Album Review: Ghalia & Mama’s Boys – Let the Demons Out

Ghalia & Mama's Boys

photo courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Ghalia & Mama’s Boys: Let the Demons Out (Ruf Records)

Arguably, the blues is an American art form. But, having said that, one cannot simply compartmentalize it into such jingoist and provincial terms. A case in point is the marriage of bluesy Belgian street busker Ghalia Vauthier and New Orleans-based R&B rockers Mama’s Boys. Vauthier had been following her musical dreams all across the U.S. — from Chicago to Mississippi — and wound up in the great state of Louisiana. She met up with harmonica/vocalist Johnny Mastro and company, and the result is this album here.

Ghalia & Mama's Boys - Let the Demons Out

image courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

And what an album it is, too! It is a hot and spicy musical gumbo of rhythmic abandon and a hedonistic free-for-all. The album kicks off with an uptempo number called “4 AM Fried Chicken.” Basically it’s about after-hour juke joints where the drinks are flowing and the food is first rate. Vauthier sets things in motion, with a hard partying vibe that spotlights her expressive voice and guitarist Smokehouse Brown’s rough and ready sound.

Title track “Let the Demons Out” follows and has a moody, almost gospel-like feel to it. Vauthier’s vocals are eerie and are framed nicely by Brown’s atmospheric guitars and Mastro’s searing harmonica. “Press That Trigger” truly ties into the aforementioned “hedonistic” tag. This is a fun one, with thinly veiled wordplay like “c’mon babe, find the right tool to polish my jewel.”

Ghalia & Mama's Boys

photo courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

“Have You Seen My Woman” finds the chanteuse Vauthier singing from the perspective of a guy searching for his lady. The band chimes in collectively on backing vocals for the chorus as the rhythm section shuffles, the harmonica wails, and the guitar lays down some muscular crunch. “Hoodoo Evil Man” offers some of that swampy down-home-type blues this band is known for. It is an intoxicating and swinging standout.

There are some cool novelty type tracks that should be noted. “Waiting” is kind of a clever duet between Vauthier and Mastro where they claim themselves as king and queen of New Orleans. It’s a call and response thing that’s cute but gritty and hard-edged at the same time. The album closer, “Hiccup Boogie,” is a cool little story that Vauthier concocted about how she very well could’ve met the band in some Crescent City blues club. Brown’s blazing solo in the middle really ignites this piece and concludes the album with a crazy and full throttled exclamation point.

Ah, the universal language of some good ‘ol rockin’ blues! The marriage of Ghalia and Mama’s Boys is proof that music is the great unifier, as this stellar working class band blends seamlessly with the European vocal dynamo. Well worth checking out!

Album Review: Jane Getter Premonition – On Tour

Jane Getter

photo courtesy of Jane Getter

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Jane Getter Premonition: On Tour (Big Fun Productions)

All you jazz and fusion fans out there who pine for the days of classic progressive jazz-rock like Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House, UK, etc., etc., look no further. Guitarist-vocalist, bandleader, and composer Jane Getter will hook you right up. The former Saturday Night Live Band axewoman recently released On Tour, which is a compilation of performances from dates at the Outreach Festival in Schwaz, Austria, The Iridium nightclub in NYC, and a live jam at Avatar Studios, also in New York. And she’s got some of the best people in contemporary jazz and rock with her such as her keyboardist husband Adam Holzman (Miles Davis, Steven Wilson), guitarist Alex Skolnick (Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Testament), drummer Chad Wackerman (Frank Zappa, Allan Holdsworth), bassist Mark Egan (Pat Metheny), bassist Stu Hamm (Joe Satriani, Steve Vai), drummer John Mader (Jeff Berlin, Bernie Worrell), vocalist Corey Glover (Living Colour, Galactic), bassist Bryan Beller (Mike Keneally, The Aristocrats), saxophonist/flautist Theo Travis (David Gilmour, Steven Wilson), percussionist Mino Cinelu, and vocalist Chanda Rule. The recordings take place over a three year period from 2014-2016 and a number of the tracks are derived from her 2015 Madfish label studio release On.

Jane Getter Premontion - On Tour

image courtesy of Jane Getter

The first track, simply called “Opener,” sets the scene, with ambient and moody synthesized music by Holzman. That quickly leads into the very rhythmic and rock-oriented “Pressure Point.” Both Getter and Skolnick’s lead work blend and co-exist perfectly as Holzman’s graceful straight ahead piano passages infuse things with a romantic feel.

Getter sings lead on the following track, “Surprised,” and her voice floats ethereally above the tune’s off-kilter beats. She and Skolnick play some nice harmonized lines as Glover chimes in on vocals as well. The orchestral mid-section is haunting and provides an ample vehicle for inspired solos from everyone.

“Inversion Layer” has a catchy odd-time melody that, again, features some nice interplay between Getter and Skolnick. The band employs exceptional dynamics here as well.

“Falling” is a bit of a change in mood and pace. Getter picks up acoustic guitar and delivers a pensive vocal reminiscent of something off of Joni Mitchell’s more progressive jazz-oriented albums like Hejira or The Hissing of Summer Lawns. She really shines with this kind of thought-provoking material.

Jane Getter

photo courtesy of Jane Getter

“Diversion Intro” leads into the track “Diversion” where the tune has a real soaring quality. The band builds the track with each chorus and phrase until it drives the sonic threshold over the top. Getter proves to be a great bandleader in that she is astute enough to allow her counterparts to take center stage and blossom.

Corey Glover utilizes his storytelling skills and stellar pipes to tell the tale of a homeless person on “Train Man.” The mid-section has kind of a funky feel, with strong solos from the band as well as some key vocal hooks.

