First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2005, Volume 12, #8
Written by John Metzger
Bass player Victor Wooten has played such an integral role in the formation of the Flecktones’ sound that one can’t help but to be at least a little disappointed with his latest solo effort Soul Circus. Not that it’s an awful outing; in fact, with the exception of the perfunctory, influence-naming recitation Bass Tribute and the downright ridiculous Cell Phone, it’s a fairly solid collection of radio-friendly hip-hop, smooth soul, contemporary funk, and mainstream R&B. However, although he successfully avoided turning the album into an self-absorbed showcase for his virtuosic ability, he also failed to follow any truly adventurous flight paths. Even if Wooten seamlessly slid his signature stylistic approach into each of Soul Circus’ 13 music tracks — the other three selections are absurd, but thankfully brief, vanity pieces performed by his children — the bulk of the material can’t help but to feel inordinately conservative. In what is, perhaps, an attempt to breakup the monotony of the endeavor, he invokes worldly themes on Back to India, dabbles with Native American motifs on the aptly titled Natives, and ventures into hard rock on Higher Law. Not surprisingly, he also sprinkles hints of jazz throughout the entirety of the affair — most notably, on the Lee Ritenour-ized rendition of Earth, Wind, and Fire’s hit Can’t Hide Love. In addition, he employs an array of special guests — Christian McBride, Parliament/Funkadelic’s Bootsy Collins, John Cowan, Arrested Development’s Speech, Bill Miller, Oteil Burbridge, and Howard Levy all make appearances on the outing — but for all of Wooten’s labor, there’s nothing on Soul Circus that strikes gold, let alone reaches transcendence. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box