John Ginty can move his fingers faster on a keyboard than you can hardly imagine, and with more skill, whether on piano, Rhodes, or Hammond B3. On Rockers, he is able to show off those skills to the utmost, and particularly his profound ability to give the organ the same musical impact in rock songs as heavy electric guitar.
But Ginty, as talented as he is, is not much of a singer, so he has solved that problem with instrumentals and multiple guest vocalists in the past. Last year, Aster Pheonyx opened for Ginty’s band in Asbury Park, which led to an invitation to sing with the band and ultimately to Rockers, on which she also co-wrote every song with Ginty except the two instrumentals, “The Shark” and “Rockers.” Those songs were written by Ginty with bassist Justine Gardner and drummer Maurice “mOe” Watson.
The opener is the first of those instrumentals, “The Shark.” It’s a strong one, showcasing that powerful Hammond and Gardner’s deeply funky bass that is accentuated by Watson’s drums. It lays down the ability of this band to entertain even without a vocalist, so that Pheonyx is not the lead but an incredibly valuable addition. She has a powerful enough voice with enough layers to stand up to the sheer volume of Ginty’s keyboards, and she proves that immediately on “Lucky 13,” where she proves to be the perfect match for Ginty’s amazing runs on the organ, both in volume and control. Thanks to the skill of both individuals, the song rocks and yet remains soulful.
“Believe in Smoke” lets Pheonyx dominate a little bit, with the band getting deeply funky with her. Then the pace slows a bit for “Target on the Ground,” which shows that Pheonyx can get bluesy, and Ginty still can, too. It’s a very strong track. The next tune, “Captain Hook,” is an easy, light rock number on which Ginty and Pheonyx manage to make the interplay between her sturdy voice and that massive Hammond sound seem playful.
“Mountains Have My Name” finds Ginty switching to piano and Pheonyx delivering real feeling to the gospel-inspired blues. This one is not only a highlight among all these very strong songs but proves just how versatile this whole band can be.
“Mr. Blues” is about a type of bluesman, but it is more funky rock than blues, with some guitar added to the mix, a slinky vocal, and a funky break in the middle. It leads to a funny little skit called “Wkya Radio,” which actually fits perfectly into the mood created by the song.
“Priscilla” is a softer number, but the drums give it some sway and swing and Ginty actually plays melodica on it. “Electric” lets that Hammond ride and Pheonyx strut. This song just brims with attitude. “Maybe If You Catch Me” slows things down even more for a sultry, yearning blues accentuated by ringing keys.
The album ends with the title track, “Rockers.” It’s an instrumental and a strong closer with the band providing a riveting, jittery opening for Ginty’s keyboard finale.
Rockers finds Ginty and his excellent band finally teamed with a vocalist who completely fits. Let’s hope this musical partnership continues!