Charley Orlando. RooT (World Harmory Records). This Renaissance man plays several instruments, composes, arranges his tracks and continuously reinvents his sound. “I have a hard time sticking to one style of music because I get bored and feel like I am not pushing myself,” Orlando says. “I tend to confuse a lot of listeners ‘cause I am always changing what I do musically. I am directed by the songs.”
On RooT, the 13th album in his prolific career of nearly 20 years with various groups including Dexter Grove and Ruha, Orlando sings about freedom and karma with philosophical statements and rhetorical questions. In the mellow country-folk “Windsong,” Orlando asks, “I’m wondering where my days have gone/ I’ve been squandering time like it means something to me/Am I free to be?”
Using computer program Ableton Live, Orlando added drums, bass, strings, synths and percussion instruments to his acoustic guitar and harmonica, his little helpers in the creative process. The outcome is a medley of sounds with optimistic vibes in Orlando’s “organica groove” style – a fitting name for his “very relaxing and trancelike” music.
“I feel like with the album RooT I have reinvented my music all over again,” Orlando says. “It’s a perfect combination of everything I have released over the years, and more importantly, it’s from the heart. This music covers all the chakras.”
He’s right. The 11-track album takes the audience on an eclectic mystery tour of psychedelic rock and folk music. With the solo confidence of Bob Dylan, Orlando interprets country music riffs on a harmonica and adds techy synth beats and passionate acoustic guitar chords to “I Am Here.”
Perhaps he might have toned down some of the tribal rhythm synth percussion intros on “New World” and “Pulse,” which make these consecutive tracks too similar. But they take different melodic paths: “Pulse” has more of a Latin influence, while “New World” features melodious acoustic guitar riffs and slow, lyrical interpretations reminiscent of The Beatles’ Indian music-inspired tracks, such as “Norwegian Wood” on Rubber Soul. Meanwhile, “Temporary” boasts bold lyrics similar to the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”: “I have these bones, a bag of bones that’s me/ And I have this skin, a sack of skin of shedding time.”
All in all, Orlando’s RooT is an evocative sample of his work. “If it is just me and my guitar then so be it,” Orlando says. “If it’s me and an eight-piece band then so be it. If it’s me and a computer program that will for the first time allow me to truly get the music I hear in my head out into the air, then so be it. Music and touring is the ultimate adventure to me. The journey is the magic and everything else falls into place.”
Orlando will be celebrating his release of RooT at Kellish Hill Farm, 3192 Pompey Center Road, Manlius, on Saturday, June 25. Doors open at 7 p.m., with the show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 and include a copy of the new album. To document the affair, a film and light crew will be coming to catch it all on tape. For more information, call 682-1578 or visit www.charleyorlando.com.
Sophistafunk. Twentyeleven (Funk is So Phat Records). With influences pulled from groups ranging from The Beatles to Wu-Tang Clan, band members Jack Brown, Adam Gold and Emanuel Washington bring the flow, the groove and the funk (respectively, of course) on their new album, now available at www. sophistafunkband.com. The album will be available on iTunes after July 2.
“Gimme Some Space” starts with a flow that would make Snoop Dogg proud, but then bursts into a Rage Against The Machine-like jam. “Intimate Affair” is a soulful take in the P-Funk style, while “Lyrical Guide” features Jack Brown at the top of his game, with a flow expertly culled from his spoken-word background. Sophistafunk has made a name for itself with their engaging live shows, and they’ll prove it again on Friday, June 24, 10 p.m. at Empire Brewing Company, 120 Walton St. Don’t miss the chance to shake your ass to this high-intensity outfit.
And if you’re still hungry for more funk— read about Sophistafunk live at Big Splash on Sunday, June 12 by visiting The Upbeat blog on the top navigation bar at www.syracusenewtimes.com. Look for the blog entry, “Come Together.”
Gregg Yeti and The Best Lights. The Harvest Brass Echo (Koala Syndicate). Let’s start with the packaging: a brown paper lunch bag that can’t help but make you think of Led Zeppelin’s In Through the Out Door with a sticker of the cover art on the front and one with song titles on the back. Lift up the flap and you’ve got another sticker of a scrunchedup Gregg Yeti face and “Koala Syndicate” stamped in black on the bottom. Reach inside and there’s a CD sleeve with dinosaurs peeking through the clear plastic front and the CD jacket with album information.
It’s funky, different, creative: kind of like the music. Yeti’s 2011 release hops here and there with musical ideas, but keeps a steady, guitar-based theme with Yeti’s airy voice drifting over most of the songs. The tracks are a conglomerate of material written between 2001 and 2007, finally laid down in 2009 and 2010—a “closet cleaner,” according to Yeti.
Album highlights include “Little Scar,” a tune featuring vocalist Jehn Cerron that was created via email as they compiled tracks sent back and forth. It bounces along as Cerron softly, sweetly sings, “And they leave a bitter taste/ They leave a little scar/ Are you happy now?” Another standout track, “Red Curtain Sunlight,” features guest vocalist Andrea Lee Higgins in a drifting vocal style pushed forward by bright drums and guitar. “Quality of Armor” is a Guided by Voices cover, performed as shockingly tame as possible compared to the riled original.
Yeti has a knack for giving tracks an ambient feeling, but still maintaining roots in song structure and melodic lines. The Harvest Brass Echo jumps among themes, but hits the important bases along the way. For more on the band, visit www.myspace. com/thegreggyeti.