TO THE LEFT, TO THE RIGHT: TWO DEBUT RECORDS

Tribe of Ben | Vehicle

The exuberant melodies and big brassy hooks found on this boisterous debut from Tribe of Ben laugh and dance as they power songs full of jammy pop ("Captain Kool"). The excellent production and happenin' drums provide a rollicking sonic pasture for vocalist/guitarist Mark Hopkins. The band joyfully runs about the wilderness, gleeful lyrics belted atop Fender guitars, harp, slide and soaring horns ("The Way We Said So"). These boys have certainly studied the jam, yet reign it in for the song's sake. The envelope is more licked than pushed here, for when they take it out ("Head to Toe"), the joy is a bit self-indulgent. Vocals are an acquired taste at times, but the choice production/engineering allows for some well-endowed drums, and the Fenders are undeniable. Nice to see some people still wake up with a smile on their face, what with all the woe-is-me rock 'n' roll coming out these days.

Avatar - The Cosmic Hand

Deep in the heart of NY Giants country, just off Route 17, is a small town with an old school vibration that swells of pre-strip mall Jersey. Here you'll find huge colonial houses shaded by illustrious trees and greenery, pleasant sights and scents, a haven for creativity, and lots of fine art and culinary arts. Many great things in this world have come from Ridgewood, NJ, not the least of which is saxophonist/songwriter Vince Veloso. His talents, along with Matt Dickey on guitar and the rest of Avatar, create an acid jazz excursion that would sound right at home ten years ago alongside Groove Collective and the Solsonics. Often decidedly Latin in their stylings, Avatar hops and swings along, more jazzy than funky, with some serious bass gymnastics thrown in the mix. All in all this is an ambitious effort, one that probably translates better live as opposed to the controlled mayhem of this studio effort, which still sounds live, albeit muted. There is an Eastern flavor here, both in melody and artwork, one that could be further interpolated through Veloso and Dickey's extreme virtuosity and chemistry.

Brian Getz
JamBase | East
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[Published on: 11/24/03]

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