ALL-STAR TALENT A review written by Mark Bialczak, Music Critic, the Stars section on Sunday, July 8, 2007, the Post-Standard, Syracuse, New York. Project is Jon Ellis Stevens' own 'KoKoMo' In a letter explaining his mission and motives for his new CD 'KoKoMo,' Jon Ellis Stevens signs off with the line, 'Here's Jonny... and his rock 'n' roll orchestra.' The singer-songwriter from Jamesville, New York certainly put together a collection of musicians worthy of the name he's hung on them, The New York All-Stars. The 16-song CD, Stevens' second, allows him to collaborate with some serious local talent. Andy Rudy plays not only his specialty, the Sterling organ, but some very rich guitar work as well. Ron Spencer cooks on guitar. Mark Copani adds his rich guitar work, too. Rudy's organ work and Spencer and Copani's guitar warms the soulful vocals of Sue Ferguson on 'The Love And The Light,' written by William James Wheatley. Peter Baird works pedal steel on 'Standing Tall,' 'Hollywood Star,' 'I Want To Write A Love Song' and 'Forever's A Long Time.' Chris Sawyer adds tasty tenor sax to the title cut. Add the writing and guitar work of Philip Carlo Paratore on four R & B- style cuts and Kathy Gill's big-band style vocals on eight cuts, and Stevens' disc is full of melodic energy. Stevens' fine writing remains the glue that holds the CD together. His best songs include 'Manipulation,' thick and rich rock 'n' roll, 'I Want To Write A Love Song,' a sweet country love song that allows Stevens to share the vocal work with both Ferguson and Gill; and 'Forever's A Long Time,' a fine folk march reminiscent of Dylan and his work with the Band in the golden age. About the CD title, which brings to mind a pop song by the Beach Boys: 'KoKoMo,' Stevens explains, is 'a metaphor for something creative and personal that someone/anyone/everyone has and might be into: woodworking, crafts, writing, fine art, painting, sculpting, ceramics and pottery... that very personal thing that is yours and yours alone. That safe little place, that little safe haven, that no one can touch or do harm.' He's found his at the SubCat Music Studio, in Skaneateles, New York, where he recorded these 16 songs.' October 17, 2007 'Seeking The Philosopher's Stone' A review written by Tom Kahley, Music Critic for The Syracuse New Times, Syracuse, New York. Stevens, a singer/songwriter from Jamesville, rounded up friends old and new with the intent to gather musicians of diverse backgrounds and styles, and seek the philosopher's stone most musicians covet: 'the original sound.' Guests include local virtuosos such as guitarist Mark Copani, gospel singer Sue Ferguson and arranger and multi-instrumentalist Andy rudy; Stevens also introduces his old college buddy with the words, 'I am very pleased to be able to introduce to you the musical creativity and song mastery of Philip Carlo Paratore.' Of the CD's 16 tracks, half lurk in the realm of Peter Gabriel experimentalism, complete with Afrobeats and sound pastiches, while the other half rock out in a similar manner as the big bands from the Late Show with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live. 'The Love And The Light' is a patched-together, 10-minute excursion a la 'Revolution #9,' without the LSD, but hopping with an early - 1970's Motown backbeat and the soulful vocals of Ferguson. 'Hollywood Star' salutes Tinseltown movies and features Stevens on a vocal duet with Kathy Gill, who let's all five octaves of her angelic voice fill the air, haloing the listeners ears with a golden falsetto. Don't misinterpret 'KoKoMo' to sound anything like the Beach Boys; just expect serious musicians splashing each other with individuality while riding the same musical wave.
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