Fire Note Says: Robert Randolph cranks the guitars up and the fun dance party even higher!
Album Review: I have been following Robert Randolph & The Family Band since their 2003 sophomore record Unclassified. Its combination of soul, funk, hard rock, folk, gospel and jam band tinkering took the music scene by storm and Randolph has been trying to top it ever since. 2006’s Colorblind came close to equaling its quality but then the band teamed up with producer T-Bone Burnett for 2010’s We Walk This Road. We Walk This Road was still a record that showcased Robert’s talent but it also slowed the funk way down and had a much more serious tone. Musically the album was great but it just did not have that Randolph spark.
That leads us to Lickety Split which turns the funk back on full strength while cranking up the volume and fun with its big sprawling sounds. Right from the opening track, “Amped Up,” you know that Robert Randolph & The Family Band are back with a purpose. If you have ever witnessed the groups live set then you know that this guitar driven song will automatically be a crowd favorite. “Born Again” is the next track that has a big sound as the chorus has a choir backing and is an ode to some of Randolph’s past gospel work. It is interesting how he can switch styles and still go back to his roots without ever sounding like it. This song keeps with the energy flow and will have you grooving along before you even know it.
On Lickety Split, Randolph gets help from several talented guest musicians with the first being Trombone Shorty on “Take The Party” which turns into a solid funk rolling track that has it all with handclaps and plenty of sing-a-long moments. The second artist that has a big impact here is Carlos Santana on “Brand New Wayo” and “Blacky Joe” which both just let Santana do what he does best on guitar. “Brand New Wayo” is the perfect live set track as it has a full call and response section that highlights Randolph’s stagemanship.
Other highlights on Lickety Split pop up on the title track as Robert’s sister, Lenesha, is front and center as she takes several turns on lead vocals. She gives the upbeat track a nice balance with Randolph’s commanding presence. The group tackles the Ohio Players “Love Rollercoaster” which may raise the question of what could you possibly do different here to make the cover worth it? The answer is that they slow down the groove in the song while funking up the bass a bit more. The end result is positive and fits the band’s style. Another highlight is the big rock song “All American” that has a huge memorable guitar riff and also is the shortest song on the album coming in under 3 minutes. The song possess an attitude that you always knew that Robert Randolph had but never quite put it out there until now.
Lickety Split still does not surpass Unclassified’s consistency but I think it is a perfect reflection of who Robert Randolph is. The album also mirrors his live performance and I can guarantee that if you see him in concert, this material will absolutely fit in with all of his other great material. With that being the case, Lickety Split should be a no brainer for fans and has the ability to win over new ones quickly. This is a band that I think is still always better to see live but Lickety Split is a record that embraces that sound and hits a home run for doing so!
Key Tracks: “Amped Up”, “Lickety Split”, “All American”
Artists With Similar Fire: The Derek Trucks Band / Ohio Players / Funkadelic
Robert Randolph Website
Robert Randolph Facebook
Blue Note Records
-Reviewed by Christopher Anthony