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Up Here
Format: MP3 MusicChange
Price:$8.91
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2009
The Quick & Dirty:

Soulive returns with a gritty, soulful, funky musical statement that's sure to please.

The Lowdown:

After the experimentation that was "No Place Like Soul", the legendary jazz/soul outfit Soulive strips down to the basics to produce a musical statement that's as familiar as an old 12" and at the same time fresh as the sunrise.

First of all, the mixes on "Up Here" are extraordinary, taking the lo-fi feel of earlier work ("Get Down") and adding the slightest gloss to it to keep things interesting. The panning of similar elements vary from track to track, so things feel less predictable and more like each track is its own little universe. The vocal mixes are excellent, too, with Nigel Hall's work feeling like it is work that was recorded contemporaneously with Sam Cooke and James Brown. As a result, "Up Here" crackles with urgent intensity and unbridled creative energy.

The composition and instrumentation is exactly what we would expect from such a technically sound outfit: sharp, expressive, subtle and intelligent. No one overplays, and even the solos (as outstanding as they are) are kept to a minimum bar count to let the rest of the music breathe and groove. The core ingredients of Soulive (Alan on drums; Neal on bass keys and organ, clavinet and upright piano; Kraz on guitars) do what they do best: interplay, support and compliment. The extraneous elements (the Shady Horns and the afoementioned Hall on vocals) add that little extra garnish to put the project over the top. Just a really pleasing listen all around.

A few outstanding tracks are the hip-hop soul of "The Swamp", the 60's groove of "Too Much", and the slinky flow of "PJs".

That is not to say, though, that "Up Here" is perfect. While "Too Much" is a great blend of old soul, emotive vocals and thoughtful lyrics, "Tonight" shows how easily the same approach can fall flat if not executed well. With its forced vocals (someone should pay James Browns' estate royalties for Hall's plagiarism), trite lyrics and confusing phrasing, "Tonight"'s only saving grace is the groove that takes the song out.

And "Prototype", a cover of Andre 3000's outstanding song from "The Love Below", is uncharacteristically mediocre. Soulive's rendition doesn't take anything off the table, but doesn't bring anything to the table, either. What made Andre 3000's version work was the simple approach: sparse hip hop drums, flowing bassline and the laissez faire, proudly imperfect approach to the vocal work (a la The Ohio Players' Sugarfoot). On Soulive's attempt, the drums drive, but are reverb-heavy, so you lose the crispness of the groove; Hall's vocals are a little weak and vibrato-heavy in the falsetto range; and towards the end the song gets a little muddy, but is rescued by Kraz' flowing solo into the fade. Yes, it's different, and I would rather not have a carbon-copy done when it comes to covering existing compositions, but I was expecting something more, something greater.

The Bottom Line:

Self-produced and recorded, "Up Here" takes a familiar formula (tight arrangements, energetic delivery, amazing solos) and seasons it just right with accentuating elements (funky horn licks, a smidge of vocals), producing a well-rounded and engaging piece of work.

Welcome back fellas. We missed you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2009
This is a great package. The CD is loaded with new Soulive grooves and a mix that takes me back a few years, before overproduction became the norm for a large part of the recording industry. This CD has got some definitive groove moments here. Nigel's voice on the vocal tracks is superb. The mix is good and the horns add a great dimension. But the real jewel here is the DVD. This DVD is a cooker. The film work and the sound quality are spot on. I own a lot of music DVD's and this ranks near the top of my list. The band is TIGHT and when the horns kick in, WATCH OUT!! Everybody does great work on this DVD. But the standout in my opinion is Neal Evans. He does double duty -- bass keyboard and Hammond B-3. His bass lines are off the chart and so funky, I can't stand still. True, I'd prefer he play a true B-3 pedal board but whatever, you can't have it all. This package is a must buy for any Soulive, jazz-funk, etc. music lovers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2009
I'm diggin this album. Soulive has taken a slightly different direction with a sound that resembles vintage soul/funk recordings. It kind of sounds like they didn't completely master the mix and recorded it with a single mic in a room of gods of groove. Awesome tracks include "Up Right" "Too Much" and "Tonight".
Horns and singer on several tracks sound so tight. They're back on tour for the fall and I got their opening show at The Note in West Chester. Back to the trio format, blowing away the audience as usual. Pretty Good SHIZZ
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Well the "first time" I refer to is my first time listening to a full on Soulive album. That was one reason for picking this up. The other was the involvement of Nigel Hall on vocals. He's a keyboard player/vocalist who,with no intentional bragging, I must say I actually knew in his early days of performing. And quite well. But it was more giving a group a fair chance in my case. I've listened to so much funk of different types such as jazz funk,techno funk,boogie funk,dance funk and flat out funk funk. During the late 90's/early 2000's there seemed to be a particular emphasis on a type of funk that very closely followed the James Brown production approach. Not necessarily his innovative instrumentation. But more the idea that his sometimes ragged sounding productions were intentional. So the end result was a lot of bands such as Greyboy All Stars and Lettuce,early in their careers making records with a live band sound but comparatively meager production values at times. I honestly felt Soulive tended to be a little that way at times. But since funk snobbery seems almost like a contradiction in terms to me this seemed like the first album of theirs I'd want to take a look at.

