"Pop Quiz" - on a college campus it's usually the work of a single professor and not exactly designed to entertain. This isn't business as usual. The Pop Quiz we're talking about is a collegial labor of love aimed at fans of classic R&B, rock, pop, and bebop. An eclectic collection of covers, Pop Quiz ranges from Roy Orbison to Thelonious Monk, from Wilson Pickett to the Travelling Willburys, and has a blast in the process. Miles Davis on mandolin, anyone?
The Stockton Faculty Band has rocked South Jersey for a couple of decades, performing on and off campus for audiences of all sizes and donating the proceeds to support student scholarships. Years in the making, here's the album their fans have clamored for. All profits from this first CD release on Keep Your Day Job records will be donated to the Stockton Federation of Teachers' student scholarship fund. This Pop Quiz sounds good, feels good and does good.
Don't take our word for it; here's a detailed review by our number one fan:
The Stockton Faculty Band
Keep Your Day Job Records, 2007.
Our very own faculty band has made us tap our feet and storm the dance floor at parties and concerts for many years. The Stockton Faculty Band has been an immense part of what makes this College unique and a very cool place to work and study. What had been missing from the long tradition of musical morale boosting for the college community was some Faculty Band music that we could all play on our iPods or car stereos.
This summer, the 'One Band that Rocks them All' finally took action: they released their first CD, Pop Quiz. The lightheartedly 'academic' title goes along with a whimsical trivia section inside the CD's package, exploring band members' individual histories as musicians as well as providing a tongue-in-cheek tour of pop and rock history. The Warholesque cover photos, arranged by band member and art professor Mike McGarvey, feature current portraits of each of the ten band members. The real fun starts when the CD case is opened and we see our musicians as they were back in their garage-band days.
As is the custom at campus parties, the band opens the CD with a jazzy instrumental number. Pop Quiz begins with Theolonius Monk's 'Straight. No Chaser,' featuring a smooth Warren Ogden on keyboards. A perfect opening that invites the listener to open a cold one, sit back, and look forward to things to come. The piece also gives us an immediate glimpse of David Pinto's fine talent on the mandolin. Where live shows are sometimes too loud and rowdy to allow listeners to appreciate this quiet instrument, the CD puts David center stage, where he belongs. Any time David picks up the mandolin, such as in 'Dream,' which is featured toward the end of the recording, wonderful things happen.
After the jazz opening the momentum continues with a powerful double-header of two Faculty Band classics: 'In the Midnight Hour' and 'Mustang Sally.' Frank Cerreto nails the vocals on both. I think we can safely retire the original versions after listening to him belt these songs out both on the CD and at live concerts.
For the sweet and slow dance number 'My Girl' Anne Pomeroy teams up with Frank and Peter Hagen in a fine vocal trio. Anne's vocals are featured in several songs, and she is in fine voice for each performance.
'Song for My Father' shows off the band's strong horn section, accompanied by Warren's wonderfully dreamy keyboard excursion and Rodger Jackson's sultry and introspective guitar solo.
'Small Town Romance' is played less often at parties and other gigs, but a delightful ensemble effort that deserves notice. Clearly, the star of this track is David Pinto on mandolin. The man is a full-blooded musician, playing drums and singing in the band. The mandolin, however, is his special instrument: he plays it with such love, soul, and aplomb.
'Shake, Rattle, and Roll' brings the band comedian, Mike McGarvey to the front of the stage. Mike's deadpan delivery is right on, just as we've come to expect from live performances. But don't be mistaken: Mike not only sings; he also plays an energetic sax solo on this track. Play this CD at your next party. If your guests are not dancing by the time Mike invites them to shake, rattle, and roll, you seriously need to reconsider your guest list. I can't imagine anyone not being affected by the rhythm, fun, and sheer exuberance of this track. This song has been played at every Union party that I ever attended, as has the song that I feel most embodies the Stockton spirit: 'Everyday People.' To me, this will always be the signature Faculty Band song, celebrating diversity, tolerance, and social consciousness. I am glad that this one was included in the CD. It would not have seemed right to omit it from the band's recording debut.
Shifting gears again, we hear Peter Hagen pining away for his 'Pretty Woman' as he has for many years. We hope she'll never 'stop a while' or 'give her smile' to him, because that would mean he'd have no reason to keep singing this Stockton classic. And that would just be too bad! Similar feelings are evoked when Paul Lyons struts off to Kansas City to get himself one of those 'crazy little women there.' Along with 'Love Potion Number Nine,' 'Kansas City' is just a great song and a true classic in the band's repertoire.
Another word about Mike McGarvey: listen closely to the sheer clarity of his sax solo on 'All Blues,' accompanied by a crystalline Warren Ogden on keyboard, a strong supporting horn cast, and Oh Well, you all know by now what I think of David Pinto's mandolin playing. Here he infuses a sultry, bluesy, touch to the wonderfully languid interpretation of a jazz standard.
And what a good idea it was to include an instrumental number that gives Anne Pomeroy the opportunity to shine on the flute! She plays 'Black Orpheus' with verve and passion to Warren's lovely keyboard accompaniment.
'The Letter' is a fast-paced rock classic led by Frank Cerreto's strong vocals that allows Rodger Jackson to really rock out and show us his best riffs. This is my personal favorite among Rodger's many fine solos on the CD. Never overpowering but so very accomplished. The number is once again a strong ensemble effort that lets us feel the band's sound chemistry in playing together.
By the time the Faculty band reaches a fun and folksy 'End of the Line' we know that this must not possibly remain the only CD by our very own campus musicians. Yes, they all have daytime jobs, and they're doing all right, but what we want most from them is more music, music, music!