Unlock Your Mind

The Soul Rebels

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Unlock Your Mind Review

by Jon O'Brien

Described as "the missing link between Public Enemy and Louis Armstrong," the eight-piece Soul Rebels Brass Band have played a pivotal role in keeping the New Orleans jazz sound alive. Jazz purists may balk at the playful cover of Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," which substitutes the original's pulsing electro beats and stark synths for some Latino percussion and vibrant reggae horns, and the laid-back A Tribe Called Quest-esque raps that permeate the likes of the hip-hop-tinged "My Time" and the vintage funk of "I Made It." But as support slots with acts as varied as James Brown, Green Day, and Fugees would suggest, Soul Rebels Brass Band aren't exactly a traditional jazz band. This fusion of contemporary and classic doesn't always quite come off. An instrumental version of Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City" turns the Motown standard into a chaotic and self-indulgent marching band number, while the corny "Showtime" sounds like the Village People fronting the theme tune to a corny '70s soap opera. But for the most part, it's difficult not to be enamored by the impressive musicianship on board, whether it's the tight percussion on a rendition of Lee Dorsey's "Night People," the squealing sax solos on "I'm So Confused," or the funky guitar licks of pure party opener "504," while the likes of the Meters' Leo Nocentelli and Cyril Neville, the latter of whom contributes to the album's highlight, a ska-fused reworking of the Staple Singers' title track, help further establish the band's authenticity. It's hard to shake the feeling that Soul Rebels Brass Band are probably a much more captivating experience live than they are on record, but Unlock Your Mind is a decent attempt to capture some of their renowned carnival atmosphere.

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