Courtesy: Blue Note Records
Robert Randolph and the Family Band are back. And they are back in grand fashion on their first album in three years. The new record, Lickety Split is one of the best new records of 2013, hands down. This twelve-song musical masterpiece mixes lots of fun anthems with some more subdued pieces and tosses in a pair of covers and a famous guest spot to make it an album that audiences will find themselves enjoying even more with each listen.
Among the best of the album’s more full on songs is its opener, ‘Amped Up.’ This was the perfect choice with which to open the album. It wastes no time at all getting listeners moving. The energy kicks right into gear at one thousand percent, making listeners want to pump the volume on their stereos and iPods to eleven. It’s just a fun, full on song that anyone will enjoy. Randolph sings cheerfully, You’ve only got one life to live/So give it everything you’ve got to give/If anybody asks you why/Look ‘em in the eye and say/I’m about to get amped up/Everybody throw your hands up/Come on and get cranked up/Everybody get amped up.” The energy from the lyrics mixes with the song’s music to easily achieve its goal at getting audiences amped up and moving. Once the song ends, Randolph and company pull back, but not too much, in the bluesy/gospel hybrid ‘Born Again.’
‘Born Again’ isn’t as high energy as ‘Amped Up.’ But, it still has its own energy. The song’s bluesy/gospel hybrid sound is just like something that one might actually hear in a church. Ironically enough Randolph himself stated of the song that this song was originally a love song. “It’s about finding the joy again,” he said. “At first, it was more of a love song, about the sense you get when you find the right person. Then as we were recording this new music with a whole new sense of direction and feeling free again it all came together. It’s not a religious thing, it’s just new energy—which is really the old energy that I had at the beginning of my career.” It’s interesting that he notes that it not only started out as a love song, but that it was also not a religious thing. That’s because with its hybrid sound, it could just as easily pass for a song one might hear in a church. Regardless, it’s a song that any listener will enjoy. Vocalist Lenesha Randolph’s vocals are so strong throughout the song. And the addition of a choir to back the band serves to make the song that much better. It’s such an impressive follow-up to the album’s opener that by its end, some listeners might even find themselves out of breath and energy having danced their way through both songs. Thankfully, the band pulls back just a little more on the next song, ‘New Orleans.’
New Orleans is even more pulled back than the first two songs on Lickety Split. After all of the energy carried by those two songs, this seeming love letter to one of America’s greatest cities is perfectly placed in the album’s overall sequencing. Again, Lenesha Randolph takes center stage, her vocals so gentle and calming. Set again Robert Randolph’s slightly more upbeat sections, the two make for a wonderful juxtaposition celebrating Nola. Lenesha sings fondly of the city, “I heard a sound/Sweet soulful sound/And a happy song/In my dreams/A marching band/Piano man/And that soul…/So sad and sweet.” The tone in her singing instantly creates such a sense of nostalgia among listeners. This includes even listeners who have maybe never been to New Orleans. One can almost see images in sepia tone in their minds, everything of which she sings. Robert Randolph’s counterpoint, on the other hand, brings everything into full color. It helps to paint a massive, happy picture of a city that has done and meant so much to America. It’s one more wonderful addition to an album that boasts so many high points.
The joy of this album doesn’t end with its first trio of songs. As soon as ‘New Orleans’ fades gently away, the party gets moving again with the aptly titled, ‘Take The Party.’ This piece brings back the energy of the album’s opener before easing into the more old school funk influenced ‘Brand New Wayo.’ The fun doesn’t end here, either. Randolph and company keep listeners’ ears throughout the rest of this album. This is thanks in large part to the band’s continued talent and skill as musicians. Credit will be given where credit is due here. The people behind the boards are also to thank for this album’s fun factor, as well as guest guitarist Carlos Santana and trombone player, Trombone Shorty.
Engineer Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin) and mixer Jim Scott (Tedeschi Trucks Band) deserve their own credit for the work behind the boards on this record. It’s no wonder that Lickety Split bears significance to the Tedeschi Trucks Band with Scott on board. If one didn’t know any better, one would think that one of the husband/wife duo of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks was in fact guesting, hearing the guitar work throughout the record. Though having fellow legend Carlos Santana on board, helping with guitar duties doesn’t hurt, either. That bonus, and the work of everybody else involved on this record makes Lickety Split a must hear for any long-time Robert Randolph fan and for anyone that is new to the work of this highly accomplished musician and his family. It will be available tomorrow, July 16th in stores and online. Audiences can keep an eye out for it in the official Robert Randolph online store at http://www.robertrandolph.net. Fans can also go here and the band’s official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/rrtfb and “Like” it to keep up with all of the latest news and tour information from the band.
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