The opening seconds of Free Radicals' debut CD, The Rising Tide Sinks All, are ungodly cacophony. So many instruments -- horns, flute, drums, saxophone, guitar -- you name it -- sound off towards such different ends that it's hard to know whether to laugh or to cringe. But before you know it, the mucky, atonal morass gives way to a spry, succinct, funk beat, and "The School of the Americas" is off and running. In a sense, the song is a loose rendering of James Brown's cocksure rave "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" -- albeit one that's purely instrumental -- and with a title revised to reflect the pre-millennium's screwed-up state of affairs. For the record, the School of the Americas is a controversial training compound run by the U.S. Army in Georgia; its Latin American graduates are the source of countless human-rights atrocities south of the border. While Free Radicals' drummer/producer Nick Cooper may not fully agree with that somewhat flip assessment of the School, he'd have to acknowledge that it sums up a lot of what the Free Radicals' concept is about musically. Easily among the most linear and comprehensible of the CD's 29 tracks, "The School of the Americas" is chaos with a spine; the band's mesmerizing, eclectic rhythms serve as the vertebrae. Taking the musical collective premise to near-illogical extremes, The Rising Tide Sinks All is about as all-inclusive as fusion gets; no genre is a safe distance from its skewed orbit: ska, jazz, R&B, soul, rap, hip-hop, funk, or even surf. Vast in every capacity, the album lists 55 contributors in its lengthy credits.
AllMusic Review by Hobart Rowland