Michael Mazzarella's name and reputation have risen to cult status through his singing and song writing for over a decade now. The Rooks established themselves in 1994 following their debut CD. With a press-kit of rave reviews behind the them, Mazzarella subsequently continued to supply his fan base with solid material without retracing his steps, always with an eye and ear to developing The Rooks sound and scope in excellence and maturity. Michael's first solo effort, Grey Over An Autumn Winter is neither a departure from, nor a recreation of his old Rooks catalog. His new songs retain the melodious characteristics he's become known for, while reflecting the work of a writer whom continues to grow and expand his craft without sacrificing quality in his compositions. From the lovely opening track "Fairground Is Gone," to the album's chilling ode to his mother finale "Dear Mariann," we anticipate that you will find beauty in Mazzarella's recent efforts.
Michael Mazzarella – So Low Solo
The trouble with music today is that there’s just too much of it. Too many bands, too many websites, too many MySpace pages and way too many less-than-mediocre CDs. The music industry is in flux and it looks like the power shift may have started, placing the momentum in the laps of kids with cool haircuts, big plans, user-friendly digital gear and unfortunately often lame-ass skillz. With emancipation comes a price - literally. Seems like anyone can (and everyone does) release something on an everyday basis. Remember when release schedules actually meant something and you’d wait a month for your favorite band’s music to hit the streets? I don’t take chances on unknown acts anymore. My wallet’s been burned to a crisp too many times and I’m tired of the growing collection of one-good-song aluminum discs turning into beer coasters around my apartment.
I like my rock music loud, my rap music raw and my country music sung for the damned. If my adrenaline ain’t racin’, my heart rate’s not jumpin’ or I’m not feeling just a little bit dirty it’s probably not for me. If the music’s supposed to sound like it was written in some mangy motel in unknown parts in the heat of an August blackout, then I want to feel the suffocation and the sleaze.
God bless Michael Mazzarella. The frontman of the pop band The Rooks just went out on a limb and I feel like I’m dangling up there with him. There was no screwing around when this vastly under-appreciated singer/songwriter/producer decided to title his new solo CD Grey Over An Autumn Winter. No false advertising here. The album goes from gray to black within three songs and you’d better bring an umbrella and a flashlight. Songs "Winter Over Me," "You Like Me" or "She Said" are dreary enough to make one feel that we’ve lost the other two seasons for good. Autumn Winter’s closer "Dear Mariann" is so gloom-addled, I feel my discomfort rise as if I’m peeking into a secret key-hole at the top of an off-limits staircase. Even if I didn’t know that the song is sung to Mazzarella’s dead mother, I still would find it just creepy enough to want to go on that ride again. Mazzarella’s broken voice makes my skin crawl in a way that excites my ears. Like I said, if you’re gonna write about going to hell, then you’d better bring da heat.
There’s symetric charm to be heard also. "Girl Gone Bye’s" sweet harmonies and lulling piano climbs shine with a bitter-sweet sound and the cinematic "Fairground Is Gone" and "A Life In The Day Of A Man" are soundtrack-type songs ripe for the taking for the silver screen. This is probably the last CD you’d ever pick when you’re looking to get laid, but if you ever want to hear a naked artist bearing his innards on a chilly day - play this one. It won’t make you smile but in a strange way, you may feel better just the same.
There's nothing cliché about Mazzarella's CD Grey Over An Autumn Winter. The mouthpiece for the power pop band The Rooks has grown a bit older and probably a little wiser. Known for his insatiable melodies, hooks and harmonies with The Rooks, Michael now presents music for the lonely hearts, troubled isolates and reclusive rejects who stow away in the grays of their autumn-winters. I'm a words guy. Lots of people don't care about lyrics to a song - I do. Lines like Are there tresses white in your pretty maiden hair?; An hour more, I'm growing cold, before you know we'll both be old; Like a woman forgets she has pride or a man can't defend for his side or Winter go the leaves, go the promises by flurries and degrees - excite me - good phrases. The opening song's (Fairground Is Gone) imagery is so well-crafted, I can sense the desolate field and the sadness brought on because a small-town circus has moved on: Where did the cheer of summer go? Where are the Mardi Gras girls? Where do they hide all the parades, puppets and Pinocchio? Mazzarella sings in a hushed and bemoaned tone over sad, eerie and lonesome singular piano notes. All laying the groundwork for what is about to unfold.
There's the tone of the album: Slow, weary, moody, grey, autumn, winter. Some Autumn/Winter reviewers have painted Mazzarella into the same shadowy corner with that whispering sad-fellow Elliott Smith or the eccentric and withdrawn Lee Mavers.
It would be unfair if I wrote only about the somberness of Grey Over An Autumn Winter as there is a lot of sincere sweetness to balance the album out. The melodies, sung as tight choir harmonies on Girl Gone Bye and You Like Me are plain beautiful. The McCartney-esque The Colder It Gets, The Deeper We Fall is pure ear candy and the social commentarial A Life In The Day Of A Man has a pristine and majestic luster and lyrics that tug at the heart. Even the sinister sounding She Said, with its cabalistic female backing singer evokes an air of latter'60s ultra-cool charm. It took a while for me to catch on but dare I write that this album could be the masterpiece that many have ignored?
GREY OVER AN AUTUMN WINTER
Since disbanding the marvelous Rooks, Michael Mazzarella has been taking some unconventional steps. Last time out, Mazzarella issued a DVD of studio recordings that was probably difficult for most to get a handle on, even though the song quality was at its usual high.
