Given the critical and commercial success of 1 and their rebirth as the "Crusaders," the band decided to follow up the previous LP's double length with another one! There are 13 tunes here, all extrapolating the band's previously held notions of soul-jazz and hard bop as they emerged into the new funky '70s. Textures were a little different this time out as keyboardist Joe Sample expanded his palette to include not only the Fender Rhodes but also his first (subtle) forays into synthesizer, while Wayne Henderson and Wilton Felder keep the crisp horn charts popping throughout. Stix Hooper was, at the time, the best soul-jazz drummer in the business with the possible exception of Idris Muhammad. The newly acquired, three-piece guitar choir led by Larry Carlton is everywhere in evidence here, but the real change is in the place of the bass in this mix. Chuck Rainey, who lent his fat warm electric bass tone to the previous outing, has been replaced by Felder's crisper, more rhythmic approach to the instrument. For the most part, the tunes are shorter here and rely far more heavily on groove aesthetics rather than jazz syncopations. Stewart Levine, ever the chameleon in the producer's chair, directed the sound to its more aggressively funky destination. There is plenty of singing soul here as evidenced by the opener, Sample's "Don't Let It Get You Down," which has a house-party feel and plenty of handclapping to keep the flow of the tune both easy and steady. The minor to major key strut of Henderson's "Take It or Leave It" is one of his first forays out of the striated harmonic charts he'd always written and into something so straight and direct it's jarring -- but killer nonetheless. Felder's "Look Beyond the Hill" could have been an instrumental dub version of something from the first Steely Dan album and has real resemblance in tone, texture, and tune to "Dirty Work." But the real surprise here is Stix Hooper's "Journey From Within." It's an Eastern-tinged modal groove with Carlton's guitar stinging in the middle around Sample's acoustic piano and Felder's loping bassline that becomes the pulse of the track. When the horns begin to move off the melody into solo territory, it becomes one of the first "out-jazz" funk tunes! The two longest cuts on the set are by Sample and serve as the hinges of the album coming as they do in the middle. "A Message From the Inner City" and "A Search for Soul" are both searching tunes that rely on lean, mean backbeats and breaks and both mess about with dynamic tension in unique ways. While the former tune is nearly pastoral in its tentative creation of the groove, the latter stutters and stars and moves off-kilter into a fluid whole. And while it's true that no single track stands out as much as the band's read of Carole King's "So Far Away" on 1, 2nd Crusade is just as consistent and enduring as its predecessor and may be more suited to the dancefloor. But make no mistake: this is a jazz record with greasy funk at its core, not a jazzy funk record.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek