How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Galactic is a New Orleans jazz-funk unit that transports us back to the '70s, the decade when jazz-funk was at its zenith. This band owes a great deal to the Meters, the seminal New Orleans funk outfit that was always more popular with critics than the public. The fact that Galactic is able to emulate the sound of New Orleans' finest funkifiers is itself a worthy achievement. But this group actually extends that sound, bringing in subtle touches of jazz and soul. Unusual for a crew of twenty-something funksters, there are no rappers or turntablers to muck up Galactic's sound on this debut.
Recorded in 1996 by Fog City Productions and re-released on Capricorn, Coolin' Off grooves along with an easy assurance. All 14 tracks are solid. "On The One" features some great organ work by Rich Vogel and steady drumming by Stanton Moore. I've always loved the echoey sounds of an electric piano, and Vogel uses one to fill in the grooves on "Doo Rag." "Go Go" could be a '60s hit by the Meters or Booker T, while "Everybody Wants Some" is a three-part song featuring jazzy solos and in-the-pocket drum work. The production by Dan Prothero is superb.
Galactic may not be as jazz-oriented as Medeski, Martin and Wood, but they groove just as capably, and unlike most acid jazzers, they don't resort to much technological gimmicry. Their sound is more soul than jazz, but I'm talkin' authentic Stax Volt and New Orleans-style soul, not your antiseptic '90s dub-club variety. Moore and Vogel join forces with Jeff Raines (guitar), Robert Mercurio (bass), and Terry deClouet (vocals on a few tracks) to form a very tight ensemble. Throw in guests Erik Jekabson (trumpet), Mark Mullins (trombone) and Eric Traub (tenor sax), and Galactic's sound gets even phatter.
Coolin' Off also includes some extra tracks, interviews, a magazine article, and maybe even a kitchen sink. This extraneous stuff can only be played on a CD-ROM. I haven't checked out the extras yet, but I hear they're pretty cool, and the CD won't cost you any more because of them. Delivering more for your money is something other artists should take notice of, because $15 is way too much to pay for any CD.
Galactic's second release, entitled Crazy Mongoose, will be hitting the stores any day now. Let's hope it's as good.