The hypnotic ambience of “Transparent” exudes rhythms that captivate and draw the listener in. This track features a nice harmonic exchange between Getter and Chanda Rule as well as some cool soloing from Mark Egan.

The album concludes with what sounds like an impromptu performance called “Somewhere Jam.” This is a live, in-the-studio bonus track and features some smooth and mellow solos from Theo Travis on woodwinds. It’s kind of a modal exploratory piece that also serves as a snapshot of the Jane Getter Premonition in 2014 as they were getting their unique ensemble vision underway.

This is a really strong record in the sense that you feel the empathy and interaction between Getter and the various musicians she’s working with. The performances from three different distinct locations and lineups are pretty consistent. With this live recording Getter continues to prove that she is a triple threat as guitarist, singer and composer.

Looking Ahead

The “upcoming dates” page of Jane’s website currently lists one scheduled show. On April 17th at The Iridium in New York City you can see Jane Getter Premonition featuring Vernon Reid. Be sure to check the website periodically for additional dates as they’re added.

Album Review: Bob Kulick – Skeletons in the Closet

Bob Kulick

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

Album Review of Bob Kulick: Skeletons in the Closet

It’s a Bob Kulick album, so you know it’s gonna be good. But this exceeds all expectations. Guitarist Bob Kulick is joined on Skeletons in the Closet by lead vocalists David Glen Eisley, Andrew Freeman, Todd Kerns, Robin McAuley, Dennis St. James, Dee Snider, and Vick Wright; bass players Kjell Benner, Bobby Ferrari, Bruce Kulick, Dennis St. James, Rudy Sarzo, and Chuck Wright; keyboardists Doug Katsaros and Jimmy Waldo; and drummers Vinnie Appice, Frankie Banali, Chuck Burgi, Scot Coogan, Brent Fitz, Bobby Rock, Jay Schellen, and Eric Singer. Talk about an all-star cast! Surrounded by this talented crew of iconic ’80s rock cohorts, Bob has delivered a great, catchy, engaging new ’80s-style rock album.

Bob Kulick - Skeletons in the Closet

image courtesy of Head First Entertainment

And that’s what really counts. Indeed, as I listen to my album review queue in preparation for writing these reviews, the pedigree of the band is unimportant; the music itself rises and falls on its merits. Needless to say, the music on this album rises.

Skeletons in the Closet is a mix of new songs and recordings of material from Bob’s rock ‘n roll past, including a couple songs each from Murderer’s Row and Skull.

I won’t pretend to be familiar with Murderer’s Row or Skull; I wouldn’t have known which songs were old vs. new if I hadn’t read the bio. As much as all hard rockers know Bob’s skill, I personally own only a few of the albums he played on. But that puts me in a position to hear all ten of these songs for the first time, like a kid in a candy store, and they’re an awesome collection of sweets.

The album kicks off its 10-tune journey with the five new tracks – well, four new tracks and an inspired cover.

First up is “Rich Man,” and it roars out of the box with power. Screaming guitar riffs, pounding, popping drums, and soaring vocals. Next up is “Not Before You”, and yes, we all know the swirling amazement that is a Robin McAuley vocal, so it should be no surprise that this was also a quick favorite, but I was more unexpectedly exceptionally impressed with the foreboding power of Dee Snider’s vox in “London,” with the booming, roaring guitars combining to form a theatrical, almost heavy metal Broadway (think Phantom of the Opera) all-encompassing wave of power. (I frequently underestimate Dee’s powerfully textured voice; you’d think I would know better by now.)

Bob Kulick

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

The included cover of “Goldfinger” is catchy and fun. Vick Wright brings just the right amount of snarl to the vocal, and the familiar guitar line eventually builds to an apex. “Player” follows, a solid number with swirling guitars in a style reminiscent of hair metal’s Sunset Strip heyday.

The Murderer’s Row songs are “India” and the title track. Of the two, “India” stands out as the more unique number for its House of Lords-esque soaring overtone (ironically, with David Glen Eisley providing the vocals), with crunchy guitars serving as the underpinning. “Skeletons in the Closet” is a more straightforward rocker, with the vocals more controlled, always almost-soaring but not quite; the result is the sort of building tension that’s the reason this style is frequented in the first place.

“Can’t Stop the Rock” is an old Bob Kulick-David Glen Eisley churning rocker that dates back to the pair’s work on “Sweet Victory” for SpongeBob.

And the last two songs are Skull numbers. The first is quite probably my favorite song on the disc, “Guitar Commandos.” Dennis St. James’ just-slightly-gritty, insistent vocals perfectly punctuate the dueling guitarwork of brothers Bruce and Bob Kulick on this energetic tune, the perfect melodic metal backdrop to a movie chase scene.

Bob Kulick

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

The disc’s last track, “Eyes of a Stranger,” reminds me of several ’80s bands, which is probably why I have such a hard time picking just one for comparison. The pounding beat, occasional screeching guitar dancing through the song’s pulsing rhythm, and the tuneful vocals that hint at depth but, when given a choice, choose melody over emotion, rendering the vox a fourth instrument alongside guitar, bass, and drums – hence the almost orchestrally-arranged feeling of this and similar songs. From a pure musical standpoint, this is as pure a representation of the melodic metal raunch and roll era as any; a great way to end the disc, especially for those of us who appreciate the subgenre.

In all, this is a great disc, but would you expect any less from Bob Kulick and the talent he assembled for it? Consistently amazing guitars from Bob, varied song styles, and top-shelf musicianship and powerful vocals served up a who’s who of heavy rock icons. So if this is your style, grab and enjoy Eyes of a Stranger. And, if you’re like me and don’t have parts of Bob’s back catalog, it’ll probably inspire you to dig around into his discography a little, too (starting with the discs from Murderer’s Row and Skull).