The Hard Way is Easy on the Ear

Reckless in Vegas

The Hard Way

Mama Cow Records, 2013

Las Vegas is the sort of desolate and unforgiving place where dreams collide with the harsh realities of life in the desert. You either win or you don’t. This goes for  a brightly lit casino, a seedy, off the strip motel, or out there; in the harsh sand and rock this land of fantasy was built upon. There’s not a lot of room for the middling, in-between of getting by.

Singer/songwriter Michael Shapiro grew up in Las Vegas and his families roots there extend to the earliest days, pre-Rat Pack, to the mid 1950’s, so he understands the romance and reality of the town perhaps better than most. So along with bandmates bassist Mario Cipollina and drummer Ryan Low, they’ve crafted a sonically stunning and nostalgic re-thinking of 1950’s and 60’s classics, many of them Vegas showroom standards. Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tom Jones and even Dick Dale get rolled out once again; but the big question lingers. Is it worth it?

In fact we’ve all heard a million versions of these songs with varying degrees of quality, so collections like these are sometimes approached with hesitation. But Reckless in Vegas has managed to sidestep obvious mistakes.

Kicking off with “Luck Be a Lady” it carries the right amount of attitude and 21st Century vitriol. Upping the attitude and distorted angst would make it cliché and expected, even trite, like HIM cover versions. But Reckless in Vegas have added enough of themselves to make it interesting and not diminish everything about the original that’s made it a classic.

“Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon/Solitary Man” is much better than one would initially expect. The energy with which the band attacks “Solitary Man” in particular is fierce.

The duet with actress Rumer Willis, on “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” is another stunning highlight. Sonny & Cher’s “The Beat Goes On” with Sinatra’s “This Town” worked into it for good measure is also better than anticipated. The swirling psychedelic guitars weave back and forth hypnotically in and around Shapiro’s rich baritone delivery.

What happens at a Reckless in Vegas show will probably be posted online and go viral. Let’s hope so, because they seem entertaining as all get out, and after all, the night is still young, so anything can happen . . .

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