The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores

CD Review: John Custie

Polka - A New Dawning
John Custie, accordion and vocals
Michael Gutenberg, violin
Jeff Ganz, bass
Jay Berliner, guitar
Al Regni, clarinet and sax
Glen Drewes, trumpet
Ron Zito, drums


Daddy is a Thief Polka
Jesters Polka
Wedding March Polka
I Lost My Money Oberek
Irish Girl Polka
Dancing Fingers Polka
Polish Pope Polka
Continental Oberek
Tinker Polka
He's a Brit Polka
Slavic Dreams Waltz
Accordion Frolics Polka
Johnny's in the Outhouse Polka
Happy Feelings Oberek

released: 1995

Playing time: 38:48

Label: Drewjo Productions & Publishing Co.
PO Box 1146
Selden, NY 11784

Review by Bob Berta:

John Custie wrote all the songs on this album except for Wedding March Polka and Tinker Polka. John's tunes are marked by humorous lyrics some of which are mildly amusing and some seem to be really reaching for humor. "Johnny's In The Outhouse", as an example, seems to find humor (bathroom?) in spiking somebody else's drink with a laxative.

The overall recording quality is pretty good. The sound of the accordion was a little harsh on some of the selections though. Other instruments were well played, quite nice sounding and well recorded, especially the clarinet. When a tune depends so much on the listener hearing the lyrics clearly as on this CD it is very important that the singer choose a good mike and sing clearly into the mike. John did an excellent job can hear the lyrics very clearly and yet they don't overpower the backup instruments.

The CD was a little short... there is only a little under 39 minutes of material, hardly enough to fill a cassette let alone this CD. The overall band had a nicely balanced sound and I would have liked to hear more of just instrumental music to fill up the rest of the CD.

I did have a problem with the liner notes. In the introduction it stated "...the awesome display of technical proficiency and mastery displayed by this artist." In the list of tunes it mentioned that the Dancing Fingers Polka was a "Showcase of amazing technical proficiency." Perhaps I tend to expect too much after reading such high praise for the playing of an artist. I was expecting incredible things after such a buildup and was only rewarded with above average playing. On future recordings I would recommend letting the listener makeup their own mind as to the proficiency of the artists.


DREWJO Productions & Publishing Co.
PO Box 1146
Selden, NY 11784

July 9, 1998

Re: POLKA - A NEW DAWNING by John Custie

Dear Mr. Doktorski,

Upon the suggestion of Joe Petosa - Petosa Accordions, to send YOU our compact disk POLKA - A NEW DAWNING by John Custie to critique and the subsequent review by Bob Berta, we regretfully have reason to respond.

The light-hearted approach taken by Mr. Custie was intended to be "mildly amusing," and understandably, not to everyone's taste. Since Mr. Berta takes issue with one tune in particular and feels Mr. Custie was "reaching for humor," it would have been wise of him to pay close attention to the lyrics and realize the story told in "Johnny's In The Outhouse" was not contrived, but was a story told to the artist, of pranks that transpired by some of an older, more puritanical generation. The public's response to this tune overall, has been positive.

The release date of this album was 1997, not 1995. Please correct your error. In regard to Mr. Berta's statement, "The CD was a little short. . . there is only a little under 39 minutes of material, hardly enough to fill a cassette let alone a CD," we ask you and Mr. Berta to update your files concerning CD time lengths. I suggest you examine the partial list below, of the many CD's in circulation:

If he would examine CD's in any musical format he would discover that the largest percentage are between 36 and 40 minutes in length. Very few ever FILL a disk.

This company's policy is to produce a high quality product. CD time lengths are not the determining factor, nor are the number of instrumentals versus vocals although they are a consideration. Had Mr. Berta reviewed the entire album he would have discovered the instrumentals ARE in the greater percentage by this artist.

While the review stated, "I did have a problem with the liner notes etc...," I'm sure you will agree most listeners in popular music markets without musical knowledge of playing an instrument, composing, arranging, or singing, usually have little to base an evaluation of an artists proficiency. The statements made in the CD's liner notes ". . . Showcase of amazing technical proficiency.", was on e of the many comments expressed by active high calibre professionals in the music business today. The liner merely reiterates their trained opinions.

It is unfortunate Bob Berta did not grasp the most obvious aspects of this CD, POLKA - A NEW DAWNING. For example: the song development, harmonic structure, orchestration, and most importantly the new original concept which John Custie and we visualized, and to our satisfaction successfully achieved.

Very truly yours,
DREWJO Productions and Publishing CO.
Geraldine Gluck

REPLY: Dear Geraldine Gluck,

Thank you for your letter. We always appreciate feedback. I won't reply to every one of the points you mentioned, but let me assure you, Mr. Berta was not exaggerating when he commented on the length of Mr. Custie's CD.

I just took a few minutes and added up the total times of the 103 CDs reviewed in The Free-Reed Review and came up with some statistical data which might interest you. The average length of those 103 CDs is 56:06 each. The longest CD we reviewed was Larry Adler's Glory of Gershwin which topped the charts at 78:01. We reviewed nine CDs over 70 minutes in length, 27 CDs over 60 minutes, 30 CDs over 50 minutes, etc.

Your CD came in no. 102 (next to last place) with a total of 38:43. The only CD we reviewed which was shorter than yours was 37:30, and I also called attention to the total time in my review of that CD.

Granted, it may be true that your CD compared well in total time along with other polka albums, but compared to our sampling of accordion output in the real world, the total time of your CD was markedly unimpressive.


Henry Doktorski, founder
The Classical Free-Reed, Inc.

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