Review: Eric Gales – Crown
Provogue/Mascot Label Group (January 28th 2022)
Reviewer: Chris O’Connor
‘My Name Is Eric Gales … Any Questions?’ – that’s the spoken opening for an album, the words said with quiet authority, and with a sure-footed confidence knowing what is to follow. Co-produced with the one and only Joe Bonamassa, ‘Crown’ ushers in a new era for Eric, now free of his addiction to drugs, with jail time long behind him. Now he is more focussed than ever, and ‘Crown’ is a testament’ to his genuine love of life, to the clarity his difficult past has given him, and to his undimmed luminosity as a musician.
Thirty years and eighteen albums into his career, and Mr Gales has dug deep inside himself, and has found again that once dimmed brilliance, and delivers an album jam packed with stunning fretwork, lovingly crafted songs, and a burning passion to reclaim his place amongst the greats in the Blues Rock genre. Featuring no less than sixteen songs – well, thirteen, plus three brief instrumental interludes – in the form of ‘Had To Dip’, ‘Rattlin’ ‘Change’ and ‘Cupcakin’…’, ‘Crown’ is an absolute musical Tour De Force!
By now I’m presuming that most people reading this have already heard or seen ‘I Want My Crown’, which features a dazzling guitar battle betwixt Messrs Gale and Bonamassa, if ever you needed proof that the man was back … look no further. A funky riff overlaid with brass stabs that eventually leads to the guitar fireworks … it’s genuinely stellar stuff. Elsewhere, the album is full of differing moods and styles and works beautifully for that very reason.
One thing I admire above anything else here is this – the fact that Eric fully understands that less is more, and therefore doesn’t need to endlessly prove himself as a guitarist, he knows full well when to let fly, but also when to let the music breathe organically. What this means is that there is lots of clear separation between instruments, and Eric allows his band to shine without feeling the need to endlessly overshadow them.
To call this album ‘Blues’ or ‘Blues Rock’ is to do it and Mr Gales a great disservice as it’s so much more than that. Throughout the album yes, he does play the blues, of course he does, however, he also takes his musical journey into Gospel, Funk (there are definite nods to both Parliament and Funkadelic to be found here), Rock, and Soul – he has truly created a multi-faceted beast here, and as a result, it is far and away his most complete and accomplished album to date.
The best songs here are not necessarily the warp speed neck-wringing hard rockers, for my money it is when he plays and sings with raw emotion and heartfelt delicacy when he truly shines – just listen to the incredible ‘Stand Up’ and you will see what I mean, it is simply breath-taking. Other highlights are the lyrically pointed and very groovy ‘You Don’t Know The Blues’ which also shows Eric at his funky and fiery best on his guitar.
The truly epic ‘Too Close To The Fire’ is an absolute slow burner, again Eric not only sings with raw emotion, but shows why he is considered such a genius as an axeman. Curiously, the riff is almost certainly ‘borrowed’ from the Pink Floyd classic ‘Comfortably Numb’ just listen to the female backing vocals too -it’s almost uncanny. Regardless, Eric’s fretwork here is gloriously incendiary, leaving you dazzled by his dexterity.
My final choice for album favourite is the delightfully emotive ‘My Own Best Friend’ which I would guess is written about his wife Ladonna. Not only does Eric sing beautifully and with genuine passion, but his playing here displays a deftness of touch and subtlety that is honestly remarkable. ‘Crown’ is a remarkable album, and it proves once and for all that Eric Gales is back with an indisputable vengeance – it and he is an absolute Tour De Force! Brilliant!