John Garcia’s last two albums have been solo endeavours – and 2017’s “The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues” was a fine acoustic affair, that – when I reviewed it on this site I noted: “ [was] the sound of him keeping things fresh and doing so with really excellent and compelling results.”
True, and I stick by it now, but for this new project, Garcia is back, plugged in and, good God, he sounds just right.
The process of making “John Garcia And The Band Of Gold” has been fraught, clearly (he has spoken in interviews that the collection was “saved by surgeon” Chris Goss (Masters of Reality) who produces this like he did with Kyuss, but oddly you’d never know.
The thing starts with an instrumental. “Space Vato” though – even without Garcia singing – sounds like one of his. Dry as the desert dust and ever so slightly epic, but all of a sudden it switches gear and you can’t help but nod your head. That’s what this music has always been for – so beardy blokes of a certain vintage can nod their head.
But then, the second track hits. And John Garcia – and that voice – announces himself and on “Jim’s Whiskers” he’s absolutely nailed it. His sound – and that’s what this is – and my goodness, Ehren Groban’s lead guitar is perfect here.
The bad time he’s been through, the emotion of the period is never far away from the surface of “….Gold” but there is a real feeling in “Chicken Delight” when he sings “almost lost it all” that it is perhaps more personal than much of his work – that said, if you can interpret any of these for definite, then you’re a better man than me.
What I can say with certainty is that there is a kind of innate funkiness about this. The rhythm section of Mike Pygmie and drummer Greg Saenz is as tight as it gets, and they propel the likes of “Kentucky II” to something above the norm.
If that one has something just a little primal about it too, then the vibe is continued by the aggressive nature of “My Everything”. If this is a love song, then it’s not “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn,” that’s for damn sure.
“Lillianna” proves the point that one thing Garcia maybe never gets enough credit for is the catchy nature of his best work. The hook absolutely slams – and shows that if he fancied filling arenas then he probably could. But he’s always seemed to fancy going under the radar slightly instead.
To that end, there is something maybe just a little unsettling about the rhythm in “Popcorn (Hit Me When You Can)”. No one else would deliver this song quite like this. Equally, there is something a little eerie maybe about “Apache Junction”, but like everything else here it works.
It is noticeable that whilst none of these 11 songs are overly long, the last three are a touch more sprawling than the rest. “Don’t Even Think About It” sees the drums pound and the solo absolutely soar – as if Garcia himself was happy to take a backseat. “Cheyletiella” the longest of the lot at just under six minutes, very neatly in effect, ties all the lose ends up here.
Things take a pretty abrupt left turn for the last one. “Softer Side” is aptly named. Bluesy, a little psychedelic, lyrics that discuss being drunk and high and offer the hook line – as if he’s saying it to himself too – “I can’t do anything right.” He can. On this record Garcia has got most things spot on.
He’s made noises about this being his last music. If it is, then John Garcia is going out on a high. The gold standard is set.