Sound: The very first song I heard by Galactic (well, I should while say being consciously aware that I was listening to Galactic) came from this album. It's not their first album, and it's not like any other ones they've done. The second I heard the first few seconds of "Heart of Steel" I knew I was onto something. On this album, unlike all of their others, they collaborated with other artists from New Orleans contributing vocals and instrumental backing on some. Ya-Ka-May, as described in the album's liner notes is a type of soup that is popular in New Orleans and is a mix of many different ingredients. So it only makes sense that this diverse album would be named after the dish. They do every sound on here from brass bands, to old school funk, to bounce (a brand of hip-hop native to The Big Easy). // 10
Lyrics: The lyrics on this album are mainly just, well they don't really mean anything. The album is pretty much all just a fun party-type collection of music. There are many different vocalists on it including local bounce artists Big Freedia, Cheeky Blakk, Katey Red and Sissy Nobby as well as incredible soul artists such as Irma Thomas, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, John Boutte, Glen David Andrews, and the incomparable Allen Toussaint. They also feature two memebers of The Morning 40 Federation, a party music type group in their own right (think Sublime of New Orleans, but funky). One track even features Mardi Gras Indian Chief Bo Dollis. Not on singer sounds out of place here, as Galactic adapts to the sounds of each singer.
01. Friends of Science - an opening track that's only about a minute long. A short introduction with some dialogue from what sounds like it would be from a movie or something.
02. Boe Money (feat. The Rebirth Brass Band) - A track that's got some real energy behind it. An instrumental number that's in the brass band tradition of poweful horns, a nice groove and some great soloing overtop.
03. Double It (feat. Big Freedia) - The first bounce track on the album, and it's a great one to play as a high energy party song. The beat behind the lyrics (which mean pretty much nothing) really drives the song and brings a great mix of funk and hip-hop that could make even the whitest, non-rhythmic person want to dance.
04. Heart of Steel (feat. Irma Thomas) - This one is the first Galactic song I ever heard, so it holds a special place in my heart (along with the entire album since it was the first of theirs I ever bought). The soulful sounds of Irma's voice mix incredibly well with the hard back beat to the song, mixing in some distorted harmonica, some extra percussion and a little synthesizer.
05. Wild Man (feat. Big Chief Bo Dollis) - The sound of Mardi Gras Indian music mixed in with pop sounds isn't exactly new. Many groups including The Wild Tchapatoulas, The Wild Magnolias and other tribes have recorded albums that were Mardi Gras Indian chants mixed with an R&B sound. This adds a very funky sound to the Big Chief's singing and makes it a very enjoyable track, even if it is a shorter one.
06. Bacchus (feat. Allen Toussaint) - This track features one of the greatest New Orleans singer/songwriters in history, Allen Toussaint. He plays piano on the track and sings the lyrics. With the added effects to his vocals, it makes the track sort of a psychedelic funk sound. The whole thing sounds like classic Toussaint work and is probably one of my favorite tracks on the album (although it's hard to really choose one favorite).
07. Katey Vs. Nobby (feat. Katey Red & Sissy Nobby) - Another bounce track, this one is much less accessible than "Double It", and probably because, despite how much I like it, the vocals are a bit obnoxious. Having said that, the beat is very catchy (which is what matters in hip-hop to most poeple).
08. Cineramascope (feat. Trombone Shorty & Corey Henry) - This instrumental jam features a full on brass band sound and includes great trombone solos by both Trombone Shorty and Corey Henry. A nice bass line, a strong groove and heavy improvisation all make for this to be a classic New Orleans sounding instrumental song.
09. Dark Water (feat. John Boutte) - This is arguably one of the funkiest tracks on the album. It sounds almost like a hip-hop song, but then instead of rapping you hear the vocal stylings of Mr. John Boutte. While he may sing more jazz and soul stuff than anything else, Boutte proves himself as one of the great modern vocalists from New Orleans on this track. If you want funk, look no further than this track.
10. Do It Again (feat. Cheeky Blakk) - The third out of four bounce tracks, this one sounds like a typical bounce song, including the explicitness of the chorus. Cheeky Blakk is one of the biggest bounce artists in the city, and this track, while maybe offensive to some, is a great example as to why that is.
11. Liquor Pang (feat. Josh Cohen & Ryan Scully of the Morning 40 Federation) - This song has a slow, deep groove to it and some menacing horns added in. Another one of the best tracks off the album, and a great balancing out of the sound compared to the high energy funk thrown into the rest of the album.
12. Krew D'etat - a short little instrumental interlude.
13. You Don't Know (feat. Glen David Andrews & The Rebirth Brass Band) - This one, if I had to pick, would probably be my favorite of all of them. It's got a catchy horn line and a powerful sound which is equaled by Andrews' powerful voice. *Fun fact: Glen David Andrews is Trombone Shorty's cousin*
14. Speaks His Mind (feat. Walter "Wolfman" Washington) - This is another mellow track with a lot of little guitar licks in it and a slow moving tempo. It doesn't affect the quality of the song however, as it's still an incredible song with a great vocalist fronting it.
15. Do It Again (Again) (feat. Cheeky Blakk) - A remix of the song, so if you liked the first version, you'll probably like this one. // 10
Overall Impression: This is hands-down one of the best collections of music I've heard in a long time. It's high-energy, it's care-free, but most of all, it's done by a group with incredible skills. Stanton Moore, the drummer of Galactic, has many side projects and was even the original drummer for Tom Morello's group Street Sweeper Social Club. He can lay down a groove no matter what style of music he's playing. That's not to say the rest of the band isn't talented, though. If this were stolen, I'd replace it in a heartbeat, because it's just that good. // 10