Multi-hyphenate musicmaker Isreal Hagan does it all on his new CD Balance
Album titles don't get more appropriate than the one for Isreal Hagan's latest platter. His new CD Balance (Poverty Records) alternates ass-shakin' groove tunes with sweet and slow ballads.
After 29 years leading local rhythm'n'blues funksters Stroke, as well as numerous solo projects and opportunities galore to open for and play alongside a slew of greats (Carlos Santana, B.B. King, Otis Day, James Cotton, Duke Robillard, Chubby Checker, The Supremes and Robert Cray), Hagan already knows how to make great music. Even more impressive, on Balance he did just that nearly all on his own.
Not only has Hagan penned and arranged all of the songs on Balance, he also played all the instruments, sang the lead and backup vocals, and released the LP on his own Poverty Records label. Balance was also helped along by Mick Walker of MixHouse Audio; Walker arranged drumbeats for the tunes, in addition to recording, editing, mixing and mastering the album.
From the first track, "Pleasure & Pain," toes will tap and shoulders will sway as Hagan explains his situation with a swinging beat: "You say /For me there's nothing that you wouldn't do /You say /You're gonna see this relationship through /Well, I say /Whatcha talkin' about? /This just ain't workin' out."
"Pleasure & Pain" takes an honest look at the good and bad sides of any relationship as Hagan's background vocals fill in behind a twanging guitar solo and full bass line. But before the album gets too deep into the difficult side of togetherness, Hagan picks things back up, bouncing around guitar riffs and forward-pushing drums in "I Always Think About You."
The rest of the album follows a similar pattern of driving, upbeat and danceable tunes like "Soul Thing," as well as songs full of more inquisitive, serious lyrics, slower tempos and delicately placed solos as in "Nice & Slow." However, no matter what the tempo and style, Hagan's voice always manages to cut through with clear and smooth precision, proving why he has earned several Syracuse Area Music (Sammy) Awards for Best Soul/R&B vocalist and his place in the Sammy Hall of Fame. Hagan has all his bases covered again with his new CD, which understandably strikes a perfect balance.Isreal Hagan will bring his grooves to Kellish Hill Farm, 3192 Pompey Center Road, Manlius, for an 8 p.m. show on Friday, Nov. 25. Admission is $7. For details, call 682-1578.