Unified Tribe - On Purpose (2009)

Unified Tribe
Unified_Tribe_On_Purpose_Album.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

Artists who seek to pay homage to the music of the glorious past can take one of two paths. The older and well-worn path is for an artist to mine the Motown, Stax and Philly songbooks. Some performers decide to go back even further and look to the works created by the architects of modern American music such as Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Rogers and Hammerstein.

Some of these efforts have been inspiring. Whether you're talking about Johnny Mercer, Smokey Robinson, Paul McCartney or Isaac Hayes, the music created back in the day is solid, and I can see why artists return to it again, and again, and again, and again. However, there is such a thing as going to the well once too often, and that's why a new breed of artists seek to honor the great sounds of the past by making original music in classic soul styles.

Artists who seek to pay homage to the music of the glorious past can take one of two paths. The older and well-worn path is for an artist to mine the Motown, Stax and Philly songbooks. Some performers decide to go back even further and look to the works created by the architects of modern American music such as Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Rogers and Hammerstein.

Some of these efforts have been inspiring. Whether you're talking about Johnny Mercer, Smokey Robinson, Paul McCartney or Isaac Hayes, the music created back in the day is solid, and I can see why artists return to it again, and again, and again, and again. However, there is such a thing as going to the well once too often, and that's why a new breed of artists seek to honor the great sounds of the past by making original music in classic soul styles.

In recent years, artists such as Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Nikka Costa, Jamie Liddell, Raphael Saddiq and Wayne Brady have created works that captured the essence of the Motown, Stax, Muscle Shoals sound, while performers such as Anthony Hamilton, Anthony David and Leela James looked to the classic soul of the1970s.

The funk band Unified Tribe gets its inspiration from a later era - the late 1970s and early 1980s. The group continues to mine that late funk era on their new disc, the enjoyable On Purpose. Unified Tribe is definitely a funk band, so it's easy for listeners to expect to get a series of up-tempo dance tunes. On Purpose certainly has its share, but the slow jams are the star of this show. Songs like "I'm Sorry," and "Touch Me," will remind listeners of blue light jams that used to get played at house parties back in the day.

"Living Without You" is a straight up tearjerker. The subject matter, a man looking trying to adjust to life as a widow, could easily have drifted into mush sentimentalism and cliché, but it the song manages to avoid that third rail.

On Purpose also sports its share of head nodding mid-tempo and dance tunes. Songs such as "Keep it Hot," "Guilty" and "Get Up" and "I Forgive You" provide a nice change to tempo. Unified Tribe is unapologetic about brining its brand a funk to listeners' ears. The band is not worried about trying to break new ground. Unified Tribe's primary purpose is to make fun and funky music, and they accomplish that mission with On Purpose. Recommended

By Howard Dukes

 
Choice Cut - Stephen Emmer feat. Patti Austin - Home Ground
Song of the Month - Kea Michaels - "I Love You"
Listening Room - Eric Roberson - "Wind"
ADVANCE Listening Room - Boney James - Honestly

Leave a comment!