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Every blistering-hot, rocket-powered jazz-fusion funk band needs a powerful, engaging and dynamic front man on vocals, and so it makes perfect sense that New Orleans-based jam band Galactic is teaming up with veteran actor and singer Corey Glover for the 19th annual Southern Brewer’s Festival this Saturday.
Originally billing themselves as “Galactic Prophylactic” and evincing an exemplary approach to funk, the band soon shortened the name and expanded the musical influences. While never abandoning their funk roots, the band has incorporated elements of hip-hop, electronica, jazz and a wide assortment of other contemporary styles into a sound that borders on experimental, bringing to mind some of the work of Frank Zappa or The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. The fairly straightforward ensemble of keys, guitar, sax, bass, harmonica and drums is frequently supplemented with a variety of other instruments, effects and sounds—not the least of which has been an entire high school marching band on one occasion.
As well-respected members of the music community, Galactic has hosted an endless stream of guest artists. This reads like a “Who’s Who” guide to rap, hip-hop, jazz and funk—yet the band never fails to feature up-and-comers in the underground scene, to the point that one suspects appearing with Galactic is a rite of passage for serious New Orleans musicians, a must-have on the resume for those who want to be taken seriously. Certainly there is no shortage of entertainers looking for the opportunity to appear with them. The band has shared the stage with the likes of the Allman Brothers Band, Widespread Panic, The Roots, B.B. King and Counting Crows. to name a few.
With that sort of talent pool to draw from and a free hand when it comes to production in the studio, it’s small wonder that Galactic has come to embody modern New Orleans as much as Dr. John or Louis Armstrong did during their heydays. For evidence of this, look no further than their latest release, Carnivale Electricos, a magnificent collection of songs that takes the listener from the opening moments of Mardi Gras to the somber (and potentially hungover) realization of Ash Wednesday. Each tune encapsulates an aspect of the experience, from the chants of the War Chiefs, to the bold and brassy resonance of a marching band, incorporating Afro-Cuban rhythms and Brazilian samba along the way. Honestly, the only way the album could further capture the spirit of the festival would be to serve it up with a bowl of red beans and rice.
Since the departure of Galactic vocalist Theryl DeClouet in 2004, the band has remained largely an instrumental ensemble, featuring a variety of guest vocalists—the most recent being Corey Glover. Glover’s name ought to be instantly recognizable from his work with Living Colour, though his professional career is considerably more diverse.
Originally an actor, Glover seemed well on his way to stardom with the role of Private Francis in Oliver Stone’s examination of the Viet Nam experience, “Platoon.” Offers started rolling in, including a brief stint on television and numerous appearances on VH1 before Glover’s acting career was suddenly and unexpectedly derailed by music superstardom.
In 1985, guitar wizard Vernon Reid convinced Glover to front his new project, Living Colour, and within three short years they were international superstars, garnering critical acclaim, a number of Grammy awards, including “Best New Artist,” a certified double-platinum album and a gig alongside Guns N’ Roses, opening for the Rolling Stones.
Following the eventual break up of Living Colour in the mid-’90s, Glover went on to release several solo albums before rejoining the band for a reunion tour and follow-up album. Ultimately, Glover returned to his acting roots, winning the role of Judas in a national touring company of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” a role he says that as a child inspired him to pursue a career in entertainment.
In 2010, Glover began touring as the guest vocalist for Galactic, an arrangement that seems like a solid match to all concerned. Gone are the braids and yellow body glove of the ’80s, replaced with a less-assuming flat cap and the occasional Cosby sweater, but the power, strength and conviction of Glover’s vocals are stronger than ever, set against the backdrop of Galactic’s inspired fusion jams. The occasional nod to Glover’s work with Living Colour is a nice touch. An overtly brass version of “Cult of Personality” from an appearance in Nashville floating around on YouTube is particularly fun, breathing a new, funky life into what was already one of the Top 100 Rock Songs of all time. The collision of so much talent from so many directions on one stage makes for a compelling show. Chattanoogans will have the opportunity to experience a little bit of that sonic magic this Saturday, Aug. 24 at the Southern Brewers Festival downtown.