16 June 2024

Concert Monkey review 8/10 of COLORCRIMES

Wonderful to hear from my friends from across the globe! This time from CONCERT MONKEY in Belgium… THANKS

“The opener ‘Heal This Land’ is a swampy mix of soul, gospel and blues rock. This exciting song has a clear message, namely that there is an urgent need for better policies for their country and by extension the entire world. Eliza wrote this song together with her guitarist Michael Puwal. They are also the only performers of ‘Heal This Land’. Michael Puwal shines on the acoustic resonator guitar and the rhythmic hand clapping during the strong chorus gives ‘Heal This Land’ an extra touch. Eliza sings the song with great power and conviction. With a strong guitar riff, Michael Puwal starts the heavy blues rocker ‘Banned In Jackson’. Drummer Justin Headley sets the tempo of the song with tight and energetic percussion. Keyboardist Mark Leach is explicitly and excellently present on his Hammond B3 throughout the song and Puwal provides the song with regretful guitar fills and ditto guitar solo. ‘Banned In Jackson’ is about the moment Eliza was banned from Jackson because she wore a skirt that was too short on stage. Eliza’s excellent, somewhat hoarse voice is extremely suitable for singing these types of songs. There is a lot of emotion in Eliza’s voice when she sings the title track ‘Colorcrimes’. It is a keyboard-driven ballad with the subject of discrimination and racial injustice. In this title track, Eliza calls for not automatically associating color and crime. Eliza Neals on piano and Mark Leach on Hammond B3 carry the melody and are very decisive in this catchy, soulful ballad. Guitarist Michael Puwal’s soulful string solo fits the song like a glove and will certainly touch many music lovers.

More soul can be heard on Eliza Neals’ new album than on her previous work and ‘Better Than Nothing’ is a good example of this. ‘Better Than Nothing’ has a big Motown vibe. ‘Better Than Nothing’ is the first of three songs that Eliza wrote together with Barrett Strong, who passed away in 2023. Drummer Tim Grogan and bassist Jason Kott provide the infectious groove. Peter Keys enriches the sound on his Wurlitzer and guitarist Michael Puwal colors the song with wonderful slide work. ‘Better Than Nothing’ also has a positive message, namely being grateful for the things we have. The horn section, with trumpet players Luis Resto and Nick Haynes, are explicitly present in the funky New Orleans song ‘Love Dr. Love’, in which Neals sings about being enchanted by a man Dr. called Love. Guitarist Michael Puwal also handles the bottleneck here and the acoustic guitar work comes from Brian Lord. Kamall Malak shines with a beautiful and deep bass line and with Eliza’s piano and Luis Resto’s clavicord the keys are again very present. Halfway through we get a very brief change in atmosphere and we imagine ourselves at Mardi Gras. The last song Eliza wrote with Barrett Strong is ‘Sugar Daddy’, which also contains many influences from the early years of The Motown Sound. Tyrone Smith on the saxophone and Hammond B3 are very decisive for the sound of ‘Sugar Man’. Guest guitarist King Soleman Hicks delivers a fantastic guitar solo.

Last year Elza Neals released ‘Candy Store’ as a single. The song was well received by fans and also received a lot of airtime on the radio. Bassist Paul Randolph and drummer Skeeto Valdez serve as the rhythm section this time. John Calvin gives the song an extra touch with a nice solo on his Hammond B3. Vocally, Eliza is assisted here by backing singer Kymberlo Wright. ‘Found Me Another’ is a soulful rock song with a strong chorus that invites you to sing along. Michael Puwal shines with cutting and razor-sharp guitar work. The rocker ‘Friday Night (All Day Long) could well become the anthem of those who want to continue their nightlife after a hard week at work. Drummer Steve LaCrosse and bassist Doug Woern provide a solid groove. Michael Puwall also proves in this closing rocker that he is a fantastic guitarist. The songwriting on ‘Colorcrimes’ is strong and varied, with lyrics that explore both personal and social themes. Neals knows how to tell stories that resonate, from heartbreak and loss to resilience and struggle. ‘Colorcrimes’ is a powerful and impressive album that emphasizes Eliza Neals’ capabilities as a singer, songwriter and musician. Neals knows how to captivate the listener from start to finish with her emotionally charged vocals and strong musical accompaniment. (8/10)”