Published on July 17th, 2015 in: Current Faves, Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |
By Melissa Bratcher
One of the genius things about New Orleans’ Galactic is their use of wildly diverse vocalists on their albums and tours. Each singer brings their own flavor, but no matter who is singing, the sound of the finely tuned Galactic machine is unmistakable. Their newest, Into The Deep, eschews their previous concept album themes (2007’s urban From The Corner To The Block, 2010’s bonanza of incredible NOLA artists Ya-Ka-May, and 2012’s Mardi Gras-themed Carnivale Electricos) and embraces a number of disparate singers, but never loses sight (or sound) that it is a Galactic album. And it is ripping.
“Right On” featuring Ms. Charm Taylor (of the Honorable South, and currently making soulful, expansive music on her own) should be the song of the summer. Electrifying and thrilling, it is giddy hook-laden funk, with a bassline first laid down by Ben Ellman’s sax, then echoed by Robert Mercurio’s bass. Ms. Taylor’s vocals are the perfect blend of soul and sass, and when she sings, “Why you still waitin’ there?” (and not on the dancefloor) one must pause to ask, well, why ARE you still waitin’ there? There’s dancing to do. It’s sophisticated and complex, but it also speaks to that special part of the brain that makes one dance, and Stanton Moore’s kinetic drumming propels the track at a breakneck pace. The bridge, where Moore gets a moment to let fly and then the horns burst in, never fails to give me goosebumps. EVERY TIME.
There is no finer drummer than Stanton Moore. His live wire, second-line inspired, polyrhythmic drumming on “Higher And Higher” is miraculous, and paired with JJ Grey’s (JJ Grey and Mofro) evangelizing smoke and whiskey voice, creates a blistering track on which Jeff Raines turns in a particularly fevered guitar solo.
Last year, the delightful Maggie Koerner toured with Galactic and she shows up again on Into The Deep. Her smoky vocals on “Dolla Diva” color the hook and David Shaw (of the Revivalists) supplies a wonderfully desperate, boozy lead. Gritty lyrics, Mercurio’s bubbling bass, and Ellman’s ear-wormy sax all combine to make a track that begs for much relistening. It’s richly layered, and must be heard on headphones to appreciate its complexity.
The legendary Mavis Staples brings enormous warmth to “Does It Really Make A Difference,” the closest thing to an old-school soul song on Into The Deep. It’s a very “live” feeling track, buoyed by Rich Vogel’s excellent organ playing and some first-class trumpet in the fadeout from Ellman.
“Chicken In The Corn,” sung by Jamaica’s Brushy One String, is exciting, spare, and hallucinatory. Ryan Montbleau’s vocals on the loose-limbed “Domino” are a revelation, soulful and remarkably clear. Raines’s guitar work is all earworm, all the time. The title track, featuring Macy Gray, sets up an easy groove and lets it breathe. Gray’s vocals are raw silk.
The musicians in Galactic are wondrously talented, and their instrumentals bear this out. On the sinuous “Long Live The Borgne,” Stanton Moore lays down an ultra-funky beat, that is joined by Rich Vogel’s mad scientist keyboard and Jeff Raines’s nimble guitar. The propulsive opener, “Sugar Doosie,” explodes in horns and marvelous funk. “Buck 77” feels like all kinds of things; it’s a little sinister and a bit edgy, but maybe it’s the song as an organism. Mercurio’s bass is like a heartbeat, driving the song, and Ellman’s horns swoon like a breath. The comedown track (Galactic excels at having a last track on the album that eases the soul, one that is soothing and chill) “Today’s Blues” is an extravaganza for Vogel’s exceptional keyboard work and Ellman’s clarion trumpet.
Into The Deep is Galactic doing what they do best: being Galactic. They bring the funk, the technical skills, and the soul. They showcase vocalists. They make compulsively listenable, utterly engaging music. Is there a better day than a day when a new Galactic album drops? I didn’t think so.
Into The Deep was released by Provogue Records on July 17.
July 17 /// The Pemberton Music Festival /// Pemberton, Canada
July 18 /// Sioux Falls Jazz Fest /// Sioux Falls, SD
July 24 /// Fuji Rock Festival /// Niigata, Japan
August 9 /// Summer Meltdown Festival /// Darrington, WA
August 12 /// Brooklyn Bowl /// Brooklyn, NY
August 13 /// Brooklyn Bowl /// Brooklyn, NY
August 14 /// Brooklyn Bowl /// Brooklyn, NY
August 15 /// Brooklyn Bowl /// Brooklyn, NY
August 16 /// Ridgefield Playhouse /// Ridgefield, CT
August 18 /// The Chicken Box /// Nantucket, MA
August 19 /// The Chicken Box /// Nantucket, MA
August 20 /// Infinity Hall Hartford /// Hartford, CT
September 5 /// North Coast Music Festival /// Chicago, IL
September 11 /// Lockn’ Music Festival /// Arrington, VA
September 19 /// Red Rocks Amphitheatre /// Morrison, CO
September 20 /// Belly Up Aspen /// Aspen, CO
October 2 /// Bear Creek Music & Arts Festival /// Live Oak, FL
October 3 /// Bear Creek Music & Arts Festival /// Live Oak, FL
January 6 /// Jam Cruise 14 /// Miami, FL