fits.  There is more excellent guitar work from Derek all through the last couple of minutes of the track, which is an extended jam on the chorus, before it returns to the solo bass-line for the close.

We get the first appearance from Diimond Meeks on I Rather Be Wrong, sharing the lead vocals with Fab, and seeing a wonderful vocal arrangement, and highlighting Chris Hansen on the Harp (harmonica) who is right up in the mix throughout.  There is so much going in in this track that is hard to hear who is doing what at times, but it all combines well to give order to the chaos.  Diimond is featured heavily on Soul Intervention as lead vocalist, and this has an urgent beat through the verse, and then the glorious chorus erupts with the soaring power of Meeks voice, and the ever-present backing harmonies.  Derek lays down some intricate guitar breaks in the background, taking a more prominent role with the solo, before the track really becomes a vehicle to allow Diimond to really explore the melody and expand the sonic boundaries to the extreme.  This one sounds better the louder you play it!

Ain’t No Giving Up is another groove-laden vehicle for an excellent harp player, this time Fabio Drusin does the honours, and Derek lays down another slippery solo, while Fab delivers a gravelly lead vocal, and I love the effects-heavy chorus lines – while Stephen Perkins delivers an absolutely clinical drum track from start to finish. A slow-down in tempo for I Never Thought That You Loved Me, which slides into a pulsating beat, and sees Alastair Greene drive the track through his slide guitar, with Hansen again on the harp……this is not Blues as you know it, but it has the soul of the Blues at its heart.  The same feel rumbles in with the incandescent With or Without You, that features the incomparable voice of Brooklyn Soul / Gospel singer Bette Smith who is worth checking out for her own works if you like your rock’n’soul on steroids! 

Diimond is back in the house for the funked up Shit Load of Sugar which features Serge Simic (Supersonic Blues Machine) on guitars and this is just a good-time party jam, with some insistent riffing, wailing harp, and the vocals almost ad-libbing their way through the verse, before the super-catchy chorus erupts, and after the second round we get a scintillating solo over the Fab and Kenny rhythm section absolutely blitzing the backing. 

The nearest thing to a classic blues rocker is perhaps my favourite track here, Pills Lies and Thunderstorms, and features Simone Sello (Billy Sheehan) on guitar as well as Garret Holbrook on Lap Steel – it opens up with an atmospheric southern blues feel, with Fab taking the lead vocal line with a mean and moody tone in the opening verse and pre-chorus, all over a sparse backing driven by a straight bass and drum line.  Then the track explodes into life with what I take to be the actual chorus, which has a powerful deep riff, and powers along with the girls singing the main line, with Diimond adding spectacular ad libs all over the top!

Radio brings to mind an 80’s rock vocalist whose name escapes me in the verse, which is just one aspect of Diimond’s versatile vocal style, but the track quickly morphs into a massive groove, with the tag line “Get It On Funky” being most apt!  The song itself could not be further from what the subject matter is – being the soulless nature of so much of the normal radio-fodder!

The album closes with another bouncy up-tempo psycho-soul number, Them And Me, which sees Joey Sykes (Boystown and Coward, and currently in The Babys) on guitars, and has a shuffling drum beat from Hermann Matthews with Diimond again taking the lead vocal line, and sees him just let rip while the girls hold down the main line of the chorus.

I have listened to the record several times now, and hear so many different elements in the songs each time I replay them, but the constant feel is that overall feeling of joy and delight from the band in each song – because while the line-up for each track may be different, they are definitely a band in every case – and the delivery of a genre-busting soundscape of catchy hooks, quirky beats, layers of harmonies from guitars, keyboards and voices that simply screams out to be heard and enjoyed.

Track Listing:
01. Slave to my rhythm
02. Right down below
03. I rather be wrong
04. Soul intervention – feat. Diimond Meeks
05. Ain’t no givin’ up
06. I never thought that you loved me
07. With or without you –feat. Bette Smith
08. Shit load of sugar – feat. Diimond Meeks\
09. Pills, lies & thunderstorms
10. Radio – feat. Diimond Meeks
11. Them and me – feat. Diimond Meeks

Read our Interview with Fabrizzio Grossi

Pic – Enzo Mazzeo

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Pic – Enzo Mazzeo