Reviewer: Bill Binkelman
Website: Wind and Wire
After multiple playings of this CD from Aldo (real name Alfred Donato), I find it hard to believe he's slipped under everyone's radar for so long (the CD was released in 2002). This album is a first rate exploration of acoustic guitar instrumentals (with occasional accompaniment on assorted keyboards and drum loops). The artist himself, on the album's cover, refers to his music as "Contemporary Classical Guitar." However you categorize it, it's tasty stuff, flavored with subtle hints of the Mediterranean, but also similar in sound (at times) to someone like Craig Chaquico. Better comparisons, however, would include Chris Spheeris or the duo Shahin and Sepehr, since Aldo plays with less glitz and flash (and electronics) than Chaquico is frequently known for, plus when he does spice things up with some world music touches, I was reminded of Spheeris (circa Europa or Eros), in particular.
Sometimes, a song features just solo guitar, such as the plaintive ballad "Morning" which breaks gently on one's ears, just as the dawn would peak slowly over a gentle hillside. He can also ramp things up considerably, as he does on "Endless Tide," which begins softly but is propelled toward a driving tempo by the addition of pounding bass and snare beats alongside over-dubbed guitars. He can spin a quasi-smooth jazz romantic ballad, such as the title cut (superb use of subtle synthesizer shadings on this song!) or quiet things to a twilight whisper on the enchanting "Silent Star" (yet more surgically precise application of synths and piano - this man could give a clinic on how to integrate keyboards with guitar). Throughout the ten tracks on Close To You (and by the way, no, he doesn't cover the famous Carpenters' song!), I was consistently impressed by both Aldo's production and his winning ways with melody, song structure, and, of course, his guitar playing. Whether he was playing delicate and somber ("Crystal Rain") or mixing pumped-up dance beats into some fiery Mediterranean-fusion guitar music ("The Dance"), the guy didn't take a single misstep. So, how in the hell have so many people missed him?
Here's hoping my review will catch the fancy of some of my guitar-loving readers, because I gotta believe if more people knew about Aldo, he'd enjoy more recognition, to say the least. Over the years, I've seen a lot of good-to-great talent go unrecognized, but Aldo's Close To You is simply too good to be ignored. If some big label hotshot talent scout has any brains at all, he or she will be on the phone or email to this man and sign him up. If he can do this well on his own, lord knows how much better he might get with some muscle behind him. I highly recommend this CD, especially for playing while driving since it has such a great sound and invites turning up the volume, even on the ballads!