Whatever you think of Brother Joscephus and his band the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra, you can’t argue with their work ethic: they always give 200% live. Their latest album, recorded live at the Brooklyn Bowl last year with a total of 21 players, is both an accurate representation of their ecstatic live show, and a tremendously good idea. It’s something more bands should do: live albums make great merchandise. These guys probably sell a ton of them at shows, not only because a lot of the crowd is drunk: this massive New Orleans-style soul/funk band is great fun. They’re strictly oldschool – a phat beat for these guys means a hit on the kick drum, not something that comes out of a laptop. The horn section rises and falls, the organ swells, the bass is fat and funky and Brother Joscephus’ gravelly voice and sly stage presence is hard to resist. What’s most obvious here is that their show is designed first and foremost to be a dance party – these songs are long, several of them going on for almost ten minutes at a clip.
After a long, James Brown-style intro, they launch into a lickety-split, shuffling version of the gospel standard A Child Shall Lead. The band’s signature song Revolution of Love gets a swaying 1970s style southern soul treatment, with a hint of Steely Dan, a big choir of backing vocals and a nimbly scrambling, jazzy guitar solo. They get funky on Making Love to Your Woman, lit up by the Right Reverend Dean Dawg’s swirling soul organ solo and a big crescendo with Morgan “Holy Cassanova” Price’s baritone sax. Whiskeydick Blues is a surprisingly PG-rated, coy look at a common late-night illness; this particular case has an unexpectedly happy ending. And their version of When the Saints Go Marching In is surprisingly fresh: they give it a brief, shuffling vintage soul intro before kicking it off with a soaring second-line vibe.
The best song on the album is Shine On, an original that clocks in at practically ten minutes. It’s got the best guitar solo released on any album this year. What makes it so good is that while it’s a long one, guitarist Joey “G-Note” Hundertmark doesn’t actually play a lot of notes – the way he builds tension, careening away from the center and back again, is magnetic, and genuinely breathtaking. Likewise, they kick off the ballad I Still Love You with a simple, catchy hook and build it until it reaches epic proportions – and then take it out with a trick ending. They wind up the album with the unstoppable optimism of Mighty Mighty Chain of Love (Pass It On).
Not everything here is as good as all this. Their brave attempt to make real soul music out of a campy top 40 hit by Queen falls flat: garbage in, garbage out. Their Creedence cover isn’t awful but it’s also pretty pointless – why a band whose originals are so strong would look elsewhere for material is a mystery that this album doesn’t answer. And there are some Branson moments that should have been left on the cutting room floor – the album’s practically 75 minutes could easily have been cut back to a solid hour. Still, how many bands can you name who can play a solid hour of music this good? Not many. The band is currently on East Coast tour; watch this space for upcoming NYC dates.
Concert Review: Brother Joscephus and the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra at Highline Ballroom, NYC 4/4/10
It was Karen’s birthday – after the band had serenaded her with a brief New Orleans groove, she got the memo and headed straight for the dancefloor. In less than a minute her entire party had joined her. Whoever she is, Karen may be thirty now but she’s still got the energy of a kid. Brother Joscephus and the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra could have kept everybody dancing for the entirety of their pretty lavish two-hour show had they not mixed in a handful of ballads. And what a show it was, an ecstatic eleven-piece New Orleans style gospel-soul band complete with horn section, rhythm section, two keyboards, guitar, two twirling backup singers, and Brother Joscephus (rhymes with Bocephus) out front with his gritty voice and acoustic guitar. Pianist The Right Reverend Dean Dawg led most of the band on a long, serpentine procession through the audience as the rhythm section grooved onstage, and after vamping around, getting the crowd going, they brought up Brother Joscephus just as James Brown’s band would have done circa 1964. Their sound, matched by their look (everybody in white, guys in hats, girls with matching parasols) is completely retro, right down to the scripted stage patter (replete with missed cues, which the band found as amusing as the crowd did). Two of the most memorable originals were straight-up tributes to the town where they get their inspiration: a joyously upbeat number where the band had invited all the little kids in the crowd up onstage to join them, soprano sax taking a delicious Dixieland-inspired solo; and the equally rousing Bon Temps Roulez, from their latest album (very favorably reviewed here).
Ironically, the best song of the afternoon, a spooky version of the absolutely noir, gravelly minor-key Midnight Move (also from the new album) didn’t resonate particularly well with the crowd. The covers were just as inspired as the originals: a blazing barrelhouse piano version of Jambalaya with a balmy tenor sax solo; a crescendoing When the Saints Go Marching In right before the band intros at the end, and an actually hilarious, completely over-the-top, perfectly modulating cover of Somebody to Love by Queen sung with carefree abandon by Seoul Sister #1 (she’s from Korea). Rev. Dean Dawg spun between his keyboard (and accordion, and glockenspiel) with pinpoint precision, signaling the changes as the women swayed and traded banter with the frontman while he worked the crowd (and laughed about it off-mic). But the choreography came off as Crescent City rather than Branson (except for that wretched Eagles excerpt during the band intros – guys, that’ll clear a New York room in seconds). For any band to play as inspired a set as this crew did is pretty impressive, all the more so when you realize that they took the stage just a few minutes after one in the afternoon – at what ungodly hour they soundchecked, we’ll never know.
