Soulive: No Place Like Soul

With their sixth studio LP, No Place Like Soul (Stax), the New York-based jazz/funk trio Soulive looks to further distance itself from the jam band scene. In an attempt to push its sound in a new direction, the band has added a new member, Boston-based vocalist Toussaint, who appears on most of the album’s tracks. Soulive already took a step in the vocal direction with the band’s previous release, Breakout, and while the addition of vocals certainly makes the album more appealing to mainstream music fans, they may turn off music aficionados who listen to Soulive for the arpeggios. Regardless of whether the addition of a permanent vocalist was a good move, Soulive does deserve some credit for the new album’s genre surfing. Whereas you could throw on some of the band’s earlier releases as background music and not notice when one song ends and the next begins, No Place Like Soul does have some variation. “Outrage” is a fine example of the Soulive’s traditional guitar-driven instrumental funky jazz. “If This World Were a Song” is a soulful reggae jam. “Morning Light,” is a chunky soul jam that makes good use of Toussaint. And “Yeah Yeah” channels George Clinton while “Bubble” is an epic instrumental with a huge sound.Unfortunately, not all of the experimentation on No Place Like Soul leads to good results. Maybe it’s the vocals, but the album’s first five tracks are so cheesy, they come off like a cross between Lenny Kravitz, John Legend and Ben Harper filtered through a wedding band. Overall, Soulive is a fun, talented and well-meaning band and No Place Like Soul is a hit-or-miss album that showcases both how high they can rise and how low they can fall. At their worst, they can sound like something you’d hear on a smooth jazz radio station after some Kenny G. At their best, Soulive can sound like a group of amazingly talented, soulful, funky musicians.