So what then to make of Grey Over An Autumn Winter? Eschewing a band, the album very much features Mazzarella solo, with the occasional contribution from vocalist Gail George. As the title of this new album suggests, the mood that descends is certainly grey. It's one of those melancholy albums that begs to be listened to alone very late at night as one undertakes a contemplative moment.
By and large, there is a strong chamber pop approach as Mazzarella engineers a specific emotional response with references to McCartney, Wilson and Bacharach guaranteeing a pleasing wistfulness. Upon first listen, the austerity of the production is a little shocking with the songs coming across like demos. However, if one gives Grey Over An Autumn Winter the time to sink in, the charm of tracks like "She Said", "The Colder It Gets The Deeper We Fall" and "Girl Gone Bye" shine through. With a daring release that places its bets on songcraft, Mazzarella has hit the jackpot.
KEVIN MATTHEWS/BUCKETFULL OF BRAINS
Michael Mazzarella -- Grey Over An Autumn Winter:
The Rooks frontman is an introspective mood. While many of his outstanding ‘60s-drenched Rooks tunes were tinged with sadness and melancholy, they were still pop songs, and had a certain amount of drive to them. On this solo effort, Mazzarella is downcast and defeated. These intimate recordings are confessionals as much as songs, as he cuts veins open and sings in hushed tones over minimal backgrounds, the hurt pouring out. His keen melodic sense is still there, but the songs are so muted, the mood dominates over the tunes. As a result, the craft takes a bit longer to appreciate, but without that craft, the disc wouldn’t be that compelling. The title song is fragile and desolate, sounding like Elliot Smith mixed with a heavenly chorus of backing vocals, while a distant piano (the dominant instrument throughout the album) plays in the background. “Winter Over Me” also features those elements, with stronger string accompaniment. The Mazzarella melodic sense is still there, it’s just muted in places -- check out “She Said”, with Mazzarella straining his voice over a great rising melody on a sad soft pop piece. The emotional centerpiece of the album is “You Like Me”, which is nearly eight minutes long and is steeped in atmosphere, with a long solo piano interlude that sounds like loneliness. This album is a much more difficult listen than any Rooks release (or that of pretty much any pop band). Perhaps the biggest hurdle to clear is that this album isn’t a hook fest -- the mood is what carries it. However, Mazzarella’s portrayal of a downward spiral is fairly successful, because it sounds very convincing.
"Listening to this record on a rainy day could have dangerous repercussions, but after several spins, one is likely to discover a minor-key masterpiece lurking in the shadows." WILL HARRIS/Bulls-Eye.com
New music from Michael Mazzarella of The Rooks is always welcome, and his solo excursion, Grey Over An Autumn Winter, is the sound of a gifted songwriter following his muse down a muted, often harrowing path. Mazzarella seems to be channeling his inner Nick Drake here. No Reasons or Night Writer to be found and he continues to evolve as an artist in the process. It’s intensely personal and obviously deeply felt music, culminating with Dear Mariann, written about Mazzarella’s late mother. It’ll be very interesting to see where he goes from here.
JOHN M. BORACK/Rave On
2007 solo release from The Rooks leader and visionary. This is not the follow-up to the stunning genius of The Rooks` "A Wishing Well" (that is coming, we’re assured!), but a purely solo album of utter genius, and one that demands the listener to engage in the place - the musical sketch that is being created. The rewards and the pay-offs are substantive, sublime and worth every nuanced-drenched note. What is always present in Mazzarella`s work is a poet’s keen, lyrical and observational eye for the delicacy of the human condition. Its humanity and poignancy are always evident in every carefully-placed syllable. The sparse but still spacious instrumentation enhances every corner of music. There’s some mighty fine background vocals from Gail George, who released a nice little out-of-print gem (Follow Your Bliss) back in 2004. Mazzarella steps boldly and stronger into 2007 with an effort that while not what more casual Rooks fans would expect to hear, the ones most deeply moved and challenged by Mazzarella`s vision in the past will be very happy to walk this most leaf-soaked city sidewalk with him.
BRUCE BRODEEN/Not Lame
If Mazzarella’s Rooks set their sites on scaling the musical mountains created by their heroes, then Michael’s aim as a solo artist seems to want to stay as close to the sidewalk as possible. Grey Over An Autumn Winter is so stripped down and basic in comparison, it could be argued that this is Mazzarella’s version of John Lennon’s first solo go John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Certainly there are harmonies here and there and a cello or two peek out but for the most part his new CD is dark, personal and haunting. Within eleven songs, Mazzarella has managed to (at least to this listener) conjure moods and sounds of confusion, mystery, acrimony, warmth, loss, beauty, isolation and finally heavy reflection. I simply cannot recall another album sounding quite like this one. Perhaps it’s the start of something great.
Brand new release from Rooks frontman! Backed primarily by acoustic guitar and piano and gorgeous harmonies, this is a rather intimate look at an artist - stripped away of band trappings - as he bares his soul in a way seldom heard before - resulting in a gorgeous, haunting, intimate, Sunday morning kind of record!
KOOL KAT MUSIK
GREY OVER AN AUTUMN WINTER
Grey Over An Autumn Winter, the first solo album from longtime Rooks regular Michael Mazzarella, could be considered something of a sleeper, not only in a figurative sense, but in a literal one as well. However, sleeper is also an apt description of the album’s narcoleptic sound; infused with the wistful melancholia implied in the album title, Grey Over An Autumn Winter creates a kind of aural haze manifest in dewy-eyed sentiment and a dreamy lilt. Confining his accompaniment primarily to piano and softly strummed acoustic guitars, Mazzarella’s plaintive vocals and billowing harmonies add a mournful quality to these tentative open-ended melodies and tepid ruminations.
LEE ZIMMERMAN/Amplifier Magazine