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on September 19, 2003
I first heard of Robert Randolph when I saw them on David Letterman. I wasn't intending to stay up and watch the musical guest as I had never heard of them. But I was still awake when they came on and I was blown away. I Need More Love was the song they performed and it was great. I looked up more info on this group and now I have both Unclassified and Live at the Wetlands in my collection. This CD doesn't have the "power" of the live CD, but it is plenty good. It's one of the few I can put in and play straight through without skipping any songs.
This is a unique blend of Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Allman Brothers, and lots of funk and blues. And the blend works very well in my opinion. This CD goes from upbeat to slow blues and everything in between.
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on February 8, 2004
Yep, Robert Randolph and the Family Band had a breakout performance tonight at the Grammys. Samuel L. Jackson and his preacher thing went a little overboard for me. EWF and Outkast were okay. George Clinton was cool by me until I starts ripping Lil' John! George! Why imitate!
I digress.
In the middle of all this Grammy supergroup shanigans many in our great nation were introduced to Robert Randolph and the Family Band. "I Need More Love" was tight performance of what they represent. Positive, church inspired, funk music with blistering jam band talent. Very, very rare that we hear anything that sounds fresh, new or an extension upon the foundations of black music rather than a recapitulation of established norms. These guys are the real deal. The music will raise your spirits. The talent will awe you at times. Acoustic music with power, fire, technique, soul, love, heart, courage, and power.
That's we need today, and that's what you should purchase.
Support great musicians and cop this album!
5 stars
--SD
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on August 5, 2003
Excellent followup for Robert Randolph and the Family Band's underground classic "Live at the Wetlands." Those who liked that CD will be pleased with this one. Most of this consists of tunes that this excellent group has been performing live over the last year, like "Run For Your Life," "Good Times," and "Squeeze." Once again, John Ginty plays the heck out of his organ and Marcus Randolph and Danyel Morgan in fine support (though it would be nice if this one had more of Danyel's soaring vocals).
Overall, this is good stuff, particularly the songs that I have just mentioned. Real get-up and go music with a positive energy not often found in tunes of recent times. "Soul Refershing" is simply beautiful and "Smile" is interesting (Robert's sister Lenesha does the vocals here). "Calypso" (not to be confused with the Harry belafonte tune of the same name) is an interesting novelty. A few of the songs (like "I Need More Love") are somewhat lacking in the right mix of melody and energy that characteris\zes this group-but a so-so song from these guys are better than the best of a lot of what's out there now!
I would suggest that those who may be interested in this start with "Live at the Wetlands" before going on to "Unclassified." That will give you a better preperation for this. Then pick up "The Word" (RR without the Family Band) and the "Sacred Steel" Cds after you listen to "Unclassified." Then see these guys live and you will have hope for the future of American popular music.
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on November 22, 2004
I caught Robert Randolph & the Family Band on Austin City Limits and I was hooked. How refreshing to hear a musician that can actually play his instrument and someone from the Gen X, Gen Y or whatever that isn't a clone of every other band out there. And hey, this guy is not afraid to proclaim his faith and love of people. This band rocks. This bluesy rock revival music just lifts you out of your seat. The band is tight. Robert Randolph is today's answer to Hendrix, Beck, Clapton, etc. Randolph's style is Jeff Beck with a funky edge, in fact I would love to hear Randolph and Beck do I NEED MORE LOVE from the Unclassified CD. This is a great fusion of the pedal steel guitar and blues/rock. Buy this one.
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on August 6, 2003
If you are looking for an introduction to Robert Randolph and the Family Band, do not buy this album. Go buy "Live At the Wetlands." "Live" is everything that makes RRFB great; energetic, evangelic, and electric all combined in a volcanic delivery that will re-write your concepts of music.
"Unclassified" is the bland studio brother to the robust "Live" album. I am curious to know if the producers ever heard RRFB live before they hammered them into their generic Warner Brothers album concept? From listening to this album, I don't think they had heard RRFB live. The vocals on this album are only slightly short of hideous; nearly all are electronically altered in some way. Having traveled many miles to hear RRFB here in Texas and to the Bonnaroo Festival, I've listened to them enough to say that the vocals here are artificial as is the song format. This is not RRFB at their finest.
When you hear them live or hear "Live At the Wetlands," you hear Robert Randolph sing...sing with the pedal steel. You hear joy, energy, love, and faith in the free-wheeling, un-radio friendly song formats, you hear and experience all the things that make RRFB so wonderful. You don't hear those things on "Unclassified," with the exception of the pedal steel. Even though it is mystifyingly subdued on this album, you can still hear the essence of what makes RRFB great; unforunately, it is constrained.
