Let's face it: sometimes the claim that a given work "defies genre" (as the press materials for The Tao of Yo
, the second release by the Yohimbe Brothers, put it) is more the result of aggressive marketing than anything else. Indeed, "eclecticism" has become something of a PR mantra among musicians in recent years. Its invocation should give us pause.
After all, what is wrong with a good album that clearly leans on one musical tradition or another, or that humbly treads over old ground in new ways? An album that is, say, a very solid "mostly-instrumental-hip-hop-rock-hybrid"? (That's the best label I could come up with for Tao certainly pretty broad, but not exactly genre defying.) Ned Rorem once pointed out that the interesting thing about the Beatles was not that they were particularly innovative when it came to the basic material they were working withi.e., the song formbut that they were better at working with that basic material than any of their contemporaries. That's a nice distinction, and good advice; in the postmodern era, where everything appears to be recycled anyway, why not simply aspire to do what you do, and to do it well?
I don't mean to fault guitarist Vernon Reid and turntablist DJ Logic, the prime movers of the Yohimbe Brothers. They don't write their own press materials, I presume. Even if they do, the creativity and skill on this recording are beyond reproach. To paraphrase a comment Frank Zappa once made about John McLaughlin: one would have to be a moron not to appreciate Reid's ability to manipulate the guitar. And Logic is a true pioneer of the expressive possibilities of the turntable (if his contributions here don't convince you, check out the luster he adds to Uri Caine's Goldberg Variations ).
Despite the preponderance of hooks on Tao (clearly the producers had radio play in mind; be careful of the Prince-like "More from Life," which I had stuck in my head for an afternoon), we also get really interesting stuff like the combination of acoustic guitar and tap-dancing (I for one could listen to a whole album of that sort of thing), wacked-out compositions like "Unimportance" (sort of a quirky rewrite of the Inspector Gadget theme), and the very heavy, Latin-flavored "No Pistolas."
Let's lay off the hyperbole, please. The Yohimbe Brothers do what they do, and they do it well. We should all be so lucky.
Personnel: Yohimbe Brothers: Vernon Reid (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, guitar synthesizer); DJ Logic (sound
effects, turntables). Additional personnel include: Latasha Nevada Diggs, Taylor McFerrin, Bos Omega,
Ricky Quinnones (vocals); Shantyman (spoken vocals); Goodandevil (various instruments,
programming); Jared Nickerson (bass guitar); Eddie Hall (congas, bongos, dumbek, percussion); Maya
Jenkins (taps); various artists.