SUNDAY CLASSIC GTC: JOE IADANZA Shares 5 Records
New York singer-songwriter Joe Iadanza is back with a new single lifted from his recently released new album Common Man. The lilting and rootsy Weary Hearts is available on all download and streaming platforms now and showcases his command of indie-folk melodies and honest Americana storytelling.
We caught up with him for a chat about five records that shaped his songwriting and musical outlook.
JOE IADANZA Shares 5 Records
STYX – CORNERSTONE
‘Cornerstone’ was the first album I ever bought all by myself. This was the end of the 1970s/early 80s, and I was just a kid, so we’re talking about original vinyl here. I can still feel what it was like to hold the album in my hands as I sat on the floor of my bedroom studying the cover art. Surreal and futuristic, I don’t think I had been exposed to anything like that at that point. And then there’s this naked kid there standing on the inside panels. What did that even mean!? I didn’t really know and I didn’t care. Something was alive here and it was calling to me.
From the opening drum fill of “Lights”, to the romance of “Babe”, we’re taken on quite a ride with this record. Tommy Shaw was one of the first voices I heard that made me say, “I really want to sing like that”. His writing on “Boat on the River” would plant seeds of contemplation in me (which would continue on other Tommy Shaw tunes like “Crystal Ball”). Add to all of this the tonal contrast and distorted intensity of “Borrowed Time” – which happened on so many of STYX’s records due to the stylistic head-butting between the band and Dennis DeYoung – and you’ve got an album that – intentional or just due to inner turmoil – takes you on a wild ride.
BRYAN ADAMS – YOU WANT IT, YOU GOT IT
Bryan Adams at Nassau Coliseum, October 1985. That was my first rock concert. Adams was touring on “Reckless”, a masterpiece of an album. But, that’s not what we’re exploring here. Bryan Adams was the first artist I ever became musically obsessed with. There was no internet back then, so it wasn’t common knowledge to a kid like me that “Reckless” was his fourth studio album. Part of being obsessed back then meant scouring the local record stores to find back catalog, imports, singles, and 45s. Bryan Adams has more of that than you’d expect, and I had quite a collection.
In my searching, I discovered his second album, “You Want It, You Got It”. I pretty much lived in a version the of outfit Adams’ sports on the cover for a good chunk of my high school life. This absolute gem of a record is a testament to a time when record labels really developed artists across several albums. There are no hits on it. Those would come on “Cuts Like a Knife”. But, this one is tender and raw and full of promise. It showed me what was possible as an artist given enough time. And somehow, I was able to understand that even back then.
Bryan’s high-pitched gritty voice has never been more moving than on tunes like, “Lonely Nights” or “No One Makes it Right”. Every song here is solid, but none of them cross over into the stratosphere of rock immortality. That’s not a problem though. There’s plenty to love about this album down here on earth.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – BORN IN THE USA
I was there for the revolution on the day MTV went live. Me and my sister, side by side in our parent’s bedroom, watching history. MTV’s launch was my generation’s Elvis moment. And while video absolutely did kill the radio star, there was still so much to be said and expressed as this new medium literally schooled me on the things I would come to see as most important in my adolescent life. So, when Bruce brought Courtney Cox up on stage in the iconic, live-staged, “Dancing in the Dark” video, I was seeing what I thought was my own future.
I remember when my dad brought me home a copy of Born in the USA. This was another of those moments where I stood transfixed, studying the album cover. Annie Liebowitz’s shot of Bruce was perfection. I would go on to study photography as my major in college precisely because of portraits like these.
Born in the USA is a perfect album; start-to-finish it’s a testament to an artist who has reinvented himself time and time again. It would be many years later before I dug deeply into the Springsteen catalog; before I became a disciple. Born in the USA isn’t even my favorite Springsteen album. But, this album changed my life. From the opening title track to the teen anthem, “No Surrender”, and from “Downbound Train” (Which might be in my top 10 songs of all time) to “My Hometown”…
To this day, this record hits me in every place inside of me that loves music. And Bob Clearmountain’s mixes… It was a game-changer for Bruce who has found, again and again, the ability to stay real and accessible, and relevant, and it was a game-changer for me.
