World of persistence... It's been a long time coming -- six years, to be exact -- but the groove-happy Houston ninesome Global Village has finally squeezed out a CD's worth of original material. Global Village offers ten tracks of well-executed, airtight funk with the mild cross-cultural aftertaste you'd expect from a band bold enough to use the word "global" in its name. Led by crisp horn arrangements and the peppy pipes of Chad Strader, whose stylized vocals mix the sugary, soulful quality of Stevie Wonder with the hefty, hip-thrust flash of pre-disco Commodores and Earth, Wind and Fire, the CD marks a belated coming of age for a group that's been around longer than it would like to admit. Now, the Villagers say, it's time to knuckle down and swear off high-paying cover gigs in the name of their art.
"At first, we just wanted to get out and play to people, and we got trapped in this cycle," says Strader. "Then it came to the point where we wanted to promote ourselves as an original band, but everybody was used to us doing cover tunes. Now, we're putting our foot down; we're an original band."
If anything, Global Village is a tenacious bunch, outlasting the less talented and committed among the dwindling surplus of funk-centric acts in town. Heck, six years together is an eternity in Houston -- especially for a band that requires no less than eight working parts to keep it running smoothly. Four years ago, the city was in the throes of a minor funk resurgence, with Global Village and Beat Temple heading up the Houston contingent of the so-called "Texas Funk Syndicate." By 1992, Global Village was garnering much local ink and packing nightclubs around East Texas with its roots-conscious mix of covers and a few originals, accomplished musicianship and "love heals all" vibe on-stage. Come 1995, ironically about the time Global Village landed sponsorship from Budweiser, such local contemporaries as Neckbone and Model 601 were gone, and the Texas Funk Syndicate had more or less dissolved.
Today, Global Village finds itself among the few lucky survivors, though versatility may have more to do with the band's continued existence than luck. True to its come one, come all philosophy, Global Village has no qualms about headlining a show at the Satellite Lounge one night and then sharing the stage with has-been acts such as Survivor or REO Speedwagon the next. But that adaptability and willingness to play anywhere has also gotten the band into trouble.
"Right now, we're at a pivotal moment," Strader admits. "We've saturated the market in Houston. Now we've got to bite the bullet and start over again in some other cities."
If only the songwriting on the new Global Village were strong enough to back up the band's new direction. Most of the tunes are tame and interchangeable, and all could use the adrenaline rush of a sweaty nightclub crowd to lend them passion. The material is helped into its doldrums by the CD's innocuous production, which is lifeless and compressed. The horns -- the band's primary strength -- are disconcertingly tinny, and the rhythm section is so overwhelmed by the cluttered mix that it's robbed of much of its punch. Truth is, most local CDs wind up being little more than well-meaning tokens of support to be purchased by fans, ideally after taking in a group's vastly superior live performance. New beginnings aside, Global Village is no exception.
More release activity... Preaching racial harmony and a near-militant positivity, Houston's Gone Blind recently hatched a full-length debut, I Come in Peace, on the local Reflektr label. And given the disconcerting way in which this heavy-handed, grunge-metal lava floods the nervous system, you may find yourself wishing Gone Blind would leave as peacefully as it came. Falling in behind a punchy new four-song cassette, Demonstration, the five chaps from Secret Sunday will appear at Instant Karma Friday with Rosebud and I End Result. Cool keyboard flourishes, scrappy hooks and a nifty trumpet solo lift this debut above the ordinary, despite Secret Sunday's scattered attempts to sink it by trying to sound like Houston's answer to Oasis. Houston's Lazy Squid Rekkids accepts responsibility for the new Sad Pygmy 7-inch, Sweat and Cigarettes, with a coming-out concert Saturday at Emo's Alternative Lounge featuring Pygmy and California's Vitamaid. Ron Perry celebrates the release of his new CD, Seasons Change, Friday at Dan Electro's Guitar Bar. Also peddling new local product is Houston jazz pianist Joe LoCascio, whose Charmed Life CD features worthy contributions from bassist John Adams and drummer Ed Soph.
Etc.... Touring acts in town this week: Ireland's bulldozer boys, Schtum, at the Urban Art Bar and blues guitar prodigy Kenny Wayne Shepherd at the Satellite Lounge, both Thursday; jazz legend Joe Sample at Rockefeller's Friday; and Christian superstar Carmen at the Astrodome Saturday. -- Hobart Rowland
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