Break Out – Soulive
Concord Music Group 2302-2
Soulive has changed.
The raw Turn It Out days are gone and in their stead lies a slick, polished repertoire that owes more to hip-hop and contemporary R&B than it does to Grant Green or Lou Donaldson.
The boys are ready for the radio. But have they sold out? Not exactly. Sure, their sound is more accessible than ever, but it’s not fair to say that they’ve given in to The Man, per se. They’ve been moving in this direction for some time.
And Break Out, their first record for Concord Music Group, is the fruition of that movement. Seven of the fifteen tracks here feature vocals, and none of the tunes breach the five minute mark (on their first full-length, two cuts made it past eleven minutes).
Soulive has changed. But not for the worse; they’ve just cut the fat. The trio is no longer a jam session; they’re a (much) younger, hipper Funk Brothers.
And, to their credit, they’re really good at being that. “Freedom,” featuring Living Colour’s Corey Glover on vox, is an infectious romp through Isley Bros. territory. And “What Can You Do,” featuring the always-dope Reggie Watts (of Maktub) on pipes, sports a chorus straight out of D’Angelo’s little black book.
In other words, Soulive has studied up. Their two-man horn section has got the Tower of Power thang goin’ on, and the arrangements are vintage Earth, Wind and Fire. They even got Chaka Khan to lay it down on “Back Again.”
They’re not cuttin’ any corners. And, if you were worried, the answer is “yes, there are some cool instrumentals here.” The title track, first found on Lettuce’s Live In Tokyo, turns up here in a really cool way (although I’d recommend the Lett version, personally) and their cover of Jimi’s “Crosstown Traffic,” featuring Robert Randolph on pedal steel, is pretty burnin’.
So, in summing up, the moral seems pretty obvious: Soulive has changed, but they’re still cooking. Check it out.