Michael’s remixed another album in which he provides all of the voices and most of the instrumentation.
The only song on War And Other Love Songs in which there is another artist is the last song, “If It Was Blue”. Clay January plays flawlessly on “If It Was Blue”, a song that features Michael’s voice, his acoustic guitar and, of course, Clay’s flute. If you like songs with obscure rhythms and if you like acoustic jazz, you’ll like “If It Was Blue”.
As the title implies, War And Other Love Songs mixes Michael’s passion for social justice with his, well, his passion. Songs on War And Other Love Songs either speak to social justice (or social injustice), love between two people or other, slightly more cryptic subject matter. “If It Was Blue” is the only song on the CD which Michael lets the listener decide where it belongs (if anywhere).
“What’s Happening” really has nothing to do with the famous sixties lingo. Instead, it truly asks “what’s happening?” What are the leaders of America thinking? Are they even thinking? Can they “get a hold of their minds”, to quote a line from the song.
Contrasting musical intensity in “What’s Happening” covers the sadness as well as the frustration of what The Former United States of America is going through today.
The late Utah Philips’s “The Violence Within” inspired “Dig Your Grave Kid”. We often hear the phrase “Support the troops”. However, if there were no troops, if people refused to put themselves in death’s way and refused to kill others on the word of people in high places, could there ever be any war? Think about it.
Also, like Philips, Michael keeps “Dig Your Grave Kid” simple, using acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, tambourine and three part harmony. The harmony in “Dig Your Grave Kid” is more evidence of Michael’s ownership of music. Don’t forget, it’s all Michael.
The number eight song on this disc when I first released it is now the number 9 song.
When Michael first recorded “Strong People”, he sang it in a falsetto voice. The song was actually written in 1969 in protest to The Vietnam War.
As you know, after losing 58,000 of our citizens and killing over two million of theirs, we lost the war. But, not to worry, Vietnam and The FUSA (The Former United States of America) are great pals these days. We trade with them in this crazy, free trade world.
The FUSA even sends jobs to its people so that they won’t suffer the kind of unemployment in their country that we’re suffering in The FUSA on account of it’s sending jobs to their people. The FUSA - what a guy!
As far as “Strong People” is concerned all was not lost. Twenty-eight years after our war in Vietnam, which was based a lie told to us by Lyndon Johnson, The Regime, which is better known as the George W. Bush administration, decided that, because Osama bin Laden supposedly had some of his flunkies fly planes into several buildings located within the borders of The FUSA, The FUSA had to invade Iraq, a place in which, if an Al Qaeda operative was ever caught, he would be put to death.
However, the people of The FUSA had to hate someone for what happened on 9/11/2001 and that someone had better look like an Arab. The people of Iraq look a lot like Arabs and they even live in the same part of the world. So, instead of doing some research or even thinking about doing any research, our hungry for revenge population agreed that Iraq would serve as an appropriate whipping boy for a crime that someone else committed.
Now, this was a serious “mistake”, indeed, but it gave Michael a good reason to revive “Strong People”. As George W. Bush was taking his turn as Queen for a term or two in The White House, and he was very well known for having never mastered, or, possibly, even learned, in a formal sort of way, the English language, Michael not only recorded “Strong People”, but had a little fun with it. As mentioned, he sang it in a falsetto voice and had some of his “pals” making remarks in the background inspired by some of Dubya’s funnier challenges with the language.
Then came this Obama guy. Michael heard him speak and said to himself, “You can retire “Strong People” forever now. This guy has some intelligence.”
But, alas, Barack has shown us he likes a good war as much as the next guy. So, while he said he was going to take our citizens out of Iraq because that was a bad war (bad, bad war), he was, at the same time, going to place them in Afghanistan, the good war (ah, you’re a good little war, aren’t you?).
When Michael thought that “Strong People” was lost forever, he removed it from War And Other Love Songs and replaced it with what is now the eighth song, “Fog”. Hey, Michael likes jazz and blues and he gives it a shot.
