The Reviews Are In!!!
His 'best calling card' delivers
By George Varga
January 15, 2006
All good things come in time, even if it's several decades later than anticipated. For San Diego's Mark DeCerbo, who co-founded the power-pop band Four Eyes here in 1979, his time has come at last.
"Sweet on the Vine" by the DeCerbo-led Four Eyes was released last August on Zip, an Australian label that also has offices in San Francisco. It came out 20 years after Four Eyes' still unheard debut album was scheduled to be released internationally by MCA Records, which shelved the completed record and dropped the band following a major corporate shake-up.
A lovingly crafted work, Four Eyes' new album emerged 13 years after DeCerbo's first solo disc, the equally infectious "Baby's Not in the Mood," was released in 1991 by Bizarre/Planet, an indie label headed by Frank Zappa's former manager. Both albums affirm that this gifted musician is long overdue for recognition beyond San Diego, where he's been a mainstay of the local scene since 1980.
"Mark is one of the best songwriters in San Diego," said former Zappa guitarist/keyboardist Mike Keneally, who has featured DeCerbo as a vocalist on four of his own solo albums. "His songwriting has all the strengths of Paul McCartney's, and he has a harmonic sense that covers all the bases. But it's effortless and natural, never showy."
The 14-song "Sweet on the Vine" is a prelude to the upcoming release in Japan of a compilation album of vintage material by Four Eyes, which regrouped in 2003 after a hiatus of nearly 14 years. The revamped band will also be featured on upcoming Neil Diamond and Ringo Starr tribute albums, both at the impetus of Bart Mendoza, a champion of the San Diego music scene and member of fellow power-pop band the Shambles. Mendoza also hooked DeCerbo up with the Japanese record label that's releasing the Four Eyes compilation album.
"I guess if you stick around long enough, somebody will notice you," said DeCerbo, 52, of his suddenly blossoming recording career.
"That's a reality for me. I feel very blessed to still be able to make my living playing music, which I've done since 1976, one year after I moved here."
A native of Schenectady, N.Y., DeCerbo started his first band, the Mayonnaise Machine, when he was 14. He moved here in 1975 to study music at San Diego State University and soon found himself playing in a pop-rock duo called Roots with Gary Lehmann.
"I was the luckiest guy in the world when Mark accepted me as his musical partner," Lehmann said. "He is so talented, and also a very nice guy who knows how to let music come through him. And he's blessed with a voice that's Beatle-esque."
A married father of four grown children, DeCerbo has honed his Fab musical flavor with the classic-rock band Rockola, which he joined in 1990. A frequent San Diego Music Awards winner, the group is acclaimed for its note-perfect concerts of such challenging Beatles' albums as "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" and "Abbey Road."
"Music is my lifeblood," DeCerbo said.
"If I wasn't able to do it, I guess I'd adapt. But I wouldn't be
ICE Magazine [Greg Camphire, New Release Editor]
As you may have noticed, we here at ICE occasionally like to turn the spotlight away from the usual well-publicized fare and onto some interesting music that may have fallen through the industry’s cracks. Much deserving of this attention is San Diego-based artists Mark DeCerbo & Four Eyes. Their latest, Sweet on the Vine, ripens and drops into stores on August 9 courtesy of Zip Records, and offers listeners a lesson in finely-tuned, modern pop crafted with DIY appeal and wide-eyed, crystal-clear production
While the Beatles are the first and most obvious touchstone, the DeCerbo-fronted band also references the sounds of such ultra-catchy acts as XTC, Squeeze and Soundtrack of Our Lives. The smart and sunny SoCal hooks of tunes like "Green Grass Girl" and "Artless, Heartless" combine lush vocal harmonies, intricately intertwined guitars and rock-solid rhythm section performances for a sound that leans toward classic rock but sparkles with a contemporary edge.
The enhanced CD’s 12 basic tracks are also bolstered
by three bonus tunes: "Emily" and "Cool with Me,"
which were recorded with assistance from fellow artists Popgem, plus a
live video performance of the non-album track "I Need to Have My
Baby," as directed by David Peck.
