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Eric Gales –Transformation
12 tracks: 67.56
Don’t let the title of his latest cd fool you. It may be titled Transformation but it’s more or less a continuation of the hard blues rock that guitarist/vocalist Eric Gales lays down with no quarter.
Though the sledgehammer effect may be become wearisome, it’s not a problem for fans or newcomers who want to revel in Eric’ panache of hot licks worthy of being taught on an instructional DVD.
As he has done with past albums, Eric always likes to burst out of the starting gate and opening track “Railroaded” maintains an ominous edge with Gales pouring out torrential licks nasty as a hailstorm.
Surprisingly Gales could experiment with astonishing results. “Double Dippin” is a welcome detour into Clarence Gatemouth Brown territory with its fast swing and shuffle cadences.
The rest of the music is business as usual. Since teaming up with Mike Varney on Blues Bureau International a few years ago has been a plus for Eric. Varney has co-produced Gales’ albums and co-written the songs. Due to Varney’s input, Gales has been kept busy.
Being Afro-American and a southpaw player, Gales has always had to endure the inevitable comparisons to Jimi Hendrix. But this is unfair. Even Hendrix took a breath now and then to indulge his fancy with ballads like “Little Wing” and “Angel.” Make no mistake about it. Eric rarely strays into ballad territory preferring to rely on a hard driving rhythm section that erupts like a volcano under Gales’ explosive licks.
Some of the tunes may bear funk and soul influences, but Gales chooses to mine the muscular blues rock that defined power trios The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream.
Gales was born in 1974. Oddly enough these songs would have been perfect for that time period and competing with other classic FM singles of the day. Transformation is the next best thing to having sandwiched between Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath vinyl. Especially the Sabbath vinyl as the title track has a nasty riff that even the Princes of Darkness themselves couldn’t come up with.
Gales could play a slow blues with the best of them and perhaps someday he just might record a total blues disc, 12-bar shuffles and all. It takes the ninth track “Sometimes Wrong Feels Right” to finally slow things down after the continuous onslaught of heavy riffs that Eric dishes out. And he holds nothing back with soloing paying homage to heroes B.B. King, Stevie Ray and Jimi Hendrix. If you’re going to steal, you might as well take from the best.
What you have to give Eric credit for is the presentation of his music. There is nothing flimsy or wimpy about it. He can dabble in quirky time signatures as evidenced in “Sea of Bad Blood” with cutting-edge guitar wizardry and a short nifty bass solo from Steve Evans.
Since abolishing his personal demons that have hounded him for years with stints in jail and drug abuse issues, Gales seems intent to reclaiming his place in the blues-rock pantheon where he is just as worthy as anyone else to have a seat. With many contenders vying for the top position, Gales shows no fear of cutting a path with his fiery brand of licks with amps dialed to 11 and an axe just fixing to go. Whereas other blues-rock guitarists want to gain a foothold by releasing stagnant filler suitable for FM radio, Gales wisely ignores that marketing ploy to lay down his style of hard rock with hints of blues flourishes. It’s too heavy for some. But it’s embraced by those who love a psychic adrenaline shot.
Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.