Imagine the Tardis landed and dumped out this guy direct from 1976. It would not be a stretch for a Dr. Who plotline or from what appears on Dan Rico’s debut solo album Endless Love. The record channels an early DIY punk esthetic through that 1970s mash-up of 1950s nostalgia, breathy emotive R&B male vocals (that Prince would use to great effect in the 1980s), and crunchy rock and roll guitars. Having said that, what marks the record is the coherency of its sound, even as it showcases multiple styles in songwriting and production. That’s saying something as Rico has produced a lot of recorded material with other bands that is great fun but lacks this album’s poise and restraint, qualities that allow the strength of his material and performance to really come to the fore.
“Soft Feeling” kicks things off with a lead line that reminded me of the languid confidence of Chris Staples’ recent work. The song has a rollicking carnivalesque sound I associate with early 1960s poprock: a bit fuzzed out, like you’re hearing it over a midway sound system on a hot summer night, but hooky and with enough swing to get inside your head. Title track “Endless Love” has almost punky rhythm guitars that sound like they are being held back by the Nick Gilder-like vocals. “Kinda Wanna” and “Wasted Youth” have that straight up late 1970s rock and roll sound that was influenced by punk to strip away all unnecessary pretense. “Cold Cold Heart” swings back to the early seventies and vocal style reminiscent of John Oates’ best work.
Here we can see the creative tension at work on the record, as the material straddles the shift in 1970s sounds from 1950s revival influences apparent in “On a Tear” (the song structure is so 1950s, with great trebly guitar) to the emerging new wave sound of the late 1970s on tracks like “Casual Feeling.” But far and away my favourite track (other than the delightful “Soft Feeling”) is “Dangerous.” From the wonderful organ opener with its perfectly arranged juxtaposition of sounds, the rest of the song is an R&B-ish rock and roll grind at its best. One could easily hear the Rolling Stones doing this one.
Rico’s Endless Love is an old fashioned album, you put it on and get busy doing whatever while the songs grow on you. And there’s more where this came from, with numerous demo and alternative versions featured on Rico’s Soundcloud page. Check out the album on Bandcamp and Rico’s Facebook for career updates. I’m excited to see where he goes with future recordings.