And a funky album it is for sure. It's mostly instrumental and very very inventive. And since the musicians on this album never number more than five it's surprising how full the sound is. The title song and,"Backwards Jack" and "The Swamp" are particularly heavy that way. Somehow,the way the drums and guitar are played in such a way that the sound is full near the point of bombastic. Not usually the way one would think of funk,a music usually defined by breaks and rests. But the energy level is so heavy and the grooves are so strong that it hardly makes a difference. Nigel who,honestly from what I heard of him live,either was heavily directed or touched up in the studio to enhance his "untutored" vocal ability (trust me,it's true) does justice to the more "united funk" type jams such as the topical "people music" of "Too Much" and more midtempo closer "Prototype". These have more of a Tower Of Power melodic pop funk type flavor,the latter with great vocal over dubbing adding to the occasion. The crawling "PJ's" benefits from these spacey organ flourishes. Even before the advent of the synthesizer,it's amazing the level of unusual sounds a Hammond organ was capable of if played by talented people. Alan Evans takes one lead vocal hear,grunting his way through the very JB inspired "Tonight" rather than Nigel's crooning approach.

So it works more than surprisingly well. It features a band that possesses some strong first class talent in terms of funk as well as...some who shall we say aspire to be world class talent . And even on the one song I neglected "For Granted",they have a strong rootedness to their music. On that song alone it's a clear reminder of the influence of Hugh Masekela's African jazz and afro-latin boogaloo had one the very beginnings of funk in the early to mid 60's. Considering the fact your likely to find Soulive in the jazz section of a record store is also an important statement. Funk,same as jazz,stands very much on it's own as being spawned from a mixture of different musics stirred together like a gumbo. It's no irony that historically both music's have roots in New Orleans. But without getting too far off subject Soulive are one of the few bands I've heard that have played what I refer to as "traditional funk" (if there was actually be such a thing) and still allow the different musical ingredients of the "funk stew" to stand out in a big way. Very much recommended to all Soulive fans. And also I would say not too bad a way to get into them either.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2011
Up Here has its own vibe. The music just has a particular sonic sound which is this beautiful, layered funky masterpiece. It straddles the line between gritty and old-school but also current and with advanced audio. The performances are great.

Up Right - Up Here comes crashing in from the very first track, which is absolutely live energy encapsulated. It has a great mix, the Shady Horns really add, Neal plays some really cool piano, but the organ solo just smacks everything out of bounds. This song is a message, saying "we're here and we will deliver the goods." This track is smokin'

The Swamp - The album continues the two words per song title motif with The Swamp, a nice, moodier but still funky second tune. It still has a punch and a kick to it, but gives the same live energy through a somewhat different sound. There is lot of full-panned delay which does nicely, and some awesome clavinet riffage. Not to mention octave guitar. Alan Evans keeps everything full of energy and right in the pocket, where it should be. The outtro length might be a little excessive, but it doesn't really matter.

Too Much - Nigel Hall is a master. Soulive is legendary. Therefore, this track kicks some serious behind. It is funky, soulful, and features a great james-brown style groove courtesy of the drummer, Alan Evans. All around great track. Everyone gets the solo baton passed to them, and does good work with it.

Backwards Jack - Comes out of the left field, sounding like a lost Lettuce record. It is still very soulive, and features some great leslied guitar. Krasno has fun with this one. There's also a wah horn solo.

PJs - This track wins. Every note is perfect. Just sit back and enjoy. It just envelops you.

Tonight - I would have preferred Nigel Hall singing on this one, and more than one verse, but it is still a fun song. Just not the greatest, and somewhat repetitive verse-wise.

Hat Trick - One of the greatest grooves on this record. It kills. The opening riff is just incredible, and the garagey drum sound propels the whole track up another level.

For Granted - A pretty good, breezy funksoul instrumental. Papa's Got a Brand New Bag style, but a little looser.

Prototype - They do this song better than Andre. Nigel does a great job, the horns are a great addition, and the Evanses hit the groove and make the whole thing take off. A great ending.

It's only 9 songs, but all of them are great. There is no filler of any sort.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2009
Soulive is definitely back with this album. Could be considered one of the best by them. I'm really digging the album art too, very creative compared to their previous ones. This could be a new beginning for this band.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2011
Yo! That cd is the BOMB! The sound that they put out is 1-of-a-kind! It is unique and to me, it is quintessential SOULIVE! SOULIVE IS NEW YORK CITY TO THE BONE! Keep on puttin it out like THAT! The only "beef" I had, was not about the cd, but the fact they didnt send me a cd cover. But for $5, I couldnt beat it with a bat. PLUS THE CD WAS LIKE BRAND NEW! MUCH PROPS TO AMAZON.COM
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2009
Soulive has done it again with another fabulous piece with with Up Here. An added bonus to this is disc is the included (edited) DVD concert of a couple of shows they did at the Blue Note in Tokyo.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2012
Nasty is the only word I can come up to describe this CD. This is classic FUNK plain and simple. Tight and beautifully arranged, I could go on and on but five stars says it all.
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on March 4, 2014
Some of the best groves and music of Soulive. This is the Soulive I enjoy so much. But I don't know what happened on the production end of this album. Personally, the quality of sound doesn't help in the listening pleasure.
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