The Story Of Baldassarre
In his nearly 50 years as a professional musician, Carl Baldassarre has been lauded as an exceptional guitarist, ingenious composer, music scholar and band leader.
“When I was 11 years old, in 1970, I had an older sister who came back from college and had been exposed to all this great rock music,” says Baldassarre. “She brought home all this vinyl and told me to sit-down, put-on headphones and listen to it. I heard [Led Zeppelin’s] ‘Heartbreaker’, [Deep Purple’s] ‘Child in Time’ to name a couple and that was it — that was an awakening and the beginning of my musical journey.”
Born and raised in Cleveland, his first band, Abraxas, received a recording contract when he was 19 years old. From there, he found success with his progressive rock band Syzygy where he released several critically acclaimed, internationally charting albums. Like many artists, he eventually felt pressure to find a day job to support his family. “I’d been on my own since I was 17, and there was a lot of instability in my upbringing, and we were poor. But I learned a heck of a lot by being on the road nonstop early on,” he says. “I loved music, but I realized I was good at figuring out life in other areas, like business and finance.”
While not entirely leaving the music industry, Baldassarre went on to a highly successful white-collar career in finance. Finally in 2014, he pulled back from his job and relocated to a lake house on Lake Erie in Ohio where he could focus exclusively on his music.
Now working full-time as, yes, a composer, musician, and educator, Baldassarre’s own catalog includes everything from progressive rock to beautiful pieces of classical music, all recorded in some of the best-known studios in the world. And with each new work, he remains impossible to pigeonhole, deftly leaping through styles and genres. As Baldassarre wryly notes: “A Grammy-award winning producer once described my music as ‘somewhere between Christmas and being burned alive.’”
The most impressive and expansive release in Baldassarre’s catalog might be the forthcoming Grand Boulevard, an album that deftly steers through guitar rock, funk, gentle ballads, R&B, reggae and even a bit of orchestral pop that would make Burt Bacharach (a personal hero of Carl’s) proud. It’s decidedly modern, but you may hear a hint of the classic bands he loves seep in. “I think ‘Sands of Tarifa’ has a bit of an Eastern, ‘Kashmir’ and Sgt. Pepper like feel,” he admits. “And ‘Gin with Alice’ is a Steely Dan-inspired song. But I think they’re all original songs which grew beyond their earliest inspirations.”
And now, on the eve of releasing a new album (Grand Boulevard), he’s also becoming a YouTube classic rock sensation. We’ll explain: When he’s not touring or creating music, Baldassarre serves as a foremost authority on rock’n’roll, particularly from the ‘70s. His YouTube channel (where he’s dubbed the Professor of Classic Rock) started on a whim during the early days of covid. But just two-plus years later, he’s already amassed over 2.5 million views for his clips, which focus on great guitar riffs and techniques, song composition and a bit of rock history, highlighting the best of Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper and Rush (among many others).
“I’m bringing my knowledge of composition and classical music to the world of classic rock analysis,” he says.
How to sum up a multifaceted career? “I just have this crazy passion to inspire and educate people and occasionally make their heads explode with new insights,” he suggests. “I love playing and writing. But I also enjoyed, at one point, being a sought-after private equity investor. It’s been a crazy journey.”
Above all, it’s Baldassarre’s own work that he remains proudest (and much of which the world hasn’t heard yet due to covid).
“Out of everything, I care mostly about my own compositions,” he says. “And that’s how I’d want to be remembered. I want it to say on my tombstone, ‘‘Here lies a composer. The boy had range.’”