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Published: 2002/01/23
by Ray Hogan

We Love ‘Em Tonight: Live at Tipitina’s – Galactic

Volcano Records

In the six years Galactic has been together, the funky six-piece has
released three studio discs, toured incessantly and basically become the
crown jewel of the New Orleans music scene. That's no small statement in a
climate as musically fertile as NOLA, a place where living legends can still
be found working the city's dozens of music clubs and the spirits of such
luminaries as Louis Armstrong and Professor Longhair loom large.

So how did a bunch of white kids and a singer nearly twice their age become the heirs to the funk throne? The answer is in Late for the Future, last year's studio effort, and We Love 'Em Tonight, recorded over three nights in late 2000 at what is perhaps the most esteemed of New Orleans' music clubs. The band absorbed the best of Crescent City's sounds and came back with an approach that was steeped in tradition yet totally refreshing. Only drummer Stanton Moore and singer Theryl "Houseman" de'Clouet are natives, but the rest of the guys – guitarist Jeff Raines, bassist Robert Mercurio, keyboardist Richard Vogel and saxophonist Ben Ellman – must have been damn good listeners. The disc displays the group's trademark groove in yet another stage of evolution: Moore's heavenly drumming still propels the ship but each member has grown in a more active role. Most notable are Mercurio's deep in-the-pocket rumblings and the broadening of Vogel's aural arsenal. We Love ‘Em Tonight looks forward as the first two studio discs, Coolin' Off and Crazyhorse Mongoose are represented only by the latter's title track. Late for the Future is slightly better accounted for with "Villified," "I Get Lifted" (two of the four songs featuring de'Clouet), an eerie "Two Clowns," "Baker's Dozen" and a reworking of the musical interludes "Bobski/Jeffe 2000." The rest of the cuts are covers (including the fan favorite "Sweet Leaf" and Duke Ellington's "Blue Pepper") and, presumably, new songs. Galactic is on a hot streak. If deep funk is the base, then soul, jazz, ambient and blues are the toppings. The group takes its jams to the brink of chaos on "Crazyhorse Mongoose" and "Baker's Dozen" and miraculously pull themselves back intact. While Moore and Mercurio create a shimmering thunder, Raines and Vogel dance above the bedrock with increased authority. de'Clouet, who fans either love or loathe, has tons of soul and acts as a great balance for the band. The instrumentals take listeners into the nebula, while the songs featuring the Houseman bring things back to the earthly realm with traditional – and still rock solid – song structure. We Love Em’ Tonight is further proof that Galactic is the finest New Orleans' musical export since the Neville Brothers. Second-line parade beats and Black Sabbath aren't two factors that necessarily go together, but Galactic makes them seem like long lost cousins.

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