Memo to the guitarist: dude, you’re too good to be going all modal and Wes Montgomery in the middle of a simple three-chord song like Jambalaya.
We do this every Tuesday, even today as we lie low in the heat. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Pretty much every link here will take you to each individual song.
1. The Oxygen Ponies – The War Is Over
Noir 60s pop redone as ferocious Bush-era antifascist rant. From their killer new cd Harmony Handgrenade.
2. Norden Bombsight – Snakes
3. Pray for Polanski – It’s a Lie
Scurrying noir blues, good stuff. They’re at Trash on 8/15 at 8.
4. Animus – Turkiko
AMAZING Greek/gypsy/Middle Eastern band. They will blow you away. They’re at Trash on 8/16 at 11.
5. Jesse Alexander & the Big Fatt – Pretty Promises
Boisterous, slightly Waits-ish oldtimey ska/ragtime inflected band w/horns and strings. “You’ll feel like you’re on drugs but in a good way.” At Trash on 8/15 at 11.
6. Kris Sour – LA Makeover
New Yorker shellshocked in El Lay – spot-on and catchy too!
7. Shonen Knife – Super Group
They’re back with a new bassist and sound exactly like they did ten years ago. And the song modulates! They’re coming to the Brooklyn Bowl in November.
8. Brother Joscephus & the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra – I Won’t Be That Man
Deliciously dark vintage 60s sounding New Orleans soul. They’re at Sullivan Hall on 8/14 at 10 opening for the Rebirth Brass Band
Sure, it’s a Jesus & Mary Chain ripoff, but it’s a lot of fun. They’re at Death by Audio on 8/14 at 11ish.
10. Willie Nile – House of 1000 Guitars
Sort of the NYC version of Leonard Cohen’s Tower of Song, title track from the killer new album.
This is an amazing album, one of the year’s best. It sounds like something straight out of New Orleans around 1966. Frontman Brother Joscephus sings in a warm, inspired drawl that seems to draw just as much from late nights in saloons as it does from the church – it’s a soulful blend of the worldly and the spiritual. His mighty gospel-fueled band, led by The Right Reverend Dean Dawg on piano and organ, features a four-piece horn section, four-piece vocal choir, tastily incisive 60s style soul guitar and a fat rhythm section. Brother Joscephus calls it “secular gospel” – all the passion of a Sunday morning service, with refreshingly inclusive, nondenominational lyrics that run the gamut from a piano-stoked tribute to his New Orleans hometown, to inspirational anthems and a couple of ballads. These songs are long! They stretch out, giving the band a chance to cut loose or hang on a vamp and get the crowd going. Everything here sounds like it was recorded live.
The album opens like a church service, swirling organ and horns setting the ecstatic mood that keeps going for pretty much the whole album. “Can I get an amen?” asks Brother Joscephus, the choir responds enthusiastically and off they go on a fast, slinky gospel groove. The joyous Bon Temps Roulez brings the good times to redline with a Mardi Gras party vibe. More Than I Need works up to an absolutely gorgeous chorus – the great beyond might be beckoning, but Brother Joscephus reminds that we’ve all got a lot of living to do while we’re still here, with an amusing little “sermon” on paradise serving as the break.
Can’t Help Myself is a slow, swaying breakup ballad with a bit of a vintage George Jones country feel, organ passing the baton to the guitar gracefully and wistfully before the horns and the choir pick it up at the end. After that, they’re back to a straight-up gospel groove, and then more of the party vibe with the deliriously fun second-line Bury Me in New Orleans. Interestingly, the best song on the cd might be the big, uncharacteristically dark 6/8 ballad I Won’t Be That Man, bristling with unexpected changes. The eerie intensity doesn’t let up, although the pace picks up again with a highway anthem, the Dr. John-flavored Midnight Moon: “Let the devil come and take me away!” The album ends on a high note with Don’t Give Up on Love, with its sly, Penny Lane-style horn chart. What Chicha Libre’s debut cd was to last year, this one is to 2009: the party album of the summer. Fans of classic gospel, New Orleans soul from Lee Dorsey on forward, and the best soul singers of this era from Sharon Jones to Eli “Paperboy” Reed will love this stuff. Brother Joscephus’ August 7 Rocks Off Concert Cruise is sold out; they’re at Sullivan Hall on 8/14 at 10 with the Rebirth Brass Band.