Interstellar Fortuneteller is the second album from Hamilton rockers Charles Laurita and The Mischief. Released in the fall of 2017, this followup to their self-titled debut is a concept album that was cut in two studios, one of which was built with their own hands. “We started out with a local studio and then we decided to finish it on our own. Will (drummer Sarver) and I built a studio ourselves and we’re happy with how it all turned out,” said Laurita.
The band has undergone several personnel changes since the CD was completed. The cast of mischief makers may be different but the product itself is a well-done second effort that deserves to find its way into one’s auditory library. Mixing Charles’s funk/blues style guitar with driving rhythms and a top-notch horn section has become their trademark and we are getting more of the same both on the album and onstage, with the revamped lineup.
“Alone” is the opening cut and starts off with dubbed-in wind. It sounds as if one has just awoken from a coma and found himself solo, on an abandoned outpost; the mood is compounded by a chain- or key-rattling effect, followed by a Chandler Scales sax riff reminiscent of a lone subway performer, giving way to a halted Laurita vocal line. The music crescendos but Charles keeps the mood somewhat low-key with a few exceptions as the horns of Scales, Sean Joyce (trumpet) and Tommy Allen (baritone sax) build an accented base underneath it all. This tune features one of the few guitar solos on the disc — that’s one of the album’s few flaws, as Laurita can shred with the best.
“Lose My Mind” starts with drums and a swell of horns that quickly become a studded rhythm and the opening line, “I must’ve died when I was 10 years old. I’m best described as a dead man’s soul.” This blues-based offering features another nice guitar solo with timed accents from the rest of the band that show why they are one of the best live acts on the circuit today.
“Break the City Down” is the first track where Laurita gets his patented funk on, and is a change of pace. Pay attention to the chorus as Sarver and bassist Kenny Hamilton get a syncopated groove on and, oh yeah, there’s a hot horn riff in the middle as well.
“Out There Starlight” nicely combines all the elements of the band and will definitely cause some toe-tapping. Here, too, the bass and drums drive the tune a bit more than Laurita’s guitar, which is mixed evenly throughout, but it’s the use of the horns that carries this one.
“How to Fly,” an uptempo number, has a throwback feel, as if to the big band or speakeasy era of prohibition. Jitterbug material for those old enough to remember that classic dance and definitely a challenge to anyone who thinks they can sit still for its duration.
“Talk to Me” is a return to the funky style that is the band’s trademark. Sarver does some great tom work with nifty trumpet accents through the sax ride in the middle.
“Lying on the Floor” is a dirty ditty with some well-done harmonies and showcases Joyce on the trumpet. The bridge features an en masse transition that comes full circle back to the original rhythm. The only issue with this one is that it ends too soon.
“Shut Your Mouth And Dance” also gets funky and offers up some timed syncopation. Laurita does a solo briefly reminiscent of the one in Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” but quickly diverges into pure Charles. This could easily become a fan favorite.
“Ridley” is a semi-instrumental based somewhat loosely on Sigourney Weaver’s character in the “Alien” movie series. Pay attention and see why it’s not completely an instrumental.
“Shape I’m In” is a change of pace and gives the listener a chance to catch their breath. This could be likened to driving through a construction zone — not full speed but just slow enough to get on by.
“Make It Out Alive” is somewhat bottom-heavy with bass and drums driving the beginning; unfortunately, they get somewhat buried in the mix. The call-and-answer section, however, between Laurita and the horns is superb.
“Skin & Bones” is a perfect album-closer and, like most of this disc, is a total group effort. Laurita said he wanted this second release to be more of a “whole band” sound, and they’ve accomplished just that.
Currently, the band has two new faces: Mike Farrell on alto sax and Steve Scarafile on bass. They have replaced Tommy Allen and Kenny Hamilton, respectively, without as much as a hiccup, and continue to make Charles Laurita & The Mischief one of the best live bands around.
The band’s upcoming shows include Pete’s Steakhouse Tavern in Hamilton Township, Jan. 27; and Asbury Festhalle and Biergarten, Feb. 2. For information, visit charleslaurita.com.