The Bellrays – In the Light of the Sun

The Bellrays
In the Light of the Sun

Man, I didn’t even know people were still performing this sort of music. But maybe that is what makes it so interesting. The Bellrays is a quartet from California, voted “Los Angeles’ best rock band” two years in a row by LA Weekly. They describe their sound as “a bus full of Motown recording artists being steamrolled by Black Flag,” if that helps you at all. Showing the influence of everyone from James Brown to The Who, The Bellrays are unrelenting, as evidenced by what is supposed to be a tremendous live show.
Lisa Kekaula’s vocals are intense and covered all over with soul, while Tony Fate’s guitar work easily and frequently makes the transition from jazzy to bluesy to rip-roaring rock. Meanwhile, the throbbing bass, jazzy drums, and soulful tambourine shaking of the rhythm section (Tony Bramel and Ray Chin) are what makes it difficult for you to stay in your seat. On top of all this is the keyboard work of Jim Kerwin and the occasional horn section, comprised of John Wollman on tenor saxophone and Luis Moran on trumpet.
In the Light of the Sun was originally released in cassette form back in 1993, only to be mastered and released on CD this year. The album grabs you right away with songs like “Crazy Water,” “Footprints on Water,” and “The Ghost I’m After,” which make it hard to sit still with their blending of soul and R&B. Songs like “Wandering Spirits,” “Same Ground,” “In the Light of the Sun,” and several others take that same vibe and add a jammy rock and roll twist. Sexier numbers like “Tell Me What the Sun Said” are tossed in here and there, while the swinging “Blue, Blue, Blue” is one of the catchiest and most danceable numbers. The closer, “Tell Me What You’ve Been Working On,” is the most disposable of the tracks, ending the album on a bit of a down note as a hushed and dark number that doesn’t really seem to fit in.
Normally, this is far from the style of music I would pay attention to, but The Bellrays are filled with the energy and attitude that forces you to take note. Contributing to the intrigue is the fact that this style of music isn’t heard every day. It may not be the type of album you would listen to over and over again in the middle of the day, but for the right occasion, The Bellrays are more than a suitable companion.