Saturday, July 23, 2016

Mike Sponza - Ergo Sum


2015 – EPOPS Productions
By Phillip Smith; July 23, 2016


It only took one listen to Mike Sponza’s latest album, Ergo Sum (Latin for “Therefore I am.”), to realize it was going to be one of my favorite discs this year. British singer/guitarist Ian Siegal joins Sponza in the writing and performance on seven of the eight songs on this stellar album of blues and soul, recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London.

Sponza takes an interesting look at the golden mean and applying it to daily life in “Modus in Rebus”.  A small burst of Frank Zappa-inspired vocals, satirical lyrics, spacy guitar licks, and the lush sounds of a Hammond organ played by Dean Ross make this a stand-out.  There seems to be a little Alabama Shakes vibe going on with “See How the Man”.  Sponza’s playful guitar sounds great.  Backed by saxophonist Matej Kuzel and trumpeter Chris Storr, this song sends me back to the Memphis Stax/Volt days.  While on the subject of Stax, I have to mention another favorite, “Prisoner of Jealousy”.  Siegal sings this one with the conviction of Otis Redding while the rest of the guys settle quite nicely into a smooth Booker T and the MGs groove. It sounds plumb terrific.   

The funky guitar riff and contagious melody running through “Kiss Me” is delightful, as is the soulful vocals, swampy slide guitar and rich sax/organ accompaniment which bring the masterpiece “Penelope” to the forefront.  Special guest, British blues singer Dana Gillespie gives a smooth and intoxicating performance on the captivating “The Thin Line”.  Topped off with fabulous bursts of brass, and little dabs of slide guitar, the song plays out beautifully.    

Thoughtful lyrics, powerful vocals, and perfectly executed melodies make Ergo Sum a fun yet intelligent album.  It’s going to remain on heavy rotation in my player for quite a while.