Happy Birthday, Nikki Glaspie! We Love The Nth Power’s ‘Live To Be Free!’
MusicFestNews wants to send Miss Nikki Glaspie a birthday present, since today (yes, it’s December 25th!) is her birthday. After much debate, we decided on a review of The Nth Power’s superb new album Live to Be Free!
Glaspie is the powerhouse drummer at the engine of The Nth Power, the New Orleans juggernaut, and her resume overflows with Beyoncé and Dumpstaphunk. Live to Be Free is the band’s third recording since their birth in 2012. Their first was the EP Basic Minimum Skills Test, followed by Abundance. This new live recording captures the quartet at their best, from a whisper to a roar, from sweet soul to all-out funkin’ rock.
The album’s nine tracks were recorded at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn and at The Bridge Sound and Stage in Boston, mixed by Paul Diaz and Glaspie. All songs were written and produced by the band. The tenth track is a radio edit of “Truth.” The album was released on Harmonized Records.
Many people love to listen online or to download to a digital device. The power of holding this album cover is that you can read the lyrics to six of the nine songs, and they are so important for a band such as The Nth Power, where the message is integral to the sound and feeling. The other three songs were originally recorded on the last year’s Abundance.
This album is about hope. And love. They acknowledge despair and pain and reality, but The Nth Power offers solutions. Real solutions. That’s what this is all about. It’s also about soul. Sweet soul music. Much of this album could have been on the radio in the 1970s, so perfect.
“Freedom” begins with ringtone-like keyboards, and then Glaspie’s drums and Nate Edgar’s bass fall in. Nick Cassarino’s sweet voice falls in and out of his lovely falsetto as he delivers the message.
“You run away and try to hide, But you can’t fight that feeling inside.
You long to be free From the pain of your reality,
But we know to feel so much is to be called.
Answer and you will find freedom is in the mind.”
Courtney Smith’s Hammond B3 dances as the power ramps up, Glaspie and Edgar pushing the pace. A brief electric piano vamp introduces the third stanza. As on every song, the backing vocals from Smith and Glaspie are heavenly.
Bouncy funk opens “Truth,” dripping in synth strings. All through the song, the keyboards seem to cascade in layers. And Cassarino is on point again with the lyrics:
“Now I see, SPIRIT is our only WEAPON.
We need to learn again to Use our True Power Within.
They’ll Never take that away, Never turn Night to Day.
They don’t want to hear me say:
TRUTH exists all around you.
Don’t Believe what they spit at You.
They don’t want you to know Love.
They don’t want you to know that You are Strong.
They don’t want you to look above.
They don’t want you to Know that You Belong.”
Glaspie’s drums are powerful again, Cassarino takes a furiously contained solo, reminiscent of Zappa, and there’s one more guitar burst during the coda.
“Joy” is a simple beautiful soul ballad right out of the Philadelphia sound, opening with guitar chords, then B3. Smith has a great piano solo over a pulsating beat.
“In Time – We’ll Love like a roaring river,
In Time – Our Joy Overcomes,
In Time – We Roar like the Tidal Ocean,
In Time – A Joyful Song is Sung.”
Cassarino explains that “Right Now,” a track from Abundance, is “about living in the moment.” The tune stretches out to more that double its studio length, superb synthesizers and a guitar rave-up. “Celebrate what you’ve been given, Life is so worth living right now!”
Next, Cassarino introduces “The Evangelist” Glaspie, “The Anointed” Smith, and “The Head Counselor” Edgar (that one’s worth the price of admission). Glaspie then declares Cassarino “The Master Prophet.” With that, Cassarino says, “We’re going to take you back to 1978.” “Could It Be” is also from Abundance but sounds like it belongs on Gratitude (which helps to explain why the band’s Earth, Wind and Power set is so spot-on).
The soul continues to flow on “Thirsty,” about strong attraction and union, straight out of Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross. Cassarino evokes those images so well. Bass and guitar kick it off, and Smith’s B3 is evident throughout.
“Thirsty” ends with the refrain “Caught up in a trance now, You asked me and I showed you how to feel more and more and more and more and more. It seems fitting that the next song, “More and More,” opens with trance-like keyboards.
“Now a light inside me; Not as bright as before,
Tries all its might to guide me From the maze of more.”
The vocals soar as Cassarino, Smith and Glaspie join in unison. There is a nice guitar solo, and then the song slows as a guitar figure leads to Cassarino’s falsetto one more time.
“Life is difficult sometimes,” Cassarino says to begin “Home,” the third Abundance track. This is a Quiet Storm song with gorgeous B3 again. The melody sounds very much like Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” Great vocals are again at the forefront.
“Take My Soul” is NOT about hope. Or love. This song shows a very different side of The Nth Power. The message is not positive, and the music is straight-up kickass blues rock. Roy Buchanan could have done this. It’s a monster. Cassarino’s guitar explodes start to finish, with B3, guitar, bass and drums blasting away immediately. You can feel the pain in this track, and Smith’s B3 work is right from church.
“I dream of sweet salvation
’Cuz I know that I will see my God soon.
I cry out in desperation singing,
‘Lord, Lord take my soul before they do.’”
WOW. Take that as one song, though. The message of the album and of The Nth Power is hope. Hope and love. Their message:
“TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES AND THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU. WE ARE ALL WE HAVE.”
Happy birthday, Ms. Glaspie. You and your mates have given us a wonderful gift. We just hope we can return the favor!