Martini, back to muse a bit with you this Easter Sunday about a wonderful CD I promised I would write about, way back when. It occurs to me that the time is overdue for me to talk about this one.
The CD? HOW CAN YOU SAY NO TO THIS MAN?! Though I was introduced to the indescribable talent of Frank Rendo via the REMEMBERING CHRISTMAS CD and the recording
of that, HOW CAN YOU SAY NO TO THIS MAN? is the first of Frank's contemporary Christian recordings that I listened to. By now, you all know me well enough to know that I didn't just listen to it - I listened, and listened and listened to it. It wasn't a task, by any stretch....it's just that good!
What I find amazing since I've been writing these blogs both about Frank, and about his current musical collaborator Palma Pascale (however, HOW CAN YOU SAY NO was made long before he met Palma), the thing that becomes startlingly clear from the first note to the last is that Frank, and Palma, and their fabulous recording engineer, Fred Guarino never fail to produce just awesome results in the form of the music. This CD of Franks is certainly no exception!
As I mentioned, Frank did this CD long before he met Palma, and Fred did not do the major recording here. Frank released this CD originally in 1991. It was recorded in various locales in New York, and parts of it were recorded in Tel Aviv, Israel. He did, however, re-release it as a 15th Anniversary Edition in 2006. The CD was remastered and restored by Fred Guarino of TIKI Recording Studios, and, according to the liner notes, a few tracks were recorded at TIKI, as well, at that time.
I was not a bit surprised when I listened to this CD for the first time. As all of Frank's recordings have been, it's awesome. Each and every song has a uniqueness all its own, yet there is the same magnificent, smooth, dynamic, expressive voice of Frank Rendo on them all.
It's a fun listen, this CD. It begins with a song entitled O, HOW MUCH YOUR LOVE MEANS TO ME - a fast paced song, punctuated with an array of beautiful orchestration, and the message is very clear - "...God you are the way...God you are the light and I see Your shining face in plain
sight....O, how much your love means to me...."
Frank provides the backing vocals, as well as a synth bass and he also plays some keyboard on this one. A most talented individual, indeed.
I really like this song because Frank sounds like he's having a great time getting the story across here. The liner notes call this "A Modern Day Psalm." True enough. A well-done, fun listen. Rob Taormina's saxophone lines really pop, and add a lot of warmth to the piece. Frank's enthusiasm is apparent in this selection, and I think it's a super way to start off the wonderful collection found in this great CD.
"...I yield myself to you....Lord, have Your way in me...and make me what you said that I should be..." These lyrics are but one brief glimpse of the absolutely gorgeous David Ridgeway composition called HAVE YOUR WAY IN ME, our second selection on this compilation.
The night I met Frank Rendo, almost two years ago in Bethpage, NY, he was not only singing but playing the keyboards as well. (see photo, above) At that time, I knew precious little about our Mr. Rendo, save that he had a voice I couldn't ever listen to enough - such handsome qualities in his voice - (one of his press pieces refers to his voice as "velvet and steel" - and that's a great way to talk about Frank's voice.....he does them both, well) - and he was referred to as "the real deal" by Palma Pascale - PLUS I'd learned how generous a man Frank truly is, at that point. I had a big smile on my face as I watched him play and sing that night at the church in Bethpage; and I found myself thinking that I shouldn't be surprised that Frank played the keyboards. I began, then, contemplating what else he might be musically adept at doing. I think it's safe to say his musical background is well-rounded, and he is a master of not only those fantastic "vocal chops," but of many instruments, as well. By now, I know that he is a producer, and a conductor, an actor, and he seems to be able to do whatever he puts his mind to - and do it well! From Christian to Country, and everything in between! (photo taken at St. Mark's Church, Bethpage, NY-October, 2007)
HAVE YOUR WAY IN ME is a beautiful ballad, and Frank certainly does it justice; the message is simple - "....and in fulfillment of Your will, I offer up my life in sacrifice in praise to You for all You've done for me...." And, so the lyric goes. A melodic testimony, if you will.
I mentioned "expression" earlier - Frank's ability to be expressive is quite notable. He and I talked about this at one point recently; his training as an actor, he believes, helps in this regard. Though I would agree with him, I think there's more - here's what I personally observe - it's Frank's complete sincerity that does the trick. The expression Frank is able to put into a song - the way he almost jumps off of the CD and is singing right in front of you - just for you - is due, in my opinion, in great part to the fact that he BELIEVES what he is singing. He LIVES what he is singing. He MEANS ...."Have Your Way In Me." Well, well done, Frank.
