Provogue [Release date 24.02.17]
Eric Gales is a former child protégé and post Hendrix disciple who isn’t so much enjoying a comeback as pouring his big toned licks and life experiences into meaningful songs.
‘Middle Of The Road’ isn’t the kind of guitar driven rock-blues juggernaut you might expect, as it’s far too introspective for that. Rather, Eric Gales has matured and reached that part of his life cycle where he’s taking stock and making the best of the huge talent he’s got.
The album title ‘Middle of the Road’ embodies a fundamental duality that refers both his own redemption and undeniably the fact that his music has taken on a more accessible feel. There’s an emphasis on songs, grooves, funk, soul and plenty of self-revelatory moments, on which he needs to share his burden with the listener.
It’s a surprisingly honest and open album which shares some life changing moments, no more so than on the harmony vocal and funk of ‘Change In Me (The Rebirth)’.
His process of self affirmation lies at the core of an 11 track album that opens with the gospel-led call and response of ‘Good Time’ and is book-ended by a guitar driven instrumental. But contrary to expectations, he puts the emphasis on rhythm guitar and the kind of energy he himself notes can be found in a church gathering.
His core direction is best distilled on the very catchy lilting funk of ‘Carry Yourself’, which even extends to the radio friendly ‘nah, nah, nah’ bv’s, before returning to the enveloping hook.
In the past, Gales was the master of the introductory solo and a secondary tension breaking solo resolution. On this album he saves such moments for tracks like the afore mentioned ‘Carry Yourself’, on which his big toned guitar leans into the groove, while the second wave of guitar is delicately woven into the fabric of the outro
Then there’s the mixed back, but defining gut busting solo on ‘I Don’t Know’, before he adds a guitar driven rhythmic outro
He bears his soul on two songs, firstly in the company of Lauren Hill on the sub- reggae beat of ‘Been So Long’, and he’s in a similar self revelation mode on ‘Help Me Let Me Go, which is effectively a cathartic release on a meditative piece, voiced over acoustic, keyboard and cymbal splashes. And while there’s no denying the veracity of his lyrics, neither song is very memorable.
‘Middle Of The Road’ is an album on which the best moments bubble up in unexpected ways. Take the rather obvious choice of Freddie King’s ‘Boogie Man’ with special guest Gary Clark Jr. It starts predictably enough, but the harmony laden track seamlessly fits the album as a whole and then revels on a two-guitar conversation on a wonderful outro, topped by just Eric’s lone voice.
If anything, this album is the triumph of several exhilarating moments over an understated approach, best exemplified by the self explanatory Lance Lopez co-write ‘Help Yourself’.
He trades licks with the up and coming Mississippi teenager Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram, but again what you imagined might lead to a guitar wig-out eventually settles for a handclap led breakdown with bv’s, albeit shadowed by a gnarled guitar line into the fade
‘I’ve Been Deceived’ opens with a gospel mantra and slips into one of his early career trademark solos, before a perfunctory finish that suggests he was restless to get on to the next track.
He’s joined by brother Eugene, as he adds some thumping bass on ‘Repetition’. The track musically lives up to its title, before a mid-number rap and a screaming solo over some heavy breathing bv’s and a subtle fade.
‘Middle Of The Road’ marks a significant change of direction for both the man and his music. While Eric Gales has long been recognised as a stellar guitarist in the psychedelic rock-blues mould, this album shows a more mature side of his work.
He gets soulful, funky and loves nothing better than embellishing a deep groove. All that’s missing are 2 or 3 killer songs to put the icing on the cake. ***½
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00
On Sunday 28 July 2019, David Randall celebrated his 600th show. “Assume The Position” started in June 2007 on UK City Radio before transferring a year later to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio. The show includes tracks played on the first show plus Upton Blues Festival highlights, new music and the regular features “Live Legends” and “Anniversary Rock” which this week celebrates the Island Records label 60th anniversary.
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Power Plays w/c 19 August (Mon-Fri)
BEFORE FIRE Dead Eyes (indie)
SCOTT & MARIA Never Give Up (indie)
CORELEONI Queen Of Hearts (AFM Records)
BERLIN Transcendance (Cleopatra Records)
PHIL CAMPBELL These Old Boots (Nuclear Blast)
PHIL LANZON Blue Mountain (Phil Lanzon Ditties/Cargo Records UK)
Featured Albums w/c 19 August (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 SOLEIL MOON Warrior (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 ROXY BLUE Roxy Blue (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 DREW HOLCOMB & THE NEIGHBORS Dragons (Magnolia Music/Thirty Tigers)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
JAMES STEVENSON Everything’s Getting Closer To Being Over (2013)
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