Roots of Creation – Live! Vol. 2
3.) Death March
4.) This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)
6.) Dubby Conqueror
8.) You Don’t Know How It Feels
Record Label: Harmonized Records/Bombshelter
The Pier Album Rating:
Based in New Hampshire, Roots of Creation have spent the past half of the decade touring relentlessly and building an avid fan-base with their jam meets reggae sound and energetic live shows, during which the band often pepper their original material with extended passages of improvised jams. In addition to their live output, the band has also released two studio albums, 2004’s The End of the Beginning and 2006’s Rise Up.
On 2008’s Live Vol. 1, Roots of Creation played like a band steeped in roots/reggae music, but not afraid to explore the outer edges of genres like funk, latin, and rock music. Merging these styles into sometimes 15 minute long explorations of the band’s musical universe sometimes became taxing, but what made it fun was how despite the meandering guitar solos and the Lost In Space synthesizer passages the band would undoubtedly regain its continuity within the form of some fiery reggae time bomb, exploding just as you thought you’d be lost forever in an endless void of guitar noodling. Live Vol. 2, however, presents a band far less steeped in the tenets of roots music and far more willing to dive heardfirst into prog and electronica excursions.
To kick-off the album, Policy opens with a stagnant guitar/keyboard harmony that later diverges into a funky reggae sizzler and a veritable f-you to the republican party (songwriter Bret Wilson admits the song is very pro-Obama). Roots of Creation’s political leanings are still more than evident at their live shows, but strangely on this album, Policy is the only real political song, while the others delve into matters pertaining more towards love and romance (both the positive and negative aspects of it) and existential probings (and, of course, the party song 6AM.)
Unlike Live Vol. 1, the band does a much better job at restraining themselves in terms of the wild jamming and noodling, but that doesn’t mean they’ve reverted to playing their songs note-for-note either. Dubby Conqueror is nine minutes crammed full of psychedelic, sonic exploration, complete with a heavy dose of echo and reverb tacked onto the band’s extended improvisation. About halfway through, the band ditches the whole jammy roots vibe invoked by the song title and dives straight into the land of drum machines, synthesizers, and samples. The hazy synthesizers, draping over the drum-machine hand claps and wah-wah guitar, sound like a passage straight out of a Disco Biscuits set.
Despite the band’s embrace of electronica and a more synthesizer driven-sound, the leading role on stage still goes to Bret Willis’s guitar playing. On almost every track, Willis’s fluid lead lines lead the band in and out of spacey, psychedelic soundscapes, but this band has gotten pretty damn good at following him. When Willis screams, the band roars. When he whispers, they meditate. And when he just wants to fall back into the pocket, the rhythm section disperses a pulsing groove that I’m sure sent hundreds of bodies into motion.
Although Live Vol. 2 certainly does provide a glimpse of the band’s evolution into prog and electronic areas, they have not lost their roots in the reggae genre, exemplified best with the reggae powerhouse of Death March, which starts as a Sublime-tinged roots track before setting controls for the heart of the funk and wrapping a killer bass line and gospel organ around seismic drum lines and a screaming guitar solo.
Also, as a fun little addition to this album, the band also included two covers, This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody), by The Talking Heads and You Don’t Know How It Feels by Tom Petty. The Talking Heads cover, while out of place, is handled nicely and capped by a little Latin jam towards the end, while You Don’t Know How It Feels is given a touch of reggae on the verses, while the anthemic chorus retains the raucous, passionate protests Petty so well established many years ago.
Live Vol. 2, despite having only been released 2 years after it’s predecessor, certainly highlights the areas where the band has been changing, particularly their embrace of more prog and electronic tendencies. While some fans may dislike the lack of more traditional jam vibes and reggae based song structures, I am certain many others will warmly embrace the band’s excursions into psychedelic and electronic, though in the end, as will all jam bands, it will be the individual’s own personal endurance for lengthy jams that will determine where the line may be drawn.
Written & Reviewed by: Chris Castro
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