I wanted to rate this at one star but could not bring myself to slander RRFB with that stigma. Three stars for all they have done and all they will do; one star for what they have done on "Unclassified."
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on March 8, 2004
I heard some mention about Robert Randolph & the Family Band here and there from various sources. But when I saw them perform on The Tonight Show one night, that was all I needed. I instantly rushed out and picked up the album.
To say that this album, Unclassified, is great would be an understatement. Robert Randolph and his band (consisting of all family members, in case the name didn't tip you off) provide this great album full of funk and soul. There are a few instrumental tracks that just let the band do their thing, like "Run For Your Life", the calypso style of, well, "Calypso", and the best one, "Squeeze". And the songs you should've heard already, "Going In the Right Direction" and "I Need More Love", still sound excellent.
Other standouts are the funky "Soul Refreshing" and "Why Should I Feel Lonely". I even like "Problems", a we-are-the-world style song that doesn't sound so clichéd. Actually, there's no song on here that's a waste of time. Unclassified IS classified -- as one of the best albums of last year.
Anthony Rupert
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on August 8, 2003
I'll admit it. I'm downright biased from the "Wetlands" CD, but I also have pretty good ears. And it sounds to me like Mr. Randolph and his accompanying trio present the most dynamic and exciting band in YEARS! And they bring the tightness of the stage together in recording as well.
There's no way I can justly explain the scope and range of talent within this band, nor the incredible focus that breaks them out of the ranks of such mindless jam-band contemporaries as Phish or Moe.
This is pure blues-based stuff. Neat, no chaser. Lemme ask you. Remember the first time you heard Hendrix and the original ABB? Years later Stevie Ray blistered your eardrums, and you instantly knew the magic was happening again? Well, guess who's grabbed the baton in the power blues relay? As we say down-South, dass right: it'd be one Mr. Robert Randolph and The Family Band.
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on June 19, 2005
If there were ten stars to give; then Robert Randolph and the Family Band would get eleven from me. Listen to the beautiful "Soul Refreshing" and the uptempo "I Need More Love" samples and see if you don't agree with me. I've been listening to this CD days and weeks and still haven't tired of the beautiful sounds.
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on August 5, 2003
First, why 4 rather than 5 stars? Nothing gets 5 from me until it shows that it can be fresh 3, 7, 10 years down the line. That being said, I am highly impressed.
I first heard RR on NPRs "Weekend Edition" and I was blown away. 'The Word' was a good showcase, but obviously the Family Band is the perfect backing band. 'Wetlands' came close to the live show, but didn't capture the full power of where RRFB were going. Don't get me wrong, it slays 99% of popular music today, but it was recorded *very* soon after the band was formed...
I had cautiously high hopes for this CD as I know that RR has not peaked, but sometimes taking magic from the stage to the studio can be tricky. I was surprised at the depth and breadth of the CD on first listen.
So, why is this a 4 star CD?
1. The band expand their sound by tackling different moods and sounds. More importantly, it works.
2. The energy is there! Those that thought this band would not be able to "get it up" without a crowd to play off of will be surprised at the energy level.
3. As fans know, each member carries their own weight. This band can stay right with RR no matter where he goes. You can actually hear the interplay pushing each member to new heights.
In conclusion, if the following names mean anything to you: Hendrix, Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, SRV, Billy Cobham, Charlie Hunter...you will love this CD. How high can these guys go?
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Unclassified is Robert Randolph's second album, but his first studio effort. His first album, Live At Wetlands, showed that Mr. Randolph plays one mean steel guitar. The question would be if that same sweat and fire could be recreated in the studio. The answer is a resounding yes. Mr. Randolph cut his teeth playing in a Pentecostal church in his hometown of Orange, New Jersey and the album has clear gospel roots. But the band is really more of a funk and roll band in the Parliament-Funkadelic mold. Mr. Randolph's steel guitar is often counterbalanced by popping bass lines and wailing organs. "So Refreshing" has a funky bass and buzz saw steel riff and "Squeeze" has fiery organs that perfectly contrast the wicked steel guitar. "I Need More Love" has a call and response chorus that sits atop a hard funk groove that is very Stevie Wonder like. "Smile" slows things down and features tender harmonies. "Calypso" has a Latin-jazz-rock Santana vibe and "Run For Your Life" closes out the disk on a full-out Jersey bar sound. Robert Randolph is one of the most gifted guitarists to come around in a long time and his music demands your attention.
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