Smile Politely

Review: Big Daddy Pride and the East Side Five’s Snake Jazz

Snake Jazz is the debut album from Big Daddy Pride and the East Side Five. The group is led by Dave Pride and features members from east Urbana (hence the name of the band). The album was recorded at Rose Bowl Tavern in order to simulate a kind of “live show” feeling while recording. The album was also mixed live during recording. Check out Rosemary’s feature on Big Daddy Pride here to learn more about the group. 

Snake Jazz opens with an introduction track, “Intro 101,” that pulses and sounds like a reverse tape effect while a bassline holds the track down. As the track grows in dynamics and layers, it feels almost as if you’re being sucked into a wormhole, unsure of where you are headed, only to be spit out and left hanging for a second before the second track, “Amphibian” begins.

Suddenly you are dropped into the 1970s with the sound of a Rhodes piano drenched in tremolo. The drums, guitar, and bass come in all at once, and you are given a taste of what this album is going to be. It sounds swanky and psychedelic and you can even hear the sliding of fingers over guitar strings — it feels like you are there in the room with the band.

Pride delivers his vocals with ease. His voice has a familiarity to it, yet I cannot pinpoint who he sounds like. In that sense, the music resonates with me more, as it feels like an old friend telling you his stories and troubles. It could also be a traveler telling stories, as Pride’s voice has a grit to it, like someone who has been through hard times. You can credit some of that to the recording and mixing, but you still won’t get that from any average-joe vocalist. Pride has such a distinct and warm raspy tone to his voice that is all his own and makes the record incredibly fun to listen to. On “The Devil’s Got a Plan For You,” Pride is in and out of singing towards the end of the song, almost preaching at the listener:

“You gonna be okay, if you remeber the times when your momma say, ‘don’t you ever give up, cuz I ain’t raise no quitter when the times they get tough.'” He is close to yelling this line, hammering home the message of it — don’t ever give up. 

Pride and the Five also give us a taste of New Orleans with tracks like “Mama Roux (Dr. John).” The song is funky and danceable, with some incredibly fun backing vocals that you’ll find yourself singing along with — “chicka chick-ahh, chicka chick-ahhhh.” It’s just a gosh-dang good time. 
Pretty much every track on this record is mixed incredibly well, in my opinion. I love the tone of the guitars, especially on tracks like “Finish Yo Dinner” and “The Grind,” where the distortion and reverb adds 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 feels like a Pink Floyd track, and I could feel myself getting lost in it. I kept forgetting this was recorded live as the album just sounds so good, and the times when I could tell it was live, I didn’t care as it just added to the grittiness of it and made it all the more charming. 

Also, can we talk about how wild the album cover is? I mean that in the best way possible, of course. For a debut record, I am incredibly impressed. The tone and atmosphere of the record really took me some place special, and Pride and the Five deliver energy and sincerity. I will be revisting this album quite a bit, I can tell.

Check out Snake Jazz on Bandcamp, Apple Music, and Spotify. You can catch the group performing and celebrating the release of the record this Friday, September 17th at the Rose Bowl Tavern as part of the Ellnora Guitar Festival. Find out more information here. Check out a live performance at the Rose Bowl from back in January to get a taste of what to expect this Friday. 

Top image by Eric Frahm.

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