Soulive has experimented in many directions during the course of its decade- plus career, so it's only natural that the group would eventually go back to the basics, and that's exactly what it's done with Rubber Soulive
. Comprised entirely of tunes by The Beatles
, this project allows the band to get back to its roots in more ways than one (on the inner liner photo, see the suits and ties of their early days) without even covering that particular Lennon/McCartney tune. Booker T & the MG's
s devoted an entire work to The Beatles on McLemore Avenue
(Stax, 1970), and the best moments of Soulive's disc certainly bring that splendid work to mind, not because it sounds like it, but because it's equally inventive on its own terms, albeit deceptively so. Like the best groove musicians, the members of Soulive know just where to find the nexus of melody and rhythm in a song, so it's no wonder "Drive My Car," like most of these eleven tracks, is instantly recognizable.
Yet Soulive don't just proffer easy listening renditions of material like that or "Taxman"; this is not
muzak in any way, shape, or form. Rather, the trio- -and that's what Soulive is here, shorn of the vocalists and horns that have adorned past projects finds the best way to shape a number like "In My Life," where guitarist Eric Krasno states the main melodic motif, touching upon the melancholy and allowing Neal Evans (playing only piano and organ) to extend the emotion with a surge of Hammond B3.
"Eleanor Rigby" works much the same way, as Soulive never allows schmaltz to form on the sentiment at the heart of the song. And that may be what is most remarkable about the execution of this concept: Soulive creates an economical take of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," for instance, and never succumbs to the temptation to drag out its performance. The group gets right to the heart of such famous songs with not a whit of self-consciousness, and no track exceeds five minutes in length.
So, not surprisingly, Soulive's take on "Come Together" captures both the whimsy and angst at the heart of John Lennon's composition. The sound quality plays no small part in the equation, as Neal Evans manages to create formidable keyboard bass lines and sibling Alan is just authoritative hammering out a 4/4 beat as he is gently accenting "Something." Of the three musicians, the drummer may be the most astute in maintaining the essence of Ringo Starr's original parts, all the while maintaining his unique approach.
The sole exception to Soulive's admirable loyalty to The Beatles is its reinvention of "Revolution." With the tighten-up drumming and dancing piano, the track is prime R&Blight years from the hard rock of the single version and the mix of music hall jazz and blues on The White Album
(Apple/EMI, 1968). As such, it hints at the possibilities open to Soulive when the group plays this music in concert and avails itself of the opportunity to improvise on songs that have already proven themselves durable fodder for reinterpretation.