Soulive - No Place Like Soul (2007)

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If 2005's Breakout was the watershed album for Soulive, transitioning the group from a Booker T & the MGs-type jazz/funk/soul outfit to a more more muscular rock/funk sound, then No Place Like Soul completes the transformation.  Shedding all remnants of its jazzy past, Soulive has added gritty lead singer Toussaint and an even greater reliance on Eric Krazno's electric guitar on this, the band's aggressive debut on the revitalized Stax label (ironically, the traditional home of the MGs).

No Place opens with a trio of excellent funky soul cuts, with the infectious uptempo "Waterfall," and "Don't Tell Me" leading into "Mary," a more sparsely arranged midpaced number that is the album's best and most melodic cut.  Toussaint immediately proves himself a fine baritone lead, adding much the same grit that Maktub's Reggie Watts did when he guested on Breakout. 

If 2005's Breakout was the watershed album for Soulive, transitioning the group from a Booker T & the MGs-type jazz/funk/soul outfit to a more more muscular rock/funk sound, then No Place Like Soul completes the transformation.  Shedding all remnants of its jazzy past, Soulive has added gritty lead singer Toussaint and an even greater reliance on Eric Krazno's electric guitar on this, the band's aggressive debut on the revitalized Stax label (ironically, the traditional home of the MGs).

No Place opens with a trio of excellent funky soul cuts, with the infectious uptempo "Waterfall," and "Don't Tell Me" leading into "Mary," a more sparsely arranged midpaced number that is the album's best and most melodic cut.  Toussaint immediately proves himself a fine baritone lead, adding much the same grit that Maktub's Reggie Watts did when he guested on Breakout. 

After the fine title cut bats cleanup, the album evolves to a mixture of solid reggae ("Callin'," "If This World Were a Song") and a series of less distinctive rock cuts ("One of Those Days," "Bubble," "Kim"), resulting a second half that, on average, is less satisfying and memorable than the first.

No Place Like Soul is certainly enjoyable and will be spending some major time on my iPod.   But I'll confess that I fell for Soulive in 1999 in part because of Neal Evans' driving Hammond B3 and in part because the group was simply so unique, combining their wonderful musical instincts with a soulful, somewhat retro funk sound that no one else was matching.  So while No Place continues the group's development into a top notch rock band -- playing in the same sandbox as multiple other talented groups -- I still miss the half decade during which Soulive was simply one of a kind.

By Chris Rizik

 

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