But President Obama has kept the embers burning for the song Michael thought he’d have to retire, “Strong People”. Now War And Other Love Songs has one more song than it had when Michael first recorded it.
Michael took all the “funny” stuff out because, considering the intelligence nestled in the brain of Barack Obama, there’s nothing funny about his perpetuating The FUSA’s War Without End.
After all, we are The Former United States of America, a country which never met a war it didn’t like.
The music? It’s sixties rock.
“What The President Say” is another song Michael aimed squarely at The Regime. It's also another song he can thank President Barack Obama for keeping alive - more than what can be said about what the president is doing for people in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“What The President Say” is Michael’s third, but probably his best venture into the world of Reggae. The song is abounding with steel drums, marimba and that rhythm guitar sound unique to Reggae.
The harmony will bring you to the Islands, mahn, even if the attempted Jamaican accent doesn’t.
There are songs on “War And Other Love Songs” which talk about some of the trials and tribulations of life that are neither based upon war or romantic affairs.
For example, while “Disdain” talks about the discrimination and exclusivity that helps some people feel superior to others, “Fantastic Mouse”, based upon a woman Michael met in college, talks about the fear of relationships and loneliness. In any case, the two songs talk about the unwillingness to give others a chance.
“Disdain’s” minor key emphasizes the hate shown by the offenders. The addition of a banjo merely serves to push that envelope even further.
On the other hand, “Fantastic Mouse” is much more musically simple, yet the song's ending on a minor chord brings appropriate sadness to the song.
People have said that they play “Fantastic Mouse” for their kids. Those that feel that this is appropriate should understand that “Fantastic Mouse” is not only about loneliness, but the result of the loneliness; suicide.
“Disguise” and “To A Dream” also share a similar message. They are both about people hiding behind false fronts so that they don’t have to face reality. The only difference is the kind of hiding that’s done in each song.
Michael is proud of his production of the title song on his CD “Flameland”, which he is working on remixing at the present time.
However, “Disguise” and “To A Dream” may equal that production quality.
At the end of “Disguise”, there is literally ten part harmony, albeit “in the round”, so to speak. That’s Michael’s voice ten times over. No small accomplishment.
Michael uses effects in “To A Dream” to give it that, well, that dreamy feel.
Finally, there are three love songs on War And Other Love Songs.
While the productions of “Flameland”, “Disguise” and “To A Dream” are excellent, “I’m Sorry” is not far behind. The inclusion of tympanis, crash cymbals, brass, strings and a choir sweeten “I’m Sorry” and bring out its intrinsic poignancy.
“Visions Of New England (Fill My Head)” should in no way be confused with the song with a similar title by Barry Manilow. Michael Bonanno was raised and born in Connecticut (not necessarily in that order) and lived in New England for most of his life. Michael knows New England
“Visions Of New England (Fill My Head)” crescendos through its four verses using the addition of various rhythmic changes, instruments and levels of harmony. Michael's constant willingness to experiment explains the addition of a glockenspiel in the last verse, which adds a lot to the crescendo effect.
“Last Night” (Was A Very Good Night For Love)” is the first song on War And Other Love Songs to utilize the flute. Inspired by Donovan Leitch’s “Colours”, “Last Night” (Was A Very Good Night For Love)” is a happy, hopeful song made fuller by four part harmony in the last verse. The acoustic guitar is utilized perfectly.
The diversification of War And Other Love Songs ensures that it contains something good for everyone. Michael’s fourth album, the third that he has remixed, is well worth the price of purchase.
War And Other Love Songs, along with Flameland, LIFE; THE MUSIC and Left Where I Write On will no doubt drive Michael Bonanno and his music onto the national scene. It’s music that appeals to people who like variety and who just plain like music. It especially appeals to Baby Boomers who are tired of listening to “Ramblin’ Man” by The Allman Brothers on Classic Rock radio. Of course, this is meant with all due respect to the great Allman Brothers.