Robert Randolph & The Family Band
First Appeared at The Music Box, September 2003, Volume 10, #9
Written by John Metzger
On his studio debut Unclassified, Robert Randolph corrects the problems that plagued his long-winded concert document Live at the Wetlands, and this time he turns in a masterful set that merges gospel, soul, rock, and blues into a concise, exalted decree. Not that Randolph hits the listener over the head with religious declarations; the songs could be as much about a loved one as they are about God. Still, the lyrics are nothing about which to write home, but the music that surrounds them is brimming with such joyous celebration that it’s impossible not to be moved.
Throughout Unclassified, Randolph’s backing band — which features bass phenom Danyel Morgan, powerhouse percussionist Marcus Randolph, and keyboard wizard John Ginty — delivers hard-driving, funk-rock rhythms worthy of both Sly & the Family Stone and Parliament/Funkadelic. On the opening trilogy of Going in the Right Direction, I Need More Love, and Nobody, the group positively percolates as steamy grooves stretch from dingy juke joints to glittery discos to form a pressure-cooker atmosphere that explodes within Randolph’s spicy pedal steel solos. At times, his fire and brimstone displays channel Jimi Hendrix — listen for the smidgen of Voodoo Chile that fills the final moments of Nobody — as well as Duane Allman similarly slicing through the ricocheting cadences with genuinely virtuosic aplomb.
Unfortunately, the handful of slower- paced tracks found on Unclassified don’t fare quite as well. While these tunes aren’t at all intolerable, their more generic, less flashy arrangements do have a tendency to scuttle the momentum, at least temporarily. Yet, they inevitably are also necessary, if only to offer a brief respite from the undeniably exhaustive pace set by the band on the various other songs. Indeed, it’s a relatively minor distraction, one that isn’t so significant as to tarnish this otherwise magnificent effort. ½
Of Further Interest...
Unclassified 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 © 2003 The Music Box