Curtis Salgado’s Damage Control is 50s-inspired rock and roll, his sumptuous voice defining the album, which joins soul and rhythm and blues to the piano-driven music of another era.
Salgado isn’t doing a purely throwback album, though. There are more contemporary touches, plus cracker crisp production, that place this album in the current century. But the overall sensibility of Damage Control is a classic sound that doesn’t cut loose, but instead tries to hit all of its marks as cleanly and as accurately as possible. It makes for songs that are well-executed, feeling safe and deliberate.
For example, “You’re Going to Miss My Sorry Ass” recalls Chuck Berry’s “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” but with a bit of a country hop. Johnny Lee Schell, who engineered the album, sings raucous background vocals, but the piano, way up front in the mix, prevents the track from sounding too raw or rock and roll. “Oh For The Cry Eye” is almost theatrical, Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “16 Tons” crossed with a Broadway musical, backup vocalist Wendy Moten and Salgado walking a fine line between speaking and singing on the track. And Salgado solidifies the connection to the 1950s with his cover of “Slow Down,” originally released in 1958 by Larry Williams, but perhaps more famously tackled by the Beatles. Salgado keeps the 50s vibe, but has his band add in a muscular guitar solo and a scampering piano one.
Salgado does leave the 50s, though. One of the album’s best tracks is “Truth Be Told,” a zydeco tune featuring Wayne Toups’ vocals and accordion. The track has a fun, wild groove and while it never becomes ragged or untidy, it’s got a rocking lilt that almost threatens to spin the song into chaos. It helps that Toups has a rawer voice than Salgado. Despite that, it meshes seamlessly with Salgado’s more refined vocals. “Hail Mighty Caesar” is jazz, swirls of horns and organs making you feel like you’re at a New Orleans parade or funeral. Both tracks share a looseness. Maybe it’s Salgado having fun. Maybe it’s the shift in genre. Whatever the reason, the change in scenery agrees with everyone.
Salgado’s a solid songwriter and great singer. It’s what you’d expect from someone with his resume; Damage Control is his eleventh album. Salgado knows how to make a record. But while there’s a cohesive sound, the detours into New Orleans jazz and zydeco are the album’s best and most exciting moments. Perhaps it’s the thrill of a course deviation. But Salgado knows 50s rock and roll and Damage Control is a master class in the style.
The Review: 8/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– You’re Going to Miss My Sorry Ass
– Oh For The Cry Eye
– Hail Might Caesar
– Truth Be Told
The Big Hit
– Truth Be Told