VERNON NEILLY AND FRIENDS – A Tribute To Stevie Wonder

VERNON NEILLY AND FRIENDS - A Tribute To Stevie Wonder
  • 7/10
    VERNON NEILLY AND FRIENDS - A Tribute To Stevie Wonder - 7/10


Boosweet Records
Release date: September 24, 2008

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

Once in a while you get a job to do and you question not only the fact that you have to do it but even more importantly, what does this have to do with main stream business? In this case the CD that is being reviewed for some reason falls within these boundaries and distinctions. The CD to be reviewed is Vernon Neilly and Friends’ A Tribute To Stevie Wonder which is quite strange indeed considering Metal Express Radio (MER) is being asked to do the reviewing. What does Stevie Wonder or this genre of music have to do with Metal? Never mind Metal, what about Hard Rock, Rock, Classic Rock, etc.? Well the fact is that it doesn’t fall under any category that MER is known for reviewing by industry standards. There is a saying however stating that there is “an exception to every rule.” That must be the one exception in this case.

This would be an extremely difficult review for any Metalhead to do considering the fact that the majority of Metalheads do not own even a single Stevie Wonder CD in their collection nor might they be familiar with his discography. A little bit of homework is going to be necessary in order to complete this task. There is one blessing perhaps and that is the fact that the title had “and Friends” in it which means there will be several guest musicians doing their own thing on this album. It should be mentioned that A Tribute To Stevie Wonder appears to be an album put together as a single disc using some of Stevie’s greatest hits but resembling the double disc set titled Songs In the Key Of Life put out back in 1976.

The “Friends” as it turns out just happens to include some notable names in a variety of musical genres out there. The album showcases the talents of such individuals like: Grammy Award winning bassist Juan Nelson (Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals), guitar virtuoso Greg Howe (Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, N-Sync, Enrique Iglesias), guitar virtuoso Kiko Loureiro (South American Metal band Angra), jazz guitar sensation U-Nam, guitar virtuoso Bill Hudson (Metal band Cellador, Melodic Metal band Coldera, Fresh Meat), saxophone sensation and virtuoso Michael Paulo (Al Jarreau, Earth, Wind and Fire, Peter White), and stunning vocalists Fabyan Irving (USA), Christopher Clark (Brazil), and Carlos Zema (Brazil).

As you can see, there is plenty of talent to go around on this album. There is probably a little of something for everyone if you look hard enough. This even holds true for die-hard MER fans. Take for instance Metal guitarist and virtuoso Kiko Loureiro-he is involved in the arrangement and production of two songs, “I Wish” and “Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing.” If you ever heard the original version of “I Wish” and Kiko’s version, your reaction would be quite interesting to visualize by just about anyone. It is really kicked up a notch to say the least. From the first four measures that Kiko kicks in with an incredible killer sound on his guitar you know this song is going to be worth listening to. What gives it the Heavy Metal/Hard Rock undertone is the remarkable bass on this track performed by Carlinhos Noronha.

Then you also have “Superstition” which is arranged and produced by Bill Hudson. Never in this lifetime would a Metalhead ever think that they would hear a remake of “Superstition” let alone with a Metal/Power Metal/Thrash Metal backbone. Double bass barrages and crashing cymbals, pounding bass, screeching killer guitar, and incredible vocals by Carlos Zema is just what Stevie Wonder had in mind all along most undoubtedly. This song is so killer that the performers must be introduced. Drums were done by Adam Sagan, bass by Fernando Giovannetti. Bill, Adam, and Carlos have been already paired together in the band Coldera, so they are pretty familiar with their playing styles and performing together. The addition of Fernando was brilliant because his playing is something to behold – the guy is a monster bassist. He can hold his own with any top bass player in the world today. His skills are such that when he performs it’s like watching two bands perform at the same time… him and the rest of the band. His sound is killer and his playing is flawless and impeccable.

There is one more tune that isn’t too bad if you are into a Funk/Blues/Jazz type theme. The opener is titled “Boogie On Reggae Woman Instrumental.” There is also a vocal version on track nine. This track isn’t too bad and can get you groovin’ to the tune in no time. Other than maybe five tracks on the album the other five are more suited for those who enjoy Jazz, Funk, Soul, etc.

The big decision is how does one grade this album? Should it be graded on its own merit (the actual musical capability and talent by everyone who contributes) or on how it rates against the MER baseline for instance? Based on what your basic MER fan would rate, it should probably get a 5.0/10.0. Based on its own merit it probably deserves a strong 8.0/10.0. Since the Metal versions of some of the songs were stronger than those that were Funk, Blues, or Jazz themed, the overall score is leaning towards a 7.0/10.0.

This album is only recommended for the true MER fan if he or she wants to extend their musical tastes or is a fan of Kiko Loureiro or Bill Hudson.


  • George Fustos

    George was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. He has engineering degrees in Chemical and Electrical Engineering. He favors Metal, Rock, Hard Rock, Classic Rock, Blues, and even some Jazz and Motown (depending on the tune). He used to dabble with the bass quite some time ago. His most influential bassists are Jaco, Billy Sheehan, Stu Hamm, Geddy Lee, and John Entwistle (RIP Ox). Band-wise he's really into Rush, Tool, early Metallica, Pink Floyd (including Waters and Gilmour as solo artists), The Who, Iced Earth, Iron Maiden, Halford, Joe Satriani, certain Judas Priest, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins (Blues guitarist), Motörhead, and a German band called Skew Siskin that Lemmy says in an interview as being "the best band out there today."

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