Robert Randolph & The Family Band
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2006, Volume 13, #10
Written by John Metzger
The bad news about Robert Randolph & The Family Bandís sophomore studio effort Colorblind is that it reeks of being a major-label bid for mainstream popularity. Not only is Randolph paired with commercially viable ringers such as Eric Clapton and Dave Matthews, but his compositional skills have been bolstered by a slew of other songwriters, including Steve McEwan (Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney), Tommy Sims (Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, and Garth Brooks), and the team of Drew Ramsey and Shannon Sanders (India.Arie, Heather Headley).
Like he did with the tunes on his previous effort Unclassified, Randolph blurs the line between pleasures, both carnal and spiritual, but when each track is taken on its own merit, it becomes little more than an utterly generic, soul-tinged, alt-rock excursion. Tellingly, a fairly straightforward cover of the traditional Jesus Is Just Alright ó which was claimed by the Art Reynolds Singers and popularized by both The Byrds and The Doobie Brothers ó serves as Colorblindís highlight. Its driving, rhythmic groove combined with the snarling, tangled guitars and impassioned vocals provided by Randolph and Clapton succeed in generating a loose, organic essence that is missing from the rest of the collection.
The good news, however, is that Randolph saves Colorblind from being as bad as it could have been. Although the material rarely gives him ample room to demonstrate his skill at playing steel guitar, he thankfully doesnít seem to care. Just as his backing band appears to become mired in the elastic, Red Hot Chili Peppers-meets-Lenny Kravitz-imbued funk of Deliver Me, Randolph sends a stream of notes screaming over the top of the fray. Similarly, he fills every opening of the Sly Stone-inspired Diane with his furiously writhing accompaniments. None of this is enough, of course, to save Colorblind from its own mediocrity, but the flashes of brilliance inherent in his intensely emotional testifying are sufficient for keeping it at least vaguely interesting.
Colorblind is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box