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Much Better 'Live,' Too Slick in the Studio
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."