You may not have heard of Peter Vitalone before, but there is a chance you could have come across music he was involved with before. Vitalone’s supported a wide variety of musicians over the years, including performances and collaborations with Les Paul and Richie Havens. But the New Jersey native took center stage with the release of a solo album titled One of Us in 2012, and after one listen it’s evident that he has the talent to pull off being in the spotlight. Though it does take a couple of songs to really get going, the amount of diversity on display throughout is impressive and with a talented crew of musicians backing his writing Vitalone is well worth acquainting yourself with.
With the wide range of experience Peter Vitalone has as a keyboardist, arranger, and producer it makes sense that his solo endeavor would have a similar amount of diversity. What most people will notice the first time through One of Us is that he’s managed to avoid two of the primary issues that tend to plague a lot of singer/songwriters, repetition and biting off more than they can chew. If a songwriter hasn’t thrown themselves into a corner with rock or folk where every song sounds the same, they sometimes try to branch out a bit too much and don’t have the writing chops to sustain every style. But Vitalone is able to easily avoid these problems, as whether he’s offering up a softer ballad or a more up-tempo piece that has a bit of a bluesy swing to it there’s plenty of substance to keep listeners coming back. Over the course of its eleven tracks, there are explorations of blues, folk, pop, and even some slightly jazzier moments that all come together to create an engaging listen. Of course Vitalone isn’t doing all of this by himself, and he’s assembled a sizeable roster of musicians and backup singers who really help to bring this material to life. I do have to admit that it took a few songs for the energy to fully pick up though, and while the early tracks aren’t bad by any means I found myself liking the material more and more after those first couple numbers. It’s also worth mentioning that One of Us ends on a really fun note, with “KYAGB” offering a rousing drinking tune that came as a nice surprise.
A lot of Peter Vitalone’s prior credits are for his keyboard or piano work, but he’s definitely got a great singing voice as well. He has one of those lighter pitches that hangs over the instrumentals with an airier feel, and not only is it well suited for the softer folk and rock ballads but he’s able to get it to soar during some of the more energetic pieces. As I mentioned earlier, there are a few songs where backing singers are brought in to provide additional depth, but this is still very much Vitalone’s solo endeavor as the other vocalists fill out the sound but never overpower his leads. “KYAGB” finds him adopting an appropriately gruffer pitch that makes the drinking tune almost sound like a sea shanty, and I’m curious if he’d be able to pull off this range on a more regular basis as it was quite enjoyable.
It may have taken a couple songs to fully hook me, but after One of Us started to really sink in it became the type of album that I had on repeat for an entire day. Peter Vitalone has covered a lot of ground on this release, encompassing folk, rock and many other styles that could appeal to a fairly wide range of music fans. Not every musician has the chops to step out and take the spotlight for themselves for an entire album, but Vitalone is one that has pulled it off. I’ll be checking out his most recent album This Side of the Dirt in the near future, and look forward to seeing what a difference of three to four years makes.