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  • Jonathan Widran

JOHN DENICOLA, The Why Because

Admit it – the minute you found out that John Denicola, the Oscar winning songwriting king of pop in 1987-88 for his still engaging, co-written Dirty Dancing hits, finally became a recording artist, you picked up The Why Because and just HAD to listen first to his spins on “Hungry Eyes” (a #4 pop smash for Eric Carmen) and the #1 Bill Medley-Jennifer Warnes hit “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life.” Okay, that was me geeking out – but it’s a great way to start enjoying his eclectic, wildly infectious (not to mention cleverly titled and full of surprises) debut album.

Okay, despite his cool, soulful and rangy voice, his versions won’t make you forget the hit versions you’ve heard a million times – but they’re still excellent, particularly the super low key, almost folky acoustic ambient stroll through “TOML,” which picks up a thrust of harmonic steam at one point with the help of singer/actress Cassidy Ladden.

If you can believe it, and testament to his excellence as a veteran songwriter and now emerging artist, those two aren’t even the most compelling tunes here. After streaming them, check out the jangling, high spirited “Everything You,” a playful, harmony filled duet with

 Ladden that may remind you of Santana and Michelle Branch’s “The Game of Love”; and the soft spoken, spiritually reflective ballad “In God’s Shadow,“ first recorded by John Waite (who plays on this album) in the 90’s.

Though thoughtful ballads like “All in the Hands of Grace” prove the most memorable, Denicola’s got some darker rock edges to share as well (check out the soaring “Brand New Day”) and goes all trippy on us, channeling George Harrison in the Maharishi era with the mystical instrumental “Butterfly.” Another highlight showcasing the deepest soul edges of his falsetto-capable voice is a fresh twist on The Stylistics’ “People Make the World Go Round.”

Denicola’s latest venture comes with an inspiring guest list as well – including Maroon 5 bassist Mickey Madden, former Styx guitarist Glen Burtnick, bluesman Zonder Kennedy and drummer Brian Delaney (New York Dolls, Wu Tang Clan). Check out The Why Because. I promise you’ll have the time of your life!  

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