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Best of 2016

Published December 29, 2016 by Maryanne

monkees-good-times

For so many people, putting “Best” and “2016” together is definitely an oxymoron, and in my world it’s no different. Personally, it was a bad year with many losses and tears. It all began with the death of David Bowie (https://maryannemistretta.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/rest-in-peace-to-the-prettiest-star-david-bowie/) Then my favorite cat of all time had to be put to sleep, at the age of 19 (https://maryannemistretta.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/rest-in-peace-derick-mommys-little-heart-6-24-96-to-4-29-16/). And finally, we said good-bye to my beloved father-in-law who passed at the age of 94 a few months ago (http://obits.nj.com/obituaries/starledger/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=181972211).

It was just one of those years where the “hits” just kept on coming and there’s not enough hours in the day for me to write about all of them.

Since I really don’t like to focus on negativity, let’s just say, THANK GOD for music; it’s what makes the world go ’round, and a salvation to many. Like every other year, 2016 was no worse in the music department. There were so many live performances my husband and I attended this year, including a few of his own with Rob Fusari and Pharoah. And my “Learn + Listen” series which made the cover of the Caldwell News: http://www.mypaperonline.com/library-patrons-learn-and-listen-about-famous-musicians.html

Lucky me, I also was blessed to write about many performances for various publications.

Whether it was outdoor concerts, or indoor venues, there was not one bad show in the lot. It’s always so hard to pick a “favorite” but as every music fan knows, there are those songs and moments that keep popping into your head, days, even weeks, after the show is over. To any musician who is reading, whether you’re mentioned here or not, if I approached you after a show, I sincerely loved your act.

That said, in my humble opinion, I’d like to present what I felt was the best on my radar this year. ENJOY!

BEST SONG/VIDEO – ROB FUSARI “Let Love Down” 

TOP THREE LIVE PERFORMANCES

1 – ROB FUSARI – The Bitter End, NYC, May 24, 2016

(“Your Trap” featuring Andrea Martin, Matt, Mario, Dennis, and The Constellations)

2 – SOUND + VISION: THE MUSIC OF DAVID BOWIE (Musical Direction: RICHARD BARONE) – Outpost in the Burbs, Montclair, NJ, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016

(“Fame” featuring Richard Barone, Jeffrey Gaines, Burnt Sugar Arkestra, Nick Celeste. In other outstanding performances: Wesley Stace and Elvis Perkins)   

3 – PUNKY MEADOWS + FALLEN ANGEL BAND – B.B. Kings, NYC,  June 14, 2016

(“The Tower” featuring Punky Meadows, Danny Anniello, Chandler Mogel, Bob Pantella, Charlie Calv, Randy Gregg. Felix Robinson also performed on bass in this show)

 BEST ALBUM – THE MONKEES “GOOD TIMES” 

“She Makes Me Laugh” from The Monkees “Good Times” 

BEST VINYL – JACK WHITE “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”

How cool to hear this on a record player! 

BEST MUSIC MOVIE – “LET ME DOWN HARD” 

Starring Keith Roth, DJ 95.9 The Rat “Electric Ballroom,” performs with Frankenstein 3000 and David Johansen; songwriter for Punky Meadows and so much more! 

BEST MUSIC BOOK – CARMINE APPICE “STICK IT!” 

Stick_it_book_01Honest; and in a strange way, endearing! Loved it!

And, again, because some things have to be said more than once, in my own little world, quite a few super cool things happened to ease the pain of the sadness, like going to see so much live music, being around amazing people, being able to write for a living — and public speaking (which includes music and health programs!) Not to mention, my incredible husband who is my rock through all the hardships and triumphs. All in all, there were two stand-outs that made this year incredible.

First I got a new kitty, Nicholas Gray; my husband and I adore our new snuggle bun! How can you not?

DSC_0137Nicholas Gray

And, thanks to Ashley Valentin-Patino, I became a professional wedding officiant, and will be marrying many more people in 2017! Speaking of “bests” Ashley’s wedding to Mitchell was not only the best of 2016, but aside from my own, I’d say the best wedding of all time!

May 2017 will bring more love, music, and happiness to the world! Grim Reaper — be gone with you!

sam_1357Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta and Ashley Valentin-Patino

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist, available on Amazon in paperback only: https://www.amazon.com/Guest-List-Adventures-Music-Journalist/dp/162903908X

To contact Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta, write her at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com 

Grammy Winning Producer Reflects on Livingston Roots

Published October 20, 2016 by Maryanne

rob-at-bitter-endRob Fusari (Photo by Alex Castaneda)

This article originally appeared in The Livingston News, October 2016. 

Grammy Winning Producer Reflects on Livingston Roots

By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

Best known for having #1 hits with Beyonce, Will Smith, Whitney Houston, and Lady Gaga, Rob Fusari made it to the charts again this year, co-writing three songs for ABC’s release “Lexicon of Love II.”

“Lexicon of Love II” entered the UK album charts at #5. Fusari co-wrote “Confessions of a Fool,” “Singer Not the Song,” and “The Ship of the Seasick Sailor,” with lead singer Martin Fry.

Fusari said that he modeled his production and sound after ABC, whose debut album was released in 1982. “This is surreal,” he said in regard to having such great success with ABC. “I have to pinch myself. ABC is such an inspiration. I remember sitting in front of my mother’s TV watching ABC on MTV. The songs were crafted so well.”

Fusari will be the supporting opening act for ABC on their UK tour over the next few months, doing a one-man show. In addition to backing tracks, Fusari sings, plays piano and keytar – a lightweight electronic keyboard supported by a guitar strap. He plans on testing out new songs.

