The Soul Rebels: Unlock Your Mind (2012)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The Soul Rebels trumpet a post-hurricane Katrina sense of optimism and get the party going in full swing on Unlock Your Mind. This New Orleans-based octet implies good cheer via its up-tempo ambiance. Marked by tight horn arrangements, loosely paralleling the likes of Tower of Power or vintage James Brown, the band imparts New Orleans second-line components into a soul, pop, and jazz-centered framework outlined with a festive Mardi Gras-like deportment.
With original compositions and pop hits, the production offers a hearty mix spiced with affable hip-hop segments, and featuring guitarist Leo Nocentelli of The Meters on his "Say Na Hey." Nonetheless, the musicians focus on the joys of life with these largely sparkling and danceable works. Interestingly enough, five of the band members toggle on percussion, and Edward Lee Jr. handles the bass parts with a sousaphone, linking an organic New Orleans aura into the grand schema.
They fuse The Eurythmics hit, "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This," into a succinct and punchy rock groove with pumping horns and a few rhythmic shifts, accelerated by tenor saxophonist Erion Williams' revved-up solo. However, the underlying jazz element is sprinkled throughout as the frontline enjoys copious solo opportunities. There's not a glimmer of dissonance to be found, given the tuneful melodies witnessed on the regal horns arrangement and audience-pleasing impressions generated on "We Gon' Take Your Body" and other works. Lee Jr.'s buoyant sousaphone lines launch Stevie Wonder's "Living For the City," into a second-line march motif, complete with sweeping snare drum press rolls and soul-drenched soloing jaunts.
While The Soul Rebels don't profess to reinvent the wheel, it's all about quality and a personalized sound that yields the rewarding results. Each track stands on its own, where the band's energized performances, upbeat vocal choruses, and a sanguine mode of operations offer an overriding degree of good cheer and soul-cleansing attributes.
Track Listing: 504; Sweet Dreams Are Made of This; Turn It Up; My Time; Unlock Your Mind; We Gon’ Take Your Body; Night People; I’m So Confused; Showtime; Say Na Hey; I Made It; Living For the City; Let Your Mind Be Free.
Personnel: Lumar Leblanc: snare drum, percussion and vocals; Derrick Moss: bass drum, percussion and vocals; Julian Gosin: trumpet, percussions and vocals; Marcus Hubbard: trumpet and vocals; Edward Lee Jr.: sousaphone, percussion and vocals; Corey Payton: trombone, percussion and vocals; Paul Robertson: trombone and vocals; Erion Williams: tenor saxophone and vocals; Ben Ellman: Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews: trombone (1); Ben Ellman: baritone sax solo (8); Leo Nocentelli: guitar and guitar production (10); Cyril Neville: vocal (5).
Record Label: Rounder Records