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Making A Scene ! Lives Up To Its Name In Regard To Galahad Blues

Jim Hynes

Apr 18, 2024

Galahad Blues Review in Making A Scene

Rees Shad is one of the most prolific artists on the scene, having

released some 30 albums in his three decades as a recording artist.

He’s a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and storyteller rife with

unexpected themes and ideas. Beyond that he is a polymath of first

order, a luthier, a videographer, a visual artist, and game designer,

having taught CUNY’s first program in game design. Yet, The Galahad

Blues may well be his most intriguing concept to date. Originally

conceived as a musical, the album reimagines the Knights of the Round Table, King Arthur’s crew, as gangsters in a 1940s Chicago nightclub. Gone are the usual gallantry and chivalry. Instead, his song cycle has these characters trying to first fit in, and then find their places in the hierarchy. Long hailed as a wordsmith from his debut three decades ago, Shad confesses to be unduly challenged by this project as he researched the hipster language of the ‘30s and ‘40s. Musically, he leans on the American Songbook writers such as Cole Porter, Hoagie Carmichael, and the Gershwins. Listen to the first three chords of

“Take It On the Chin” and you’ll detect a resemblance to “Summertime” and “St. James Infirmary” for example. It does sound like a vintage jazz album more than anything else and certainly that idea of a musical or even a storytelling film is present. Maybe a film will eventually accompany this project.

Shad plays guitar and sings with his longtime band The Conversations with drummer Bobby Kay, bassist Jeff Link, and percussionist Carlos Valdez. They are augmented by esteemed guests: Tony Aiello (Joe Jackson, Southside Johnny) on reeds, Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm) on violin, Ira Coleman

(Herbie Hancock, Sting) on upright bass, Doug Ford on organ, Daniel Persad on trumpet, and Tom Major (Bo Diddley, Pousette Dart) on drums.

Opener “Sir Galahad Blues” sets the stage for the story, poking fun at name Galahad, reduced to “Gal” and playing with the notion of ‘that gal I had.’ The boss’s lady leads him into the proverbial den. He describes it this way, “It started out with the best of intentions/I was a boy scout hungry for the badge/It only took a whispered suggestions/for me to tumble right off that edge/We were slipping into shadowy corners/Dancing close just out of view/Man they call it a sin because you want to be in/The very places they don’t want you to.” His “Breathless, Alarmed, and Confused,” a solo piano ballad sounds like one you’d hear late at night in a hotel piano bar. The aforementioned “Take It on the Chin” is a snappy, brassy number about gang solidarity. Campbell’s violin in superb in the sly ballad “With a Smile,” more lyrics about presumably the devious boss’s wife who lured Galahad into the gang (“The Killing blow is always with a smile”)

Punchy horns power “Rattlin’ on the Tattlin’ Line,” a clever way of expressing the rumor mill, or premonitions about who will rat the next one out. (your guess). The guitar ballad “Ghosted” is especially menacing, yet “Hands of Dice and Wire” takes it to a terrifying level – “And what I was I am not now/How I’ve come I know not how…These hands of dice and wire forever shaking.” Shad lightens the mood by turning to a Koller & Silverstein tune that hails swing era music, complete with a nifty guitar and upright bass. “Working on Working It Out” is a bluesy narrative about he and his gal while the closing “Forgive Me” is a co-write with singer-songwriter Lance Cowan. It’s the requisite confessional song about a man’s journey to the dark side.

This is one ambitious project that lends itself to multiple interpretations of who is doing what to who. As Shad says in the liners, “I’ll leave it to you to connect the dots.” This writer found himself often guessing, and likely incorrectly often. Now it’s your turn.

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