Fans experienced a taste of his one-man show September 14 at The Bitter End in New York City. Fusari paid tribute to the 1970s and 1980s by playing “mash-ups” – which take two different hit songs by other artists and combining them into one. For example, “Careless Whisper” by George Michael and “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol. He even mashed up one of his own productions with a tune by The Bangles. Then Fusari brought the house down when audience members joined him onstage to dance to a mash-up of the Bee Gees disco hit “Staying Alive” and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”

He also performed several of his own exquisite songs, like “Don’t Let Love Down,” “Spin U Around,” and “Paparazzi.” During these performances Fusari received standing ovations not only for his great songwriting but for his consummate showmanship.

Performing is natural and easy for Fusari, as he started very young, playing a piano recital at Carnegie Hall when he was 8-years-old. “When I look back, it’s surreal,” he said. “We didn’t have iPhones, video, and camera. I’d give anything to have footage.”

Born and raised in Livingston, Fusari said he can look back now and appreciate a lot more about the town than he did as a kid. “In the eighties, there was a lot of music in Livingston,” he said. “During the holidays, they’d have bands at The Circle. I never realized how much was there for the taking. I remember attending Battle of the Bands shows in the high school auditorium. Livingston itself allowed me to focus on a sense of musicality – and be close to Manhattan. I’d take the bus in and out to find new music there and see what the culture is like. It’s such an amazing place to be.”

Fusari is still very connected to Livington, often staying with family and friends in the town. “I think it’s amazing,” he said. “The success is coming full circle in terms of getting back to where the roots are and what’s real. You get caught out there in the whirlwind of the entertainment business; there was more disconnect. In the last five years I’m spending more time in town than I ever had. I appreciate it more than I ever had. Now I feel like, to live in a town like Livingston, that seems to be the reward.”

As a child in Livingston, Fusari grew up in a musical household. He said, “My mother was big into Liberace. As a piano player, when I’d play as a kid, she wanted me to play more extravagant. As I got more and more into my performance, I started to take that in. Liberace is a huge influence on me. My oldest brother was into progressive rock, like Toto. My other brother was listening to the disco thing. Listening to records – that’s your education right there. I’d listen to piano … drums … ‘How did they get that sound?’ All these different styles were getting into my soul.”

Fusari’s mother was a singer, but she didn’t pursue a career in music like Fusari did. “It was a different time,” he said.

His father, Charley Fusari, was a retired well-known prize fighter.

When Fusari received a full scholarship to Berkeley School of Music, his father passed away and threw him off his track. Instead he went to school for business at William Paterson. He got a job working 9 to 5, but still felt a calling in music. When the job didn’t work out, Fusari turned to music – treating it like a job, getting up at 9 a.m. and working all day and night.

“I couldn’t stop,” he said. He started recording demos and met up with the late hit songwriter Irwin Levine, who was also a Livingston resident.

“I gave him the cassette,” Fusari said. “Sure enough Irwin called and said, ‘Could you come over to the house in Livingston and meet me?’”

He met with Levine every day for two years. He said, “He told me how to craft a lyric and massage a melody.”

Fusari wasn’t an overnight success, but eventually he got his first song published, “No, No, No,” with Destiny’s Child, and it went to #1.

Of the countless number of legendary recording artists Fusari’s worked with, he feels it’s unfortunate that he never got to work with Prince, who died earlier this year.

Fusari continues to seek artists for his own independent music label “Last Quarter Records.”

“People are always sending me stuff,” he said. “I’m so specific to the artists I want to find. I’m very picky, but I’m always looking for that next Bowie.”

After the tour with ABC, Fusari said he’ll be compiling a seven or eight song album. He also has a side project with R&B singer Andrea Martin, who wrote songs for Toni Braxton, Monica, and En Vogue, to name a few.

“We have thirty songs for the album,” he said. “We’ll write five or six songs per night. She’s so fast.”

When Fusari isn’t writing music, he said it’s still in his head. “That’s something I struggled with my whole life. Friends and family notice I’m writing in my head. I went to Tahiti a few weeks ago. I said, ‘I’m not gonna take my lap top.’ I’m making the effort. Music’s been my life.”

For more information on Rob Fusari, visit: http://robfusari.com/

Rob Fusari — The Bitter End

Published May 25, 2016 by Maryanne

SAM_0145Rob Fusari and Andrea Martin

(Photo by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta)

Last night Rob Fusari put on an electrifying performance at Paul Colby’s The Bitter End, on Bleecker Street, NYC.

The theme of the performance was The Beatles vs. David Bowie; with unique musical spins on both artists, as well as incredible originals in the mix. The show was put together in such a short time, Fusari joked that he didn’t even know the last names of the band members and introduced them simply as Matt (guitar), Mario (drums) and Dennis (bass). With four back-up singers known as The Constellations and special guest singer Andrea Martin, it was a surreal, five-star extravaganza — a true class act!

Songs included: “Heroes” (Bowie), “Under Pressure” (Bowie/Queen), “Young Americans” (Bowie), “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (Beatles), “Don’t Let Me Down” (Beatles), Fusari’s original “Don’t Let Love Down,” and Andrea Martin performing a gorgeous version of “Paparazzi” (which Fusari co-wrote and produced for Lady Gaga).

I can go on and on and on, but I’m purposely leaving out major musical high points of the evening, because if this particular show ever happens again, one should be surprised! ❤

A big shout-out to Paul Colby’s The Bitter End! The staff was incredibly attentive to patrons with fast and friendly service. (As a side-note, I had the honor of interviewing the late Paul Colby in his Montclair home over a decade ago before his passing. I have an autographed copy of his book, “Hanging Out in America’s Nightclub” in my collection. )

For more information on Rob Fusari, visit: http://robfusari.com/

For more information on Andrea Martin visit: http://rocnation.com/artists/andrea-martin-2/

For more information on The Bitter End, visit: http://www.bitterend.com/

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/162903908X