Album Remarks & Appraisals:
2010 release from the New Orleans Jazz funksters. Galactic have made what may be the definitive New Orleans Tribute With YA-KA-MAY, by recognizing this fundamental truth; that all of the town's seemingly disparate styles (Jazz, brass bands and Funk as well as the newer Bounce/Hip Hop) are intrinsically linked.
Spin (pp.84-85) - "[T]hey can blow, sway, and dive as well as any N'awlins marching band."
Personnel: Jeff Raines (guitar); Ben Ellman (harp, horns, programming); Rich Vogel (keyboards); Stanton Moore (drums, percussion).
Liner Note Author: Ned Sublette .
Recording information: Number C Studio, NOLA.
When Galactic released From the Corner to the Block in 2007, they fully embraced hip-hop as an inseparable element in their sound for good. That said, Ya-Ka-May's 15 tracks (named appropriately enough for an Afro-Orleanian soup of Asian origin that can be made with any meat you have around, noodles, hardboiled egg, green onion, and any array of spices) are more rooted in the diverse musics of post-Katrina New Orleans than on any record they've previously issued. There are more vocals than on any previous Galactic record -- but the album is better for it. Such Crescent City institutions as Big Chief Bo Dollis, Irma Thomas, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Allen Toussaint, Trombone Shorty, Corey Henry, and the Rebirth Brass Band are present alongside more modern -- and lesser-known but no less talented -- singers like John Boutté and Glen David Andrews. Hip-hop touches everything here -- even Boutté's bluesy "Dark Water," which is flavored with bowed cellos and popping snares. Same with Thomas' performance on "Heart of Steel," where skittering hip-hop and breakbeat funk grooves are sampled against her trademark deep soul vocal, as enormous electric guitars vamp over a snarling, rumbling bassline and a lonesome blues harmonica that flits through the mix. Bone-crunching bounce hip-hop is represented by the pantheon of the New Orleans gay/drag underground sissy rap scene (their term) with Cheeky Blakk's wild, anthemic gay rap "Do It Again," "Double It" by Big Freedia, and Katey Red and Sissy Nobby on the dirty bounce of "Katey vs. Sissy." The bounce tracks are simply brutal; Galactic fold themselves musically and inventively into the extremely repetitive rhythm tracks, and play them live while adding samples for atmosphere to highlight the raps and extend the tunes into other realms. On "Bacchus," Toussaint's voice and piano are layered with reverb amid gospelized soul, second line, and R&B in the sampled horn charts. "Boe Money," with the Rebirth Brass Band, carries within it hints of post-bop jazz, second-line strut, and funky butt groove. Yet Ya-Ka-May is not merely a collaborative amalgam of tracks, but rather a unified whole reflecting NOLA's musical vitality and reveling in it all simultaneously; it's the sound of a musical community being itself for itself, while screaming -- in full party mode -- into the world that it's alive and evolving. ~ Thom Jurek