Richard Grasso 1
Band members Related acts
- Richard Grasso (aka Richie Grasso) -- vocals
- The 5 Classics
- Billy & The Essentials
- Eefrom Zeefrom Mixture
- The Emeralds with Jerry Tempesta
- The Heatwaves
- The Magic Fleet
- Marshmellow Way
- The Peanut Gallery
- The Pop Explosion
- The Styles
- The Tokens
- Vinny & Melvin
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Season of Grace
Company: Tiger Lily
Country/State: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+
Comments: minor ring wear; cut out hole top right corner; four inch seam split along top edge
Catalog ID: 6081
Wow, here's a strange one even for a tax scam label like Morris Levy's Tiger Lily Records. Richard Grasso's roots were in early-1960s Philadelphia doo-wop. The few on-line references I've stumbled across indicate he recorded with Philly-based groups like The 5 Classics, Billy & the Essentials and The Styles. Since his start in the early-'60s, Grasso's written and arranged material for acts ranging from Brooks Benton to Jackie DeShannon. His biggest claim to fame probably stems from having co-written 'Sweet Cherry Wine' with Tommy James (of Tommy James and the Shondells fame).
Anyhow, this is one of those albums where the questions outnumber the answers.
- How did Grasso end up releasing an album for Tiger Lily. Nothing more than speculation on my part, but just the fact he had an association with Tommy James would have put him in an orbit that was likely to have brought him into contact with Morris Levy and Roulette Records.
- Why was 1976's "Season of Grace" credited to "Richard Grasso 1"? What's the "1" all about? Was there a Richard Grasso 2?
- Why was the album devoted to Scientology founder Ron Hubbard?
- How did jazz all star Chick Corea get involved in the project? I know he was a fellow Scientologist.
- What was with the sci-fi cover art that appears to have no relationship to music itself?
Grasso was credited with penning and performing the all eight compositions on "Season of Grace", but that seemed debatable given 'You Bet Your Life' sounded like it was a different artist. Maybe Grasso was just super versatile ... Musically the collection bounced all over the genre map with material like 'This Is My Universe', 'Waiting To See the Sails' and 'You've Got Me Loving You' giving the set a heavy dose of sensitive singer/songwriter material. Far better were tracks like 'I'm So Happy You're Here' and Grasso's version of 'Sweet Cherry Wine' which showcased the artist's pop side. Elsewhere 'Down Past the End of the World' was a nice nod to his doo-wop roots. Grasso certainly had a nice enough voice, especially when he stuck to his middle range. It made you wonder what he could have done in other circumstances, given the tools and resources to craft a more commercially oriented set of songs. Finally, here's the lone review I've ever seen on this mid-1970s obscurity: "Scientologist jazz-folk ..."
One of the rarer releases in the Tiger Lily catalog, though not one of the most impressive.
of Grace" track listing:
1.) This Is My Universe (Richard Grasso) - rating: ** stars
'Opening up with some pretty Corea keyboards, 'This Is My Universe' was an odd, spacey little ballad. Grasso seemed to be doing his best to sound like Donovan, but the bubbling synthesizer sound effects gave the song a somewhat dated vibe.
2.) Season of Grace (Richard Grasso) - rating: ** stars
Musically 'Season of Grace' was a heavily orchestrated ballad. The melody was actually quite pretty, with a nice un-credited guitar solo. On the other hand, lyrically the song's mixture of sci-fi moves and navel gazing platitudes ("starting by finding that you are, etc.") left something to be desired.
3.) I'm So Happy You're Here (Richard Grasso) - rating: **** stars
Buoyed by some cheesy synthesizer moves, 'I'm So Happy You're Here' was a bubbly, upbeat pop number. For better or worse I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff ...
4.) You Bet Your Life (Richard Grasso) - rating: * star
To my ears 'You Bet Your Life' didn't sound anything like the rest of the album making me wonder if it was a Grasso song, or merely filler added by Tiger Lily to pad the album out. The song featured anonymous female lead singers babbling on over a throw-away pop structure that sounded like a mouthwash commercial ...
'Waiting To See the Sails' started side two with a pretty, keyboard propelled ballad that was unfortunately again burdened by some sophomoric self-help lyrics ... "standing on the shores of your mind waiting to see the sales of our relation -- ship ..." Grasso's multi-tracked vocals were among his best performances. Wonder who the un-credited female singer was ...
2.) Down Past the End of the World (Richard Grasso - M.A. Bennett) - rating: *** stars
'Down Past the End of the World' was an obvious nod to his doo wop roots. The falsetto seemed a bit strained, but it was still a nice change of pace. For some reason the title has always made me think of Steely Dan.
3.) You've Got Me Loving You (Richard Grasso - Balwin Mills) - rating: ** stars
Showcasing Grasso and piano with a cheesy synthesizer touches, 'You've Got Me Loving You' came awfully close to lounge act moves ... The song became a bit more invigorated towards the end, but that change of pace came too late to salvage the song.
4.) Sweet Cherry Wine (Richard Grasso - Tommy James) - rating: **** stars
And the album ended with Grasso's main musical claim to fame. Grasso's version of 'Sweet Cherry Wine' should be interesting for anyone who's heard the Tommy James and the Shondells hit. In spite of the song's pop structure and sound, it was actually one of the 1960s best slices of pop social commentary. Grasso's version was quite good (the song featured his best vocal performance), standing as the album's highpoint, though it won't make you forget the hit version.
I spent some time looking for information on Grasso and eventually stumbled across an extensive YouTube interview Tom Meros undertook with the man in 2016. I must say Grasso comes off as a good guy with some great music stories. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N28tLDthAE0
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