By Stacy Santini
Mocha buttes rising upward from the soil, vistas framing breathtaking views of distant snow-capped mountains, Indian-traveled sandstone underfoot, rock formations resembling Donatello sculptures, rushing rivers and sienna sunsets; visually, there is no place comparable to the American West.
It is hard to imagine that beauty such as this can be as relevant cinematically in song and just song alone, but lyric-ace Marc Berger has managed to capture this imagery with his album RIDE and will be sharing it with the community at a free concert at North Shore Public Library in Shoreham on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m.
Berger’s relationship with the West began while studying law at Rutgers University. When he was 21, he embarked on a cross country journey that would alter his life and career path for ever. Berger describes this catharsis, “Probably because I grew up in the Northeast, I had a strong desire to go out West when I travelled, and the effect it had on me was staggering. I explored the Mojave Desert, Yosemite, all of it, and I came home transformed. Every year for 5 years, making this journey was an integral part of my existence. On each drive I went further inward. At that time, there were no distractions, no cell phones and such. It was a beautiful thing.”
As a result of his travels, he began to write songs about his experiences. Success welcomed Berger early on. His first attempt at his to music publishing firms found him signing a contract. Along the way, icons like Richie Havens befriended him and were very interested in his work. Havens recorded Berger’s song “The Last One” in 1982 and it received much attention.
It was not long before Berger realized that if he wanted to truly make a contribution to the culture he was living in, he needed to sing. “After Richie did my song, I got to thinking about how singing my own lyrics would be the only true expression of myself, and so I willed myself to sing and perfect my voice,” says Berger.
Berger’s roots run deep within the music industry. He has opened for Bob Dylan and other equally impressive bands and musicians. Collaborating with him on his next album, starting in December, will be world class instrumentalists such as Tony Garnier, bass player for Bob Dylan and Paul Simon; Joe Flood, mandolin and fiddler for Levon Helm; and Eric Ambel, guitarist for Joan Jett. Garnier can also be heard on several tracks on RIDE.
Joe Wawrzyniak from Jersey Beat calls the new album “Supremely tuneful and colorful … One can almost taste the dust and feel the desolation of the wide- open prairies while listening to this exquisitely harmonic gem.”
With RIDE, Berger’s passion for the West and his music are palpable, “I don’t think of it as music, but as art, and the art form is secondary to the artist. It is a vehicle to communicate a personality that is only the artist. The most challenging part of this was getting the recording equipment to be pictorial; meaning that I did not want you to just hear a song and picture a band, I wanted you to actually see the great American West, be there present in it,” he said.
With songs such as “Montana,” “Nobody Gonna Ride on the Railroad” and “Heavenly Ancients,” Berger accomplishes just that.
Accompanying Marc next weekend on bass is Rich DePaolo, an extraordinary talent himself. “It is Marc’s vision for sure. I have been working with him for over fifteen years. He is very focused as an artist and clear as to how he wants his vision realized. It is a jot to be a part of this,” he said in describing the collaboration.
North Shore Public Library is a venue that never disappoints when it comes to its concert series. “I am a fan of the American West. Marc’s song, ‘Heavenly Ancients’ on RIDE brought me back to being on the desert floor and glaring up at the sky. His music really captured the awe of the landscape,” said librarian Lorena Doherty.
“I have been doing adult programs here for some time now, bringing in multicultural programs and classical music. Having Marc Berger come here is unique and different. It is very exciting as I am finding that independent musicians have great appeal. We had an amazing turnout for ‘Miles to Dayton’ and I expect the same for Marc,” she added.
North Shore Public Library is located at 250 Route 25A in Shoreham. For more information, please call 631-929-4488.