LIVING COLOUR – VIVID
Two words. Vernon Reid.
You have to understand that I was quite a hair-metal 80’s guitar fanatic. Eddie Van Halen, Richie Sambora, George Lynch, Warren DiMartini, Steve Vai… I spent quite literally hundreds of hours ripping scales on my technicolor, leopard-spotted, B.C Rich guitar. But, it didn’t matter; I was on a mission to become a rock god. When I first saw the video for Living Colour’s, “Cult of Personality”, I remember sitting there speechless, and then I remember going absolutely nuts. Vernon Reid showed me something I hadn’t yet really experienced in the flashy players of the time. He wasn’t up there trying to look pretty. And yet he wasn’t just plowing into it like Kirk Hammett or Dave Mustaine. Vernon was pure aggression, yes. But it was also incredibly musical and smart too.
I didn’t know such a thing was really possible until then. And I can’t ignore the fact that this was a band of insanely talented black men playing metal and who looked nothing like me. That was a revelation! Since Clarence Clemon’s on the cover of “Born to Run”, I hadn’t been made so acutely aware of the racial divide in that bubble
I was living in. Reid would lead me to expand my musical knowledge, and to discover guys like Pat Metheny (who’s “Secret Story” album just missed making this list). Vivid is an incredibly creative and ground-breaking record. Nothing else sounded like it at that time. Nothing really does to this day. It’s funky and grinding. The band holds nothing back. I had the pleasure of seeing Living Colour on their “Stain” tour in Boston, November 1993. They opened the show with such a show of force – completely turning their songs inside out – that when they finished that first song we all stood there agape in stunned silence – the whole audience – just like I did when I saw that first video years back… And then we all went absolutely nuts.
JENEE HALSTEAD – THE RIVER GRACE
In a year that also saw the release of one of my all-time favorite albums, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ “Raising Sand”, an undiscovered singer-songwriter released an album that completely shifted my perception of what was possible as an independent artist.
In 2008 I had long moved on from playing rock and metal and was breaking out in the northeast US folk scene. I met Jenee Halstead at a folk conference in New England. We’d go on to become great friends and even tour in Europe together. Before I landed in this circuit, I didn’t think that you could have a successful career in music if you weren’t playing Madison Square Garden. I also didn’t think it was possible to make an album of any quality or significance without a label or big producer behind you. “The River Grace” proved me wrong. It’s an incredibly touching, rich, and mature debut album.
As a producer, Evan Brubaker found a way to bring out and incredible beauty in every note Jenee sings. You know you’ve got something different here right from the start. The first track, “Before I Go”, starts with a sampled groove that kind of tricks you before Jenee’s bouncing finger-picked acoustic guitar kicks in. The production of “The River Grace” lives in a semi-dream state between traditional folk/Americana and something else that I can’t exactly put my finger on. It’s is a complete album. Every song matters. There’s no filler. Check out tracks like “Deep Dark Sea” and “Dusty Rose”. It’s Americana gold. Truly… And having heard this record, I knew – for the first time since I was a much younger man – that anything was possible.
+ Top Spotify Tracks
Intro/photos courtesy of Saint In The City PR
JOE IADANZA: Vocals & Guitars
JAGODA: Drums & Percussion
CRAIG AKIN: Bass
PAUL SILVERMAN: Hammond Organ, Piano & Keys
SOPHIE BUSKIN: Harmony & Backing Vocals
Recorded by Johnny Montagnese & Engineered by McLee Mathias at Carriage House Studios, Stamford, CT.
Mixed by Jon Castelli at The Gift Shop, Los Angeles, CA.
Mastered by Dale Becker at Becker Mastering, Los Angeles, CA.
*Rainbow Shine: Lyrics by Luke Dixon and Joe Iadanza.
“Music is the way I process the world. It’s how I process the emotions that I feel, the happenings, the ups and downs, the good and the bad, and the love and the sorrows and the pain…I take that and channel all of that emotion into music and song. Weary Hearts” is a meditation on the light that hides within each of us – no matter how dark it may look on the surface.” – Joe Iadanza