On Colorblind, the third album from Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, and Leela James join for a jam-packed, emotion-filled, good-time party mix of funk, soul, rock, gospel, and blues.
isn't an adequate title for this album. Randolph's follow-up to 2003's Grammy-nominated Unclassified
is bright and energetic as a tie-dye-patterned pinwheel. Mostly its 11 tunes are about grooves plucked from the era of Sly Stone and Stevie Wonder, dappled with brilliant classic rock musicianship (think Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck) and driven by frenetic verve. When things slow down, it's usually to let the young pedal steel virtuoso revisit his roots in the Holiness Church, although the team of pop-world songwriters he collaborates with make the lyrics of Randolph's R&B hymns ambiguous between devotion to a woman or to God. Guests Dave Matthews (singing backup on "Love Is the Only Way") and Eric Clapton (lending second guitar to a hot-but-rote cover of the Doobie Brothers' hit "Jesus Is Just Alright") are oddly subdued, but neo-soul diva Leela James puts sex and smolder into her duet with Randolph on "Stronger." Ultimately, though, this album's all about Randolph himself, who has loosened his grip on the blues and gospel bedrock of his earlier playing to become a master of flashy funk and rock riffs and the owner of a tone so gargantuan it's earned him a place in rock-guitar Olympus--if not Heaven. --Ted Drozdowski