CHARLES WALKER BAND – Ghetto Prophet
(2014 Ehlona Records)
Ghetto Prophet is the eighth release by Milwaukee soul man Charles Walker. The multi-talented Walker plays keyboards and saxophone in his band which includes Porsche Carmon on vocals and percussion, bassist Luther Tate and Emmanuel Folkes on drums. Madison’s Dan Kennedy played guitar on Ghetto Prophet while Eric Hester (of Madison’s Slothtrop Music label) produced and co-wrote one of the EP’s five tracks. The Charles Walker Band has earned three consecutive Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) Award nominations for Best R&B/Soul Act, winning in 2013.
Walker grew up on the music of Luther Allison, Stevie Wonder and Prince while attracting fans of Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament and James Brown. In other words, classic R&B and Soul.
The EP kicks off with “Can’t Hide Love,” a rousing, funky tune with a strong bass groove, punchy horn arrangements and a soaring sax solo from Walker. That’s followed by a more driving “Got Me Sangin’,” a killer pop/soul tune that sounds like it came straight out of the seventies. At the very radio-friendly time of 2:40, this one could have been smash hit a la the Jacksons. Walker’s Prince affectations come strongly to the fore in “One in a Million,” particularly in the synth sounds and accents. The drums get more treatment here giving the track a classic eighties Prince feel while Carmon’s incredible vocal soars above. “Blind Woman See” is the lone ballad, a keyboard and vocal outing with a smooth, sexy arrangement and classy guitar contributions from Kennedy. The EP ends with a curious choice – a cover of “Call Me Maybe” the pop smash by Carly Rae Jepsen. They manage to funk the song up to some degree but not enough to defeat the weariness of having to endure the ubiquitous hit blaring from every shopping mall or from the mouths of all of those girls riding in the back seat.
All the original works here have extremely strong melodies, stellar arrangements and high-quality production. I’ll say it again that the wall between Madison and Milwaukee needs to be torn down and a bridge built in its place. You’ll probably have to travel to Milwaukee to catch the Charles Walker Band like the rest of the Beer City’s talent. And that just ain’t right.