Wednesday, August 01, 2007

the BellRays - Have a Little Faith

I’ve known these cats for many a year – basically I met them when ex-Grey Spikes guitarist Tony joined and with his razor-sharp licks and excellent songwriting they created their own genre of “Maximum Rock and Soul”. Since then they have gone through a number of incarnations, but seem to have settled down with the addition of Craig Waters on the drums and have been playing non-stop literally around the world since!

Opening this CD with “Tell The Lie”, which could be a Curtis Mayfield outtake with tasty horn fills by Vince Meghrouni, they then move into more familiar territory with “Time is Gone’ with its breakdowns, time changes and Tony Fate’s trademark jazz-gone-mad guitar fills. “Snotgun” is classic Fate punk and a terrific explosive of sound and anger!

This record also reprises their amazing title song (previously released at least once by the ‘Rays and once by the hard-rockin’ B Movie Rats) that would be a hit in a fair world. They dressed this version up with some strings and backup vocals and have made it a true soul classic. Tony has written such a wonderful, heart-felt song that I think someone would have to purposely try in order to do a bad take of this tune. Lisa Kekaula shows that she has a beautiful crooning voice as well as being a soul-shouter par excellence! Worth the price of admission on its own!

But, goddamn, you get so much more! This record is much more produced than their previous, punkier outings, which is something that some fans have been clamoring for. There is no doubt that they still put the “punk” in “Punk, Rock and Soul” (their motto and a short-lived LA musical movement that they were the center of), but this record has more variety than these versatile folks has exhibited before. Everyone here is a consummate musician and can play damn near anything (and have in various projects).

Bob Vennum (bass and guitar) writes a few of the songs in this collection also and they fit right in, proving that the BRs are now a musical unit and each one feeds off the others. Funnily enough, his offerings are some of the edgier numbers on the CD!

There’s tons of great stuff here but another revelation is “Third Time’s the Charm” - another should-be-a-hit that easily could fit in on a Stax/Volt compilation (in fact, it sorta reminds me of Carla Thomas’ “B-A-B-Y”). The horns and backup vocals hook you in and if the beat doesn’t get you moving, then nothing will!

Live, these cats are like a punk-rock gospel revival! The intensity pouring out of each member fills the room and draws you in. Lisa will at times literally shake you until you have no choice but to join in. The band can fly into a frenzy and stop on a dime and at all times corralling the madness and keeping it coherent and damn infectious!

This is a superb introduction to the BellRays, but also pick up their earlier releases to see the rawer, edgier side of this band. But definitely buy this record and see them the next time they come your way – because they certainly will at some point on their endless world tour!

Check out the BellRays website and My Space page


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