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CD Review

Many people know Malden native Gary Cherone of Extreme fame (and Van Halen infamy).  What they may not know is that Cherone has been working on a new musical project since the fall of his tenure with Van Halen.  The idea for the project came about almost by mistake, when Cherone was experimenting with electronic samples of instruments from a diverse selection of musical genres, including industrial, jazz and Indian.  He knew he wanted to start another band, and he knew he wanted a greater challenge than the already proven three-piece band formula.  He had a vision for a group that could combine each of these influences into a single cohesive album.  What he was missing were musicians capable of bridging the gap between this vision and reality.  That reality would be called Tribe of Judah.

In an attempt to help bring his songwriting to the next level, Cherone approached Steve Ferlazzo, an accomplished keyboardist Cherone believed had the ability to make his ideas a reality.  Guitarist Leo Mellace was then added to the group, bringing his intimate knowledge of music production.  His skills are evident in the quality of recordings that have come out of his studio, SanctumSound.  Once the trio of songwriters were in place, Cherone turned to some old friends, each known to be among the most talented in their respective instruments: Pat Badger on bass and Mike Mangini on drums.  Tribe of Judah next set forth on a several-month project to record some tracks and to see how the music would translate live.  What resulted is an album that would come to stand out from the pack, pushing the boundaries in a manner rarely seen from mainstream artists.

The opening track, "Left for Dead," embodies many of the traits of the entire album. 
Driving rhythms carry the listener through a crafted mix of distorted guitar and electronic sampling.  Some tracks are heavy and hip, others sophisticated and funky.  The production is full and layered.  Listeners will notice that there is a lot to hear in these songs.  Tribe of Judah manages to achieve a certain subtlety in an otherwise very heavy album.

Several tracks deserve special attention, only the first of which in criticism.  "2+2" is a well-placed but otherwise unfortunate forty-two second poem recited by a small child.  While it was a good idea to give listeners' ear a break before the final three songs, the execution of the idea was flawed.  The poem is not one that most listeners could stand to hear more than of few times, and as a result it becomes the weakest part of the album.

The album's first single, "Thanks for Nothing," is heavy and hammering, intermixed with brief dreamy phrasings before the guitar kicks in.  Cherone is bluesy and reflective, then pleading and angry.  Fans of guitar greats like Eddie Van Halen and Joe Satriani should pay close attention to Mellace's articulation in the solo.  "Ambiguous Headdress" demonstrates the diversity of influences that went into the making of this album.  Borrowing instrumentation and vocal stylings from Indian tradition, the track has a world music feel reminiscent of Sting's 1999 release "Desert Rose."  The final and title track, "Exit Elvis," is perhaps the most ambitious work on the album.  The track combines jazz, flamenco, world music, and heavy rock.  The introduction to the song is a midnight sultry café-jazz commentary that showcases Cherone's well-aged voice.  "Art is dead," he offers, "mourn the masterpiece rendering in irrelevance."  As the opening words to the title track and the first words heard when visiting TOJ's website, evidence suggests that this is the album's main message.

Exit Elvis is both different and thought provoking.  Gary Cherone, Steve Ferlazzo, Leo Mellace, Pat Badger and Mike Mangini have combined to make one of the best CDs to come out in a long time.  Ambitious and ecumenical, this album is perfect for those looking for a change from music that fits easily into one genre.  Fans of Cherone's previous work will see real development here.  As for those who have either disliked Cherone's work or are unaware of it, the message is this same: consider adding Exit Elvis to your CD collection.


To learn more about Tribe of Judah, visit their website at


*Pictures courtesy of http://www.tojonline.com/

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