Album review: LETTUCE – Unify


Round Hill Records [03.06.22]

I have to again confess a weakness for jazz funk and fusion.  And when I sometimes wrestle with the possible ignominy of such a statement on a rock-oriented website I recognise that it probably merely reflects a moment in time.  One that can be revisited and re-purposed, occasionally.

In the mid to late 1970s I was enthralled by the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire and Brothers Johnson, two of the main contenders in jazz funk at the time.  Both provided a soundtrack to fill dance floors in happier, more carefree days.  If there was a rock guitar in the mix as well, so much the better.

Bands like them merely upped the rhythm quotient for someone who bought Motown records in the late-1960s so there was at least a degree of continuity.

But I got over it.  By the late 1980s, rock had prevailed again.

This probably explains my enthusiasm for Lettuce and a 5/5 star review for their previous album ‘Resonate’.  Jazz funk played well is highly contagious and of course they tap into ageing folk (funk?) memory.

‘Unify’ reflects enforced isolation for the band over the past two years, an unwelcome respite from fairly consistent touring.  Although exchanging ideas remotely, their own fusion really comes together in the live context – in terms of actual gigs but in the process of song creation.

It’s the instrumental interplay that’s the focus here, tight, purposeful R&B (a la The Meters) with the main proponents Nigel Hall on keyboards and the twin brass of Ryan Zoidis (sax) and Eric Bloom (trumpet).  All perfectly held down of course by Erick ‘Jesus’ Coomes (bass) and Adam Deitch (drums).

Two tracks have a reggae/dub vibe at their core (‘Waffles’ (in spite of its ‘Fly Like An Eagle’ mid-section), ‘Hawk’s Claw’) which are not the straight ahead funk they do so well and so maybe detract from the whole along with sub-dubs like ‘Vamonos’ and ‘Insta-Classic’.  In this context ‘Unify’ doesn’t quite match the consistency of its predecessor.

There are four vocal pieces including one featuring vocals from the legendary Bootsy Collins (who was always at the more extreme and psychedelic end of funkdom) gives the band additional credibility if that were needed.

The band are scheduled to play a UK gig this September, short of a full tour.  Before then, for those of a certain persuasion, ‘Unify’ is the perfect backbeat to a hot summer.  Freed of social restrictions, imbibed with grog, the groove becomes as irresistible as it is welcome.  To quote Bootsy: “Keep That Funk Alive”.  They do.  ***1/2

Review by David Randall

Album review (Resonate, 2020)

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