The Family Album… a LIVE Record – All That
Sousaphonk Records 002
Instrumental chops are a tool, a means to an end. With great players, you
can be on track for a great album. All That, an 11-piece New Orleans funk
collective, has the great players. But, on The Family Album… a LIVE
Record, the group more often than not fails to capitalize on the
strength of those players and instead meanders in cliched funk vamps,
overwrought lyrics and poorly delivered vocals.
The shame of it all is the potential the group shows in its cover of the
Dirty Dozen Brass Band's "Blackbird Special"."Special" kicks off with a deep
sousaphone-driven groove (yes, sousaphone-driven) decorated with blasts from
the horn section, screeching guitars and a hot trumpet solo by Scott Frock.
It's remarkable how tight the band, all 11 members, is able to play. Much of
the credit here should go to the rhythm section of drummers Chris Davis and
Kevin O'Day and sousaphone players Kirk Joseph and Matt Perrine (there is no
bass player) who lock into the beat and never let go. With those four
holding down the bottom end, the rest of the band is free to take flight,
and this track simply soars.
But one standout track does not a great album make.On "Givin' It Up", keyboardist Davis Rogan's vocals are more of a hindrance than a boon. His choppy, barely in tune singing risks making this a throwaway song while his tasteful organ licks, when meshed with another scorching trumpet solo from Frock, attempt to rescue it.
Unfortunately, things only get worse on the fourth track, "So Long." The
vocals are spoken/rapped, and the lyrics are overwrought, overreaching and
are an attempt at social consciousness, referencing Dr. Martin Luther King
among others. Political lyrics are tough to pull off. Only a few exceptional
messengers, like Bob Marley (incidentally his "Small Axe" is covered here)
can do it. All That cannot. Again, like on "Givin' It Up", the group almost
redeems itself with inventive playing. Almost.
"Viper" Rogan tells the crowd, "is dedicated to all the marijuana smokers in
the house." Let's hope there were many, because a mind-altering substance
would have to be in order to enjoy this bland tune and the next, "DJ Davis
in the House," which is replete with political posturing. Attempting to
affect social change is admirable, but the groupmessages often seem to be
incongruous with the funky, dance-oriented music it plays.
After "Small Axe," The Family Album… closes with "Back To Broke".
It's some well-played funk, but it doesn't really cover any territory not
heard in, say, "Blackbird Special." The rapped/shouted lyrics don't help
Credit All That with putting together a show in short notice; Rogan writes
in the liner notes that the lineup was not finalized until two weeks before
the gig (November 22, 2001) and the two guitarists, Alex McMurray and Hiro
Mano, had never played together before this concert. Credit the group with
honoring its New Orleans roots and adding some original spice. But, when you
set lofty goals, you have that much more room to fall. More often than not,
All That does just that.