I hesitate to call Leo De Castro the best male vocalist in Australia. And the reason is that he’s originally from New Zealand! Woefully under-recorded, it is with much excitement that I review this album. Perhaps the only reason De Castro is not a household name in Australia is that he does not write his own material, and why he has never recorded a solo album in the past is beyond me. I can compare him with the Neville Brothers; he has that sort of voice, it was only a matter of choosing some appropriate covers, put him in a studio with seasoned musicians, and any record company would have had a winner.
De Castro has one of those voices that can mimic almost any other vocalist and he’s at home in a range of genres. Initially I had only heard him sing in rock bands, but his soulful voice always shone through. For mine, his versions of Jimmy Webb’s "Wichita Lineman" and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" are by far the most superior covers.
On this album BigBeat Music have unearthed some recordings De Castro did with The Dancehall Racketeers and The Roger Janes Band in 1988, originally engineered by the late Duncan McGuire. There are 9 tracks with the Racketeers and 3 with The Roger Janes Band.
The material featured here will be familiar to older listeners. It would be interesting to learn who chose the songs – De Castro or the bands [Editor's note: A bit of both]. Let’s have a look at the 3 tracks with the (normally) jazz band - The Roger Janes Band. Together they tackle perhaps 3 of the most well know songs of the rock ‘n’ roll era – "Good Rockin’ Tonight" – perhaps the first song where De Castro gets urgent; then Little Richard’s "Lucille", and finally the 2nd cover of Presley’s – "Heartbreak Hotel". You can hear the obvious influences of the original vocalists, but De Castro is able to inject some of his own musicality into the songs.
I can’t tell you who originally recorded all the tracks Leo recorded with the Racketeers, but the tunes are all familiar. "Walking After Midnight", "That’s All Right" (the Presley song), Willie Nelson’s "Crazy" and the rocker "See You Later Alligator". There’s two blues related songs – "No One to Talk To" and "Lovesick Blues" – just to tantalise us with his talent. The backing on all tracks is unfussed, the arrangements pretty close to the original songs, but never so busy or overbearing to dominate the vocals.
For all of these songs, De Castro’s voice is unstressed – it’s almost as if there is power to spare, he’s never stretched, always singing within himself, perhaps best compared to the motor of a V8, that always seems to have power on tap and never fussed or fully revved out.
Recommended to anyone who enjoys their music a little laid back but enjoy it being sung by a truly great vocalist.
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Leo De Castro - Long White Clouds
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