Mark De Cerbo has been around the San Diego music scene for decades. He`s got a story to tell and there`s going to be a compilation here soon from Wizzard In Vinyl that will tell the story of Four Eye`s skinny tie power pop days of the late 70`s/early 80`s. But "Sweet On The Vine" is new material from De Cerbo and band and it`s, thankfully, there`s not a lot different than what the older material sounds like. This is classic, pitch perfect power pop, the kind that we love, goes down smooth with a smile and points us to want to share with others. It`s not just that the music is bright and catchy, the sound of a top pop tunesmith working at full strength; it`s that the songs themselves are often lark. "He has been described as being part of that elite fraternity of popmeisters whose ranks include Paul McCartney, Cliff Richard, Eric Carmen, Nick Lowe and Glenn Tilbrook. They dont just write songs, they craft them; they mold them into neat little packages that find their way into your ear and take up permanent residence. San Diego Magazine. Yes, indeed, there`s plenty of Squeeze here(more Glen than Chris) and the writer is on the right path but you can add lots of Michael Penn, too. Also, he reminds us of Idle Jets/Pat Buchanan in that these are sophisticated, carefully crafted, extremely well produced songs that have had a lot of thought put into them to yield the delights here. There`s an intimate feel to all this gorgeous material and it`s never in a rush to get to that catchy chorus. This one that will reward and grow extreme pleasure, rest assured. Big Time Extremely Highly Recommended!
Mark DeCerbo, a transplanted New Yorker, has been a powerful force in the San Diego music scene since the late 70s and 80s, when he was the leader of Four Eyes, a playful power pop group several steps ahead of the Knack. He has been described as being part of that elite fraternity of popmeisters whose ranks include Paul McCartney, Cliff Richard, Eric Carmen, Nick Lowe and Glenn Tilbrook. They dont just write songs, they craft them; they mold them into neat little packages that find their way into your ear and take up permanent residence. (Thomas K. Arnold, San Diego Magazine).
His first record deal came in 1983 on the strength of a demo tape, when he was signed by MCA Records. The deal fell through on the eve of its release when Irving Azoff took over as president of the ailing company and gave everyone the boot. In 1985, another backer financed the recording of a new demo tape that featured such formidable sidemen as the horn section from Jack Mack and the Heart Attack and keyboardist Paul Fox from XTC. This won DeCerbo a contract with Bizarre/Straight Records where he recorded his debut album, Babys Not in the Mood with such musical luminaries as Mike Keneally (Frank Zappa), Pat Mastelotto (XTC, Mister Mister), Byron Miller (George Duke, Luther Vandross), and Burleigh Drummond (Ambrosia). That album, described as a Dont miss in Billboard magazine and won kudos from critics, showcases his songwriting talents.
John DAgostino, writer for the LA Times and the San Diego Reader, stated that if time, trends and changes of perspective have had their effect on DeCerbos music, it retains one strength that is the child of instinct and cant really be learned: melodic appeal. You could hang Christmas bulbs with the hooks in DeCerbos tunes.
He has opened for such national acts as Nick Lowe, Paul Carrack, John Hiatt, Huey Lewis and the News, Marshall Crenshaw, Squeeze, Roseanne Cash, the Everley Brothers, Billy Swan, Tower of Power, Livingston Taylor and The Romantics. His song, Contagious was used in the mid-90s CBS Movie of the Week Mike Hammer: Come Die with Me. He continues to cultivate his craft in solo performances, and through the Mark DeCerbo Band.
DeCerbos catalog of original material continues to grow with every passing year. His talent for tunefulness cannot be exhausted in a single vein as evidenced by the haunting echo of Hollow Love, to the hard-driving rock train of Open Arms to the simplistic McCartney-esque lyrical love ode I Need to Have My Baby. His resourcefulness for songwriting and his impressive archive of songs provide candy to the ears, are lyrically addictive, and gently tug on the strings of the heart.
©2003-2004, Mark DeCerbo. All rights reserved.
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