Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Galactic, From the Corner to the Block

Galactic is a New Orleans jazz seasoned funk band.  The group more or less got it’s start when drummer Stanton Moore began playing with bassist Robert galacticMercurio and keyboard player Rich Vogel in the early 1990s.  The curent line up adds Ben Ellman on horns and harp and Jeff Raines on guitar.  “From the Corner to the Block” is something of a departure from their usual fare.  Rather than present primarily instrumental funk work outs, Galactic hooks up with a variety of MCs and the result is a stellar set of funk oriented hip hop.

The most obvious aspect of  “From the Corner to the Block” and it’s greatest strength is that all of the music is played by a live band.  Hip hop is very much rhythm driven music and the tunes on “From the Corner to the Block” are built on Moore’s deeply funky drums.  However the tracks are also filled with the kind of little flourishes and effects that producers build into their songs only in this case everything is being played by the band.  There’s a life here that even the best hip hop producers rarely if ever achieve with beats and layered effects constructed with Pro Tools and a studio full of samplers. 

Galactic cowrote all the tunes on “From the Corner to the Block” in combination with the MC who appears on each track which turned out to be an excellent way to approach the album.  It sounds like the band and the MCs each adapted to the other which gives the CD a sense of coherence even while different styles of rap are being presented.  It works very well.  Another strength is that the MCs don’t bother with the outlandish thug posturing, conspicuous consumption  and self absorption and boasting and that makes many of the more popular MCs and rappers sound like buffoons.  For the most part the raps on “From the Corner to the Block” are clever and interesting.  Good stuff.

I’m finding that I tend to enjoy hip hop more when the CD features a number of different MCs as opposed to entire disc performed by the same group.  I think the reason for this is that many MCs have a fairly limited ability to rap in different rhythms and the presentation becomes monotonous after several tracks.  “From the Corner to the Block” doesn’t fall into this trap because the vocals on each track are performed by a different artist.  Galactic also breaks up the flow with a couple of instrumental-only tracks including “Tuff Love” which features Trombone Shorty and is one of the highlights of the album.  They’ve also included “Second and Dryades” which features vocals by Big Chief Monk Boudreaux.  Boudreaux was a long-time meber of the legendary New orleans band the Wild Magnolias and “Second and Dryades” is a nice reminder that music with talking vocals wasn’t invented in the Bronx in the 1970s and can encompass styles that go far beyond the somewhat limited constraints displayed by a lot of mass marketed hip hop.

I’ve found “From the Corner to the Block” to be a grower – the more I listen to it, the more I enjoy it.  It may be that rare album that can be enjoyed by both seasoned hip hop listeners and people who don’t like the genre because of the ugly attitudes displyed by some of its practitioners.  Galactic has long had a reputation as a band that can lay down a non-stop party groove.  Hooking them up with a set of talented MCs was a brilliant idea. 


03/09/2008 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews

1 Comment »

  1. […] Me Something”, like Galactic’s recent CD “From the Corner to the Block“, makes hip-hop out of a variety of MCs combined with musicians playing instruments rather […]

    Pingback by Review: Connie Price and the Keystones, Tell Me Something « Tuned In To Music | 04/16/2008 | Reply

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