Oh boy! Another favorite and the music for this one was co-written by Frank, himself. It's called WAKE UP, PEOPLE! Frank collaborates on the music with Billy Christopher - Billy penned the lyrics to this one. I have a lot of fun with this one, and it makes me smile, each time it comes on my player. See...it begins with a bit of spoken dialogue. The phone rings, and a woman answers. It's an actor by the name of Tim Castle who is calling a woman named Heather Robertson, and the call sounds something like this:
RING - RING: (Woman answers) "* big sigh*" (this by Linda Sheedy - a real 2am desperation sigh!)
Burns: "Goooooooooood Morning, Ma'am!"
Woman: "Is it morning already?" (I love this next line)
Burns: "It's been morning all morning, Ma'am!"
Woman: "Oh no! You're not one of those telephone comediennes, are you?"
Burns: "No Ma'am. My name's Richard Burns - I'm hosting the new radio call-in show called 'It's Sunday Morning...So Why Aren't You In Church.' - It's Sunday Morning -So Why Aren't You In Church?"
Here's an interesting bit of detail I got from Frank about this conversation, in his own words: "During the dialogue at the beginning , all the woman talk is by Heather Castle, although the sigh is Linda Sheedy. When we cut the dialogue, we realized that the girl never actually says "hello" when she picks up the phone, and since Heather and Tim live in upstate NY (4 hours from where I live), I had Linda on hand at the time and she obliged with what we thought would be a good alternative. And, by the way, the dialogue was recorded on cassette, and the phone was a sample from Rick’s sister's telephone that had a REAL bell ring...which was becoming harder to find in 1991." I love to learn bits and pieces like this. The "Rick" Frank refers to is Rick Bieder. More on Rick, to come.
So.....just as Richard Burns begins to speak his last lines, the rhythm of WAKE UP, PEOPLE! begins to play. It's a true "gospel-rock" beat, and it's definitely an attention grabber. I like the crispness of all of the various instruments in this one...Frank adds tambourine, and a fantastic synth organ....not to mention, he does all of the back-up vocals. Now, I have to tell you, there are a lot of great backing vocals in this one - and they are HIGH! Honestly, if I hadn't known it was all Frank, I would have guessed that he had an actual full gospel choir of sopranos, altos, tenors and basses behind him.....it's that good. I was most impressed! It's awesome, and it's fun! The song has a wonderful message:
"...You reap what you sow - how well we all know that expression of days gone by~
But how many of you, if called for the harvest would find your seeds planted have died?
You sow and you sow, and isn't it so how the cares of this life weigh you down?
And then what you reap as you have fallen asleep is a rusted and powerless crown.
Wake up, people - there's a harvest of life to bring in.
There are seeds to be planted for we have been granted a life-giving love from our King!
Wake up, people - for there isn't much time left to lose.
We must get the word out to our sisters and brothers so they'll know the right way to chose..."
It's true, we won't know the day or the hour Christ is coming back - this song tells us, the listener, we need to be sure the seeds that we sow fall on ground that will allow them to grow - and we can spread the word to all that we know so they, too, will be ready!
Nice job on this one, Frank - and all who were involved. I know that Frank loves what he does - I've said it before, and will say it again - Frank was given a gift - an amazing talent for, and tremendous understanding of music - how to sing it - how to play it - how to direct it - and how to share it with others. Frank gives back for the blessing he was given, and shares the word of God in song with others. This album is a beautiful reminder of that.
I will return here and will muse more very soon about more of the 14 tracks that comprise HOW CAN YOU SAY NO TO THIS MAN? There are many masterfully performed songs, and I want to give each one a place of their own.
As information, Frank's CDs can be purchased by contacting him at FrankRendo@yahoo.com, or certainly anyone can contact me, and I will happily get them ordered for you.
Until next time, then...thanks to Frank Rendo for an outstanding CD with gorgeous and well-done messages throughout, told to us with that incredible voice he uses so well....and that he shares with us!
Happy Easter Everyone~
Photo Credits: Album cover portrait by Tess Steinkolk, NYC
Frank in concert was taken at Samantha's Li'l Bit of Heaven, East Northport, NY
Frank at piano, St. Mark's/Bethpage, NY: Tim San Paolo