3 of 3 thought this review was well written
Now, my reviews may not show it, but I’m enjoy my metal. I love Amon Amarth, Megadeth, and Sepultura (though not too much of them at once). So when listening to someone sing about being delivered and how love can conquer anything, and about our Lord Jesus Christ, it seemed all very foreign. And yet the music of Robert Randolph and the Family Band brought some light on my dark musical spectrum. Alright, alright, so I listen to John Mayer too, and Megadeth’s not exactly evil, not so dark, but humor me.
I had a hard time trying to fit Robert Randolph into a genre. This seems intended, as their previous CD was called “Unclassified.” But they have a slap bass taken from Sly and the Family Stone, lyrics from a church choir, and a burning guitar straight out of almighty rock and roll. Before mentioning any songs, I must tell you Robert Randolph is ridiculous on steel pedal guitar. He makes it wail, makes it dance, and makes it sing for him.
The first track, “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That” introduced me to the band. I saw it on MTV, naturally I was hesitant. But that guitar lick and driving beat sold me. The song is a perfect introduction, it shows their funk, their energy, and their generally pleasant disposition. The lyrics on this album are very happy and sunny, this song in particular is about looking past everyone’s identity. It also displays the organist, Jason Crosby, who is my second favorite member of the band. His light, quick keyboard playing adds a vintage funk vibe to the music, such as in “Thrill of It.”
The riffs of this CD are irresistible. There is staccato filled riff mixed with slap bass, provided by Danyel Morgan, in “Deliverance.” There is a hard rock riff which breaks for an organ fill in “Thrill of It.” A subdued blues riff melts into distorted guitar in “Homecoming.” This CD has a heavy focus on Robert Randolph’s steel pedal guitar.
However, Robert Randolph’s is not the only guitar on the CD; Eric Clapton makes a nice appearance on “Jesus Is Just Alright.” This is the most heavily religious song on the CD, a little too thick on the religion for me, but the musicianship makes up for it. There a nice little riff, before Robert and Eric break out singing “Jesus is just alright with me, Jesus is just alright.” That I don’t mind, but the bridge is when it starts getting a little much, with Robert crooning “Jesus,” and some other stuff. I can’t help but think of that South Park episode, where Cartman starts a Christian rock group, replacing many key words in old songs with “Jesus.” All of this, however, is forgiven with the guitar solo that Mr. Clapton provides, just when you think the song is ending. Things begin to simmer down, then there’s that riff again, mostly keyboard. Randolph plays rhythm guitar as Clapton rips up his guitar.
Aside from their energetic, funky songs like “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That” and “Homecoming,” Robert Randolph and the Family Band like to slow it down and bust out some bluesy ballads. Robert Randolph’s voice is alright, not too special. But the band just gels so well during these ballads, lead by his guitar. In “Stronger,” the band adds Leela James for vocals, her raspy voice makes for a very soulful song. Another decent ballad is “Angels,” which is about believing in miracles. The use of backup singers for the chorus makes this seem far more of a pop track than the rest of the album.
I’ve heard very positive things about this band live. Apparently, they spend half an hour jamming to a song, which is something I didn’t think a modern band could do. I’ve also heard that with this album, the band got more poppy. Well, they were on MTV, that’s the first warning flag. But I noticed some pop aspects at the beginning of “Deliver Me” with some dubbing on Robert Randolph. It reminded me of N’Sync, I don’t remember what song. But in the bonus track, “Do Yourself a Favor,” I can get a picture of the former description of the band. It’s a twelve minute instrumental track, where the band just jams.
I’ve never really listened to a religious group, but you can’t really call Robert Randolph and the Family Band that. They’re just a funk-jam band that places a lot of importance on religion in their lives. I respect that, and with a guitar like Robert Randolph’s it’s hard not to. This is the best band I’ve found on MTV in a while.