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Rhythm & Views

Luca

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The Nick Luca Trio has dropped the "Nick" and "Trio" parts of their name and is now simply Luca, which makes them sound more like a band than before--"Nick Luca Trio" could be a jazz group, or a lounge act, or even a circus sideshow. The Nick Luca Trio, whether acoustic, keyboard-oriented or full-on electric, always put on amazing shows with just three instruments, and so the "trio" part of the name had a certain importance. Dropping the "trio" frees the band from that constraint, but puts more pressure on them to maintain their sound. Their new release as Luca, on local label Funzalo, almost overcompensates.

You Win Again has many live-show favorites, like "Superstar," "Summer Rain" and "Spin Back the Planet," but lacks the energy of Nick Luca Trio live shows--the stripped-down versions of the songs, when played live, seem more vibrant than the fleshed-out recorded versions.

Nick Luca is an accomplished recording engineer, but some songs sound overproduced. "Summer Rain," for instance, when played live with just guitar, drums and bass, takes on a slow, liquid feel, kind of like how it feels in Tucson during the monsoon. On the record, the song seems faster, and the added instruments cloud over the groove.

Some songs, though, flourish: "I'm Still Here" sticks mainly with acoustic guitar, drums and bass, but the subtle feedback toward the end gives the song even more desperation, and "Spin Back the Planet" benefits from keyboard, distorted guitars and backing vocals. Despite the occasionally overproduced moment, it's Luca's most cohesive album yet.

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