Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Soulive - Up Here - 2009 - Royal Family Records

Soulive have been providing us with superb tunes for just about a decade now, and this new set is another stepping stone on their remarkable journey. This is seriously groovy, funky and uncompromisingly gritty. If you are into real, proper Jazz-Fusion with backbone AND hob-nailed boots then "Up Here" should be the set that you plumb for. Brothers Neal and Alan Evans along with guitarist Eric Krasno, raw, passionate vocalist Nigel Hall and the Shady Horns (Sam Kininger, Ryan Zoidis) collaborate on this truly flavoursome gumbo of tunes. The first two tracks are seriously funky. Elements of the Meters, Cheyanne's Comin', the Bar-Kays, Booker T and even the J.B.s spring to mind. Not for the faint hearted, oh no. Fans of smooth Jazz (i.e. elevator music) will find this much too rough and racy and may well need smelling salts, a comfy chair and a bag of frozen petit pois on their aching and violently assaulted bonce. Goodness me, the hard guitar element in "The Swamp" has a seriously rocky element - something that the likes of Lenny White, Stanley Clarke and Lee Ritenour used to know well.

The vocal track is superb - very raw, gritty and emotion filled in a catharsistic way; the music hits us full on in a JB's late 60s / Meters / Stax vibe, "Too Much" allows vocalist Nigel Hall to allow his soulful, rough and tough vocals to take flight. Absolutely superb. The horn and Hammond filled "Backwards Jack" reminds me so much of last year's excellent New Mastersounds album. Like that? Well, then you'll like this. I particularly like the guitar line as it reminds me of what Norman Whitfield was fostering in the early-mid 1970s. A break from this heady flow is the dreamy and atmospheric "PJ's" complete with lazy beat and dreamy bluesy guitar a la Eric Gale style. Very refreshing and showing these guys in a smoother and less tough light. "Tonight" soon busts the funky groove back into your face. The scratchy funk of the JBs returns strong here and would not be out of place on a funky Kent Atlantic funk compilation. Another vocal workout that wins a thumbs up! Fans of the Meters' "Soulful Strut" will lap up the late 60s hip and trendy "Hat Trick" cut without question. I absolutely adore tracks - and albums - such as this. Check out the superb bridge on this!!!!! And, hey, it's 2009! "For Granted" also kicks ass, and the big surprise comes at the end...a version of Outkast's "Prototype". Now, if you don't know this song then PLEASE check out the original's a KILLER soul track on an otherwise juvenile and brain-dead rap album! Soulive add their own flavour on this version and make a grand job. BUT...they haven't beaten the original! This is a great CD for those who love jazz and a whole lotta funk.
Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe
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