Galactic: "The Other Side of Midnight"

Words By Andy DeVilbiss

Halfway through Galactic's new live album "The Other Side of Midnight," saxophonist extraordinaire Ben Ellman grabs the mic to remind the revelers in Tipitina's that the show is being recorded. "Live at Tipitina's... ten years after." The hometown New Orleans crowd lets loose for a local favorite with a true somebody-anybody-everybody SSSSCCCCRRRREEEEAAAMMMM!! before Ellman introduces the Soul Rebels Brass Band, sitting in on an incendiary version of "Boe Money."

Indeed, it has been ten years since Galactic put out an official live album release. On their last, 2001's "We Love 'Em Tonight," Ellman would have been introducing part-time singer Theryl "The Houseman" de Clouet, not an entire second line parade. In ten years, Galactic have gone from an accomplished festival act to respected NOLA standard-bearers. By all accounts they lived up to the hype at Jazz Fest last week after the promoter hailed them as one of "best bands in America." They were recently featured for a second time in HBO's drama "Treme" during the second season premiere. Ten years driving their signature steamroller funk sound and paving their own paths through old school R&B, jazz, hip-hop and bounce.

Recorded around Halloween 2010, "The Other Side of Midnight" reflects every drop of sweat, shimmy and stank they picked up along the way. With a healthy mix of instrumental and vocal tunes, the format's the same as it was in the time of the Houseman. Just the band is bigger and badder, the scope of music is broader, and the guests are better.

Guests like Cyril Neville. He kicks off the festivities with scorching vocals on his own classic funk monster "Gossip" and combines with Galactic's swampy sonic shambling for instant NOLA flavor like a crunchy, greasy po' boy. Neville also lends dynamic vocals to "You Don't Know" and "Heart of Steel," both from Galactic's latest studio album, "Ya-Ka-May." While it's hard to outdo Irma Thomas' version from that album, the live version of "Heart of Steel" with Neville is a rawer, rowdier version that cooks with plenty plenty fire.

Galactic augmented its horn section for this recording with Shamar Allen (trumpet) and the Rebirth Brass Band's Corey Henry (trombone) joining Ellman for the whole album. The horns are heavy-hitters throughout, providing a second line swagger whether scorching through the Eastern European flavored "Balkan Wedding," the jazzy licks of "Funky Bird," or teaming up with the Soul Rebels again for the hip-hoppin' kicks of "From the Corner to the Block" (where Henry admirably and perhaps more coherently stands in for Juvenile on the mic). If you needed more horn madness, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews brings his ridiculous chops to sit in on "Cineramascope" and fires off an absolutely ridiculous solo.

It's all backed by one of the tightest, sweatiest and most distinctive rhythm sections in funk. Jeff Raines brings gritty, fuzzy guitar chank, especially shining in a solo during "Garbage Truck." Rich Vogel's lush organ pulses and psychedelic electric piano spatters provide great counterpoint to the horn riffs. Bassist Robert Mercurio shows he's perhaps the most improved member of Galactic, anchoring everything flawlessly throughout a variety of rhythmic foundations. The dominant flavor of the Galactic gumbo is still drummer Stanton Moore. He has evolved so far beyond the word good that he's ineffable. That word means indescribable but clearly in this case, it also means "I am Stanton Moore, and I play anything and everything so good and so ME that I am incapable of being EFFed with."

Galactic wanted this live album to showcase the expansion of its sound over its past few albums, and it does just that. But it also serves as steamrollin' reminder that, while they've explored new sounds and genres in the studio, that all fuels Galactic's fire as a raucous and captivating live funk act. By the time gender-bending NOLA bounce legend Big Freedia joins the show close out the album with the throbbing thump of "Double It," I thought my speakers were soaked with sweat. Hey, summer's coming, and there ain't nuthin' wrong with a little sweat.

Galactic "The Other SIde of Midnight"

Galactic - The Other Side Of Midnight: Live In New Orleans by antirecords


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