For anyone out there who loves the old school analog sounds of the 1950s and 60s (yes, please!) before recording became mainstream and mass produced, Robby Fontana’s full-length debut album Lonely Motel has got you covered. The retro styled production of Lonely Motel was inspired by Leon Bridges’ album Coming Home. The Boston native turned Southern Californian took over a year experimenting to mimic the warmer analog sound he loved so much on Bridges’ album using today’s modern technology – his laptop and Logic Pro X. He wrote, recorded, mixed and produced the entire album himself and conceptually the songs pay tribute to the by-gone era of Los Angeles during the mid 20th century.
“Welcome to Lonely Motel” brings us the sounds of the beach, the ocean and summertime, with vocal harmonies that reflect the heavenly harmonies of The Beach Boys. “Time To Move On” is a hand-jive rocking good time – soulful and fun, with a hint of Chris Isaak or Ricky Nelson. “You Feel Alright” plunges deep into a sultry, slow dance rhythm that feels like it was made for Motown. Musically, it’s got everything – saxophone, keys, retro styled guitar and of course – back up singers! “Barrel Of A Gun” has that classic “rat-tat…tat” drum beat, “sha-la-la-la” back up singing and the song wouldn’t be complete without the quintessential violin section.
“Love The Way You Walk” begins with a low shuffling beat reminiscent of Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill,” Elvis Presley and Dion’s “The Wanderer.” Another fantastic slow dance number is “Because You’re Mine” and yep, it’s got all the right moves and chemistry that qualifies – if any one song can take you back to the ‘50s, it’s this one. “Come To Me” definitely has the carefree, happy sound of Motown soul from the ‘60s. Even though it’s musically upbeat, Fontana pleads towards getting close to a love interest that perhaps is not paying any attention to him. Another slow number that really gets sad lyrically, is “Two Is For Trouble” – this is about as soulful and blue as any song can get – Sam Cooke and Otis Redding would dig this one indeed.
“Lost Angeles” starts off with an echoing beat reminiscent of the “Wall of Sound” made famous by Phil Specter. This song has some old school flavor to it with instruments and vocals, but the way Fontana wrote it sounded like it had some modern flair to it as well. “We Can’t Say Hello” has some nice tinkling piano intro, hand claps and that well known tat-tat drum sound from the ’60s. This one reminded me of Del Shannon’s classic, “Runaway” and if you listen closely, Fontana does give props to the one hit wonder.
“Miss Sofie Lou’s Blues” is the style of blues that made Jerry Lee Lewis famous – boogie-woogie – good time, toe-tapping stuff. “Time To Move On (Reprise)” is just that, a reprise of track two in under one minute. “Lonely Motel” finds Fontana with just a piano and beautiful soulful back up singing. I thought this one had a good balance as well, where a retro sound meets up with modern writing and the song’s placement on the album was an interesting choice, too.
The last tune “4th Street Symphony” was dead on sweet and totally reminded me of The Flamingoes “I Only Have Eyes For You.” I loved this one so much I had to listen to it again – like immediately after. It’s lyrically simple with two lines – “I want you / I love you” – along with a “do-wop” style of singing. It’s the kind of song you want to listen to with your convertible top down, driving slowly along Sunset Boulevard with your arm around the one you love. I didn’t grow up when this style of music was hot on the radio, but for listeners like me (who wish they did grow up during that time) and maybe you too, Robby Fontana sure has kept the spirit of this era’s music alive and well on Lonely Motel.
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