Wiggy Bits

Wiggy Bits were an American rock quintet active during the mid-1970s. Comprised of alumni from psych-rockers The Illusion and ex-Blues Magoos/Barnaby Bye vocalist Peppy Castro, Wiggy Bits released a self-titled album on Polydor in 1976.

Members: Peppy Castro [aka Emil Thielheim] (vocals), Richie Cerniglia (guitar), Mike Ricciardella (drums), Dennis Santiago (bass) Mike Maniscalco (keyboards)

Harnessing their seasoned chops, the band exercise controlled aggression, rhythmic breadth, and emotional dynamics across the album’s ten tracks. “Oh Captain” vents a harrowing maritime ordeal as Cerniglia conjures crashing waves though the chordal/scaly descending riff that frames the song.

The phased, fleeting fretboard tornado “Wiggy” clears way for the slick, confident strut of “Love Track,” where Cerniglia solos fast and slow amidst Ricciardella’s alternately pulsed/paused patterns. On a different note, Maniscalco’s ivory touch forwards the lyrical sighs and emotional crescendos of “Alone Again,” which break to a most exuberant, far-chorded chorus.

A vibe of headiness tempered with masculine restraint is evident in much of the material. The anthemic machismo of “Free to Ride the Wind” breaks for more of Cerniglia’s sensitive, fiddly scales in the middle. The drilling bass and scaly bends of “I’ll Write You Off” are driven by a tight-fisted rhythmic figure apropos to the subject.

Various tracks co-function as lyrical numbers and guitar showcases. Cerniglia shreds away atop the mid-tempo slide of “Ellie,” where Castro exercises his upper-registry. Flanged chordal sustain and choice-note licks enswirl the octave-spanning bassline of “Lies,” which further exhibits the singer’s tonal range.

Rising to the challenge, Ricciardella takes center for numerous spots. Bass slabs and synth fizz are paced by hi-hat for most of “Place In the Sun” before everything clears for a Castro solo spot. Falsettos and fuzzy sustain mark the locked-groove “Bad Situation,” where chordal/cadence shifts along the bridge contrast the song’s sloganeering verses.

Wiggy Bits recorded no more, but several members remained active. Ricciardella reappeared the following year in the Epic twofer act Network. The tenacious Castro would next appear in early ’80s heavyweights Balance. Cerniglia — whose spacey, scaly chops had already shone on Hall & OatesWar Babies LP — resurfaced a decade later in the 1986 one-off Aviator.

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