Setting in the West, the new album from Boston’s Spiritual Rez, is everything you would expect from the Reggae-Funk maestros. They have once again concocted an uplifting, danceable gumbo of various musical elements. Working with co-producer, Max Collins (Eve 6), the band continues to fortify their already well established sound by once again blending Reggae, Pop, and Funk into one amalgam of sound induced positivity.
The album’s first half is really a showcase of the band’s archetypal sound. The horn section comprised of trumpet player Julian Dessler and trombonist Quinn Carson alternate between offering lead melody and background texture from track to track. Whether dominating the forefront on the Ska tinged “Bad Girl” or adding additional color to slow burner “Sober”, the duo assault the listener with their presence. Their playing recalls that of everyone from Ska pioneers Toots and the Maytals to modern day torch bearers such as Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish. However, they are only half of the group’s core nucleus. The other belongs to vocalist Toft Willingham’s trademark croon. Sounding at times like Sublime’s late Bradley Nowell, his vocals are incredibly instrumental in evoking the band’s Reggae party vibe. He masterfully switches from strong and brooding, to saccharin sweet throughout the album’s duration, sometimes within the same song. “Together Always,” a duet featuring globe-trotting songstress Hirie, is a perfect example. The pair use vocal dynamics to create a melody so infectious that you will need antibiotics to get it out of your system.
Surprisingly, the second half drifts into a darker, more melancholic realm. The songs become a tad broodier and tend to demand emotional response as well. Best song “Tidal Wave”, with its hazy vocal washes and subtle yet slaying guitar licks, strays furthest from the traditional dance party sound and stands out as a result. This trend continues to the finish. Closer “Digital Age” not only dramatically drops the tempo, it also lyrically changes themes from confident to questioning.
Fans of the band will be rewarded with the usual Reggae party funk up that they have become accustomed to in volumes. The surprise here is the band’s willingness to drift from the proven formula for a number of key moments. Those moments keep the album, no matter how danceable, from becoming stale and ultimately forgettable.
More information at http://spiritualrez.com/
Author: Colin Seymour