Review: Big Daddy Pride and Snake Jazz from East Side Five: Music: Smile Politely
Serpent Jazz is the debut album from Big Daddy Pride and the East Side Five. The group is led by Dave Pride and includes members from eastern Urbana (hence the name of the group). The album was recorded at the Rose Bowl Tavern in order to simulate a sort of “live show” during recording. The album was also mixed live during recording. Check out Rosemary’s article on Big Daddy Pride here to learn more about the group.
Serpent Jazz opens with an intro track, “Intro 101”, which pulses and sounds like an inverted band effect while a bassline holds the track down. As the track grows dynamic and layered, you almost feel like you’re being sucked into a wormhole, not knowing where you’re going, only to be spat out and left hanging for a second before the second track, “Amphibian” does begin.
Suddenly you are immersed in the 1970s with the sound of a Rhodes piano drenched in tremolo. Drums, guitar and bass are coming in at the same time, and you get a taste of what this album will be like. It sounds chic and psychedelic and you can even hear your fingers sliding across the strings of the guitar – it feels like you’re there in the room with the band.
Pride delivers her voice with ease. His voice is familiar to him, but I can’t identify who he looks like. In that sense, the music resonates more with me, because I feel like an old friend telling you his stories and his problems. It could also be a traveler telling stories, because Pride’s voice has guts, like someone who’s been through tough times. You can attribute some of that to recording and mixing, but you still won’t get that from any average singer. Pride has such a distinct and warm hoarse tone all its own and makes the record incredibly fun to listen to. On “The Devil’s Got a Plan For You”, Pride sings and withdraws towards the end of the song, almost preaching to the listener:
“You’ll be fine, if you can remember the times when your mom said, ‘never give up, because I don’t raise a coward when times get tough.’” He’s about to shout that line, hammering on him. the message of this one – never give up.
Pride and the Five also gives us a taste of New Orleans with tracks like “Mama Roux (Dr. John)”. The song is funky and dancing, with incredibly fun backing vocals that you’ll find yourself singing with – “chicka chick-ahh, chicka chick-ahhhh”. It’s just a good time.
Almost all of the tracks on this album are incredibly well mixed, in my opinion. I love the sound of guitars, especially on tracks like “Finish Yo Dinner” and “The Grind” where the distortion and reverb add so much atmosphere and space to the record. The outro of the last song “The Grind” is a long jam with occasional vocals from Pride, and it sounds like a Pink Floyd track, and I could feel myself getting lost in it. I kept forgetting that it was recorded live because the album sounded so good, and the times I could tell it was live I didn’t care because it only added to the hardness of the album and made it all the more charming.
Also, can we talk about the madness of the album cover? I mean this in the best possible way, of course. For a first record, I am incredibly impressed. The tone and atmosphere of the album really took a special place in me, and Pride and the Five delivers energy and sincerity. I will see this album quite a bit again, I can say that.
To verify Serpent Jazz on Bandcamp, Apple Music and Spotify. You can see the band playing and celebrating the release of the record this Friday, September 17 at the Rose Bowl Tavern as part of the Ellnora Guitar Festival. Find more information here. Catch a live performance at the Rose Bowl in January to get a taste of what to expect this Friday.
Top image by Eric Frahm.