I often say that there are musicians that have worked in great bands, but sometimes get lost in the shuffle throughout the years and I can’t help but think that that has been the case with the guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, who had a major role in Duran Duran and was a member of Frank Zappa’s solo band during the late 70s. Now, he has a new solo album coming out, Missing Person, and for those that are looking for quality guitar playing, then this is the album for you.
Cuccurullo’s career started back in the late 70s when he was a major Frank Zappa fan and travelled across the United States to watch several concerts of his, becoming friends with several members of the band until he had the chance to prove his worth before Frank himself, showcasing his skills and his capacity to play even the most challenging songs of his catalog.
Despite having a decent amount of success with Zappa in his early 20s, Cuccurullo broke on his own and created his own band, Missing Persons (sound familiar?), which had a decent amount of success and where his guitar playing started to evolve, becoming a bit more distinctive and personal given that this was his own project and creation. In fact, he had an experimental guitar he built for their 1984 album, Rhyme and Reason, which was a testament to his capacities as a guitarist and what he could achieve.
Eventually, Missing Persons fell apart and given that they were signed by Capitol Records, this gave Cuccurullo the chance to audition for Duran Duran and he became a very important factor in the band quite fast. No one can argue how his songwriting and guitar playing skills were instrumental to get the band back on track on the early 90s and he was a fundamental part of the group until the original lineup reunited in 2001.
Ever since the mid-90s, Cuccurullo has been doing several odd projects here and there to test the waters with a solo career, but it wasn’t until the mid-2000s that he got the ball rolling and here in 2019’s Missing Person we can almost the culmination of his entire career in just one album. For such a talented guitar player, he has managed to encapsulate all the different music styles of his career and mixed it all up in a fascinating melting pot of rock, synth, pop and electronica in a very effective manner.
Despite being a guitar player’s solo album, Cuccurello’s style is not over the top or overly pretentious; he works to make the best possible song and I have to say that that makes his guitar playing a lot more solid–he has the experience to know when less is more. Let’s add to that a concept album that revolves around questioning the crazy amounts of information that we are receiving on a daily basis on the internet and paying a tribute to many of his friends, like Prince, Gary Numan, Miles Davis and many others.
Let’s take Me I Disconnect From You, for example: the synthesizers and electronic influences would take you think that this is not a guitarist’s solo album, but it works and it provides that classic 80s feel but with a somewhat more modern feel to it. Back in 1981, despite its name, actually sounds like a Pop-Electronic track from the early 2000s; while it doesn’t hit with my personal musical sensitivities, I think it’s a fairly solid song.
Einstein, on the other hand, has a solid vocal performance and it has a very good balance of synthesizers and guitar playing, even having a somewhat mystical feel on the keyboards; it’s a very fun song and it adds a lot to the album as a whole. Meanwhile, we can enjoy some classic guitar playing in 4U, showcasing Cuccurullo at the height of his powers and soloing like he knows how, which already makes a standout in the album for me.
I wasn’t very captivated by the rhythms of You Should Dance to This because it’s not my cup of tea such an automatic feel to it, but I invite you to listen to it and make your own opinion. Party Ultimate offers a very similar approach, but Cuccurullo adds a little bit of guitar in this song and it makes everything flow a bit more effective.
I’ll admit that I’m very drawn to classical guitar playing, so when Cuccurullo offers us something as Dear Listener, I ate it up. His guitar playing here is slow (in a great way) and it has a lot of soul and feeling, which is something that every musician should always offer. This is complemented beautifully by Me, Jug and Doe, which has some of the finest riffing in the whole album–I will even dare to say that it has a slight Black Sabbath influence here and there.
Alphabeat Exercise and Drum Solo is one of the finest tracks in the album with that Progressive vibe and it helps to make for a more varied album, with a lot of rhythm changes and Cuccurullo cutting loose in many stages of the song. On the other hand, God’s Creation feels more like an interlude and less like a song, which I find a bit troublesome given that this is a four minutes and a half piece.
We can find a lot more great guitar parts in Invisible, which complements the synthesizers in a very effective manner and it combines several aspects of our protagonist’s influences. We finish with the electronic rhythms of Damned If You Do, which is a very modern track and it focuses more on his later years, which is something worth taking into account.
Warren Cuccurello is a musician who has been there, has done it all and has managed to do it so in multiple music styles, so that is always commendable. Missing Person is marketed as an influence to his friends and musical idols, but I will also say that is a tribute to his career and his achievements, creating a work that can be a great introduction for people asking who he is as a musician and what his deal is.
Well, Missing Person is Cuccurello’s deal: a very solid musical effort from someone that started off as a fan of Frank Zappa and has become his own man, with a lot of achievements with various bands along the way.