Review: Gary Santarella and Ditto – Unconditional Love

Gary Santerella is a mainstay on the New England scene and his Unconditional Love CD contains all his regional classics heard in clubs over the past three decades. “Don’t Kick Me When I’m Down” was aired on WAAF’s Bay State Rock with Carmelita back in the day, that pure pop version has the sublime chorus enhanced with vocalists from the a capella group The Bosstones (no relation to the Mighty Bosstones.) The song received high praise from Carm when Santarella was shopping it to A & R men from New York to Los Angeles and also got play on Kiss 108 and WCGY. The new version is decidedly different, featuring versatile bassist Roger Kimball in a delightful country/rock setting.

The music contained in this package has a very retrospective seventies country rock flavor to it, and was clearly inspired by what this writer would say the cream of the crop of that genre, with influential sounds of just to name a few artists in that period the likes of the Eagles, Orleans, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and too many more to mention. The Orleans’ sound is prominent in opener “Don’t Kick Me When I’m Down” – in that “Still the One” groove with a hook that will want you to keep it on “repeat.”

“No Hard Feelings” reminds me of those late 70s or early 80s ballads like Dan Fogelberg’s “Longer” while “Daddy-Oh” could be John Denver fronting the Eagles. Especially when Denver was “Back Home Again.” Santarella gets credit for creativity in the songwriting while twisting different styles together, and it all works in a positive way. “Rocky” is a happy, upbeat tune about man’s best friend…nice that our dogs are getting some attention in music. The singer going on runs, Rocky greeting him at the door, drives in the car, I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever heard something this good – ever – about our furry friends.

“Punta Cana” is a nice mellow relaxing piece about an island of fun and relaxation. Like to be there, actually, hearing the ocean breeze and sipping on a nice cold beverage of choice while lying in the sun. Damn…and getting a natural tan. “Hey Hey Sweetie” follows in the same flow – “hey hey sweetie, can we grow old together?” Fun and catchy and that’s the point. It’s just much too short of a cd, more like a maxi-E.P., but in that short amount of time you’ll just have to spin the tunes again because this album is just that good.

Special thanks to Ed Wrobleski host of Talking Hendrix on Boston Free Radio for this review