The Revelations featuring Tre Williams - The Bleeding Edge (2009)

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    The Revelations featuring Tre Williams
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    It is good to hear a man be a man in song again. Not that all those feather weight male vocalists we've had of late aren't men; in some ways those guys' willingness to display fragility and vulnerability in tone and tenor make them more manly than an Otis Williams or Michael McCary.
    It's just for some time now soul has been missing the strong, aggressive voices that used to be its bedrock; voices that demanded you "close the door" and "don't look any further." Tre Williams, one of the two lead singers for The Revelations, brings back that sensibility on the band's first full-length project, The Bleeding Edge (Decision Records).  Quizzical title aside (I'm told it's related to the release's jagged journey),  Tré Williams' concrete blues vocals, Rell's from-the-groin pathos on co-leads and supporting vocals, and the accomplished musicians comprising The Revelations make The Bleeding Edge the Southern soul staple of the year.

    The brainchild of Koch Records A&R guy turned producer, Bob Perry, The Revelations featuring Tré Williams does a fine job of tackling this smoothie of blues, rock, and Northern soul with enough charm and energy to light Times Square. Comparisons to the equally passionate Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings may be inevitable, but the old school feel of this material is not the textbook soul of that traditionalist apparatus. As the man from Daytona Beach belts, "they call it old school, but this is new love." The Revelations does something unique among soul revivalists by creating classic sounds without it sounding moldy. A debt is owed to singer/songerwriters Rell and Tré Williams for writing jams that are fresh and relevant, but still appeal to those who like heavy whiffs of the familiar. Beyond Williams' testosterone engorged baritone, The Revelations sound and approach to story is undeniably male on hard-driving cuts like "Heavy Metal," "He's A Hustler," and "Stay Free." So aggressive, in fact, that The Revelations could pick up a devoted following of neglected male R&B fans that have had to depend on thug crooner Jaheim to credibly hold down their fort and express their world.  

    Not that there isn't plenty here for the ladies. The Revelations know how to lay down the swag when they need to. Though the set is heavy with indigo songs of woe, conflict and infidelity, there are swooning ballads like "Remember The Last Time" and "I Won't Let Go" to steal a romantic's heart. Even tales of loss like Rell's wrenchingly resigned take on Carole King's "It's Too Late" is sure to touch a sweet spot. For his part, Williams is so clearly devastated by his own irresponsible betrayal of his best friend on the single "How Do I Tell Him," that he may garner more female sympathy than shaming. In truth, Rell and Williams play rascal as much as victim on these fifteen-tracks, singing like besieged Southern gentlemen even as they are escorting their ladies to the door or breaking their hearts on cut after cut. They largely pull off such "player, player" feats by truthfully singing about the internal struggle and situations of men on their best and worst behavior.  If you're gonna be played, you can at least appreciate these brothers' honesty about the situation.

    While Rell and Williams steal the show on both leads and supporting vocals, The Revelations band aren't anything to shake a stick at. A sucker for a good brass section, I found the horns on the Revelations to be on par with any band on the East Coast today. The rhythm sections are unobtrusive when they need to be, but make a mighty noise when funk is what's on the menu, which is often enough to keep things interesting for most of this set. The New York musicians of the Revelations do a fine job of emulating the Muscle Shoals sound without antiquation, with more than a bit of that live barroom feel that gives this nut its essential crunch.

    High beams aside, The Revelations featuring TréWilliams is a new band with room to grow. There are a few snooze button tunes that deliver on feel, but lack that Popeye punch. "Graceful Bow" opens with a bumping Al Green baseline, but doesn't really do much more thereafter. "The Truth Sets You Free" may be a compelling title, but the keys that free this song still awaits us. Songs like these are consistently well penned, but underwhelming in arrangement. Importantly, these tunes are few and far between, and this is a young act with years to develop the fruitful promises of this debut LP.

    I hope Rell and Williams allow The Revelations to live past one album to realize its potential. With both Rell and Williams independently working on solo projects, fulfilling leftover dreams from their days as signed hookmen from Jay-Z and Nas labels, respectively, the long term future of this little bit of magic remains uncertain.

    For now, on the strength of The Bleeding Edge and its EP predecessor, Deep Soul, what The Revelations featuring Tré Williams will show is how soon "Everybody Knows" this amazing band, one that had the cajones to bring red-blooded, chest pounding soul back to its rightful place on the throne, where it belongs. Highly recommended.


    By L. Michael Gipson