Sunday, June 11, 2023

BellRays - "Ball of Confusion"

I-94 Recordings presents the eighth installment in its Detroit covers 7" series, and boy is it ever a doozy. When I heard that the mighty BellRays were covering The Temptations' "Ball of Confusion" for this series, I was pumped. Lisa Kekaula is one of our greatest living soul singers, and this five-decade-old song remains frighteningly relevant in 2023. Kekaula and Bob Vennum have kept The BellRays going strong for over three decades now. On this release, Mark Cisneros (bass) and Ron Miller (drums) round out the band formidably. I figured that a BellRays cover of "Ball of Confusion" could not miss, and I was not wrong. The band's rocked-up rendition of this classic is as inspired of a recording as you'll hear all year. Kekaula's vocal is pure fire, and Vennum rips it up Detroit rock style on guitar. If you had never heard the original version of the song, you'd swear that these lyrics were written about today's world. To give the song an updating, the band has added lyrics referencing the likes of Big Pharma, active shooters, inflation, and warring political ideologies. This version honors the songwriting genius of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong while adding a genuinely contemporary urgency. Hearing these lyrics sung with such power and conviction over top a thundering punk rock and roll attack absolutely gives me chills. So much has been said about the current sad state of things, but nothing sums it up quite like Lisa Kekaula belting the lyrics "Ball of confusion — that's what the world is today!" My god, this track ought to be all over the radio and blaring from a million households. That vocal is just unbelievable! On the flip, "I Fall Down" is a high quality original song that could have been a single in its own right. With its killer hook and bluesy mid-tempo rock style, this tune sounds like something you might have heard on AOR radio circa 1987.  

Your question now is not "Do I really need this single?" but rather "Which versions of this single must I own?" Several variations are already sold out. But at the moment of this review, copies remain available on Riverside Red, Pacific Blue, In the Pink, Dijon, Olive Green, Pumpkin, Dragonfruit, and classic black vinyl. Superstar artist Ben Brown designed the cover, and of course it looks amazing. This is one of the most essential pieces of vinyl to come out in quite some time. Hit up the I-94 web site to snag this smoking hot release along with all of the previous installments in the Detroit covers series. Installment #9 from the Zero Boys will be out soon! 

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