Galactic: Every Corner Has a Story (Relix Revisited)
Fat Tuesday seems like a fine time to revisit this feature on Galactic’s 2007 studio effort, From the Corner to the Block.
WORD is burning about Galactic’s Bonnaroo performance with a host of MCs debuting the new album From the Corner to the Block.
“It was outrageous,” declares Lyrics Born, the Bay Area MC whose wonderfully detailed story “I Got It (What You Need?)” kicks off the album in high style. “It was amazing,” he raves. “They started at 12:30 and played until 4 a.m. without a break. It was bonkers!”
From the Corner to the Block features Galactic’s infectious dance grooves behind a densely layered revue of killer MCs, including Lyrics Born, Juvenile, Ladybug Mecca from Digable Planets, Boots Riley of The Coup, Chali2na of Jurassic 5, Gift of Gab from Blackalicious, Mr. Lif and Lateef the Truth Speaker. Each of them delivers lyrics describing scenes on their particular corner, giving the record a powerful theme that underlies its musical coherence. Produced by Galactic’s Ben Ellman and hip-hop mixmaster Count, the album is nothing short of a masterpiece from both a sonic and lyrical perspective.
The Bonnaroo show was the culmination of three years of struggle as the band attempted to determine its future following the departure of vocalist Theryl “Houseman” DeClouet in 2004. Back in 2003 Galactic released Ruckus, a song-oriented album that featured Houseman more prominently than any of its previous efforts. During the ensuing touring campaign to promote the album, Houseman developed complications from diabetes that forced him to stop touring. Galactic was faced with a huge question mark about its future.
“When the band first started it was all about Houseman,” Ellman says. “The whole band obviously was not from New Orleans so when we got to New Orleans and we started playing with Houseman it was what we were all into—still are—especially when the band first started, he was a huge part of it and a big influence. We’ve always been an instrumental band and Houseman was like a permanent special guest.”
Bassist Robert Mercurio and guitarist Jeff Raines were steeped in the Washington D.C. area Go Go scene when they started Galactic after moving to New Orleans to attend college. The band developed its identity as a Meters-like funk outfit after native New Orleanian Stanton Moore took over on drums and then Rich Vogel took over on keyboards. Ellman, who had been playing saxophone in local brass bands, took the lineup in yet another direction when he joined. The group’s live shows became legendary for lengthy sets of hard-edged funk capped off by Houseman’s old-school R&B vocals.
“Every time we go into the studio it’s like the next step for us,” says Ellman. “We do all the live shows, which are based around improvisation, trying to do something new and interesting with the songs, capturing the spirit of the moment. But when you go into the studio it gives you a chance to redefine yourself in more of a controlled setting. I always feel like after we make a CD it’s another step. Ruckus felt like that. It was very much song structured for us. We toured the record pretty heavily before Houseman found out about his diabetes. It came down to just being on the road was not good for him, it was hard for him to take care of himself or eat right out there. He’s certainly a lot healthier right now than he would have been had he stayed on the road with us.”
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