The Grassy Knoll

Positive

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Time and changes in sampling/hip-hop aesthetics rendered the Grassy Knoll's work less cutting-edge and more representative of a phase but, for all that, Positive succeeds as an enjoyable if slightly stiff exploration of jazz-meets-breakbeat culture. Green and his backing band definitely play off the sense of improvisation and group contribution; while Green is credited as the full arranger and sole composer, one can almost sense the sessions being added to by the other performers. If there's a key if not crippling fault, it's that at points Green generally seems rhythmically conservative based on what he's trying to do -- while there's variety between songs, there's not always much changing inside them. Exceptions certainly exist: Consider the fluid jumping around on "Slow Steady Salvation," one of the album's best songs, while the stuttering rhythm on the concluding "End of It All," matched by some great guitar from Green, is well worthy. If things are conventional with many of the beats, that's where the other elements of the songs step to the fore and, whether it's the interjections of Grady's trumpet or Byerly's sax or more, the result is usually quite enjoyable dark funk noir, not too far off from what fellow Texan MC 900 Ft. Jesus was trying around the same time. "The Americans" is a great example of everything connecting, a queasy, unsettling guitar line and steady rhythm underpinning Byerly's wails. Bursts of orchestral samples and other sudden drop-ins add to the unsettled, intriguing nature of the performances, while various guest performances, including two guitar appearances by Ralph Patlan, are worth noting. At Positive's least inspired, things more often resemble flaccid acid jazz than the fierce fire of electric Miles, but when Green and cohorts are on, they burn damn well.

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