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Roots of Creation | RoC Live Vol. 2

Album review by John Powell

roots of creation | ROC Live Vol. 2

If I had to choose one descriptive word for this second installment of selected live tracks, it would be “Heavy”, as in, Roots of Creation don’t back down and they don’t half-ass anything. The eight tracks on Live Vol. 2 come from 2009 and 2010 concerts, and, in a way, is the best introduction to the group that I can think of.

But returning to the word “heavy”. Even the most upbeat song on the album is called “Death March”, just to give you an idea of how conscious, political, and poignant, RoC can be. “One heart still barely beating/one lung still barely breathing/one love separated from me cheating,” is followed by, “I guess nothing is constant...except…women with their head game.”

Pretty, yes, but heavy too.

Vol. 2 begins with “Policy”, a reggae-driven rock song with the catchy chorus, “We don’t need your money/we don’t need your policy…You’re evil, can’t you see?” Singer/guitarist Brett Wilson leaps from sung melody to a half rap with ease. He doesn’t have the prettiest voice, but it works well for this kind of music, sort of how Zack de la Rocha works for Rage Against the Machine- although RoC definitely never get as extreme.

But if “Policy”, as an opening track, is a reasonably approachable song, something hip/ hop, reggae, and rock fans can agree on, “Mammoth” follows, with a near-metal guitar riff, thrashing drums, and reverberating organ. It builds into a roar and falls into a dub groove. One guitar plays a quieter version of the intro melody, while a second guitar jams out a solo. As a five-minute instrumental, the song is a mammoth of energy and movement, never boring. “Get your hands up,” Brett tells the audience, and you have to remember, this is a live song, and it will take liberties.

“Searchin’” is slinky, and a great example of how rootsy RoC can get. “I can’t find the truth,” Brett sings, “So how can I uplift the youth?” The organ sizzles and the bass, high in the mix, forces you to nod in time. As the band finds an electronica-style bounce, Brett says, “How you doin’, Nativa?” and the crowd that has gathered in Maine for the annual festival screams with glee. If you close your eyes, you can picture a packed room, some spinning lights, sprays of sweat flying into the air, and the band on stage, drifting into a jam meant for dancing. If the first few tracks traversed from tight songs to multi- compositionals, “Searchin’” is for the rave lovers.

Following is “Dubby Conquerer”, an even more atmospheric jam with a weird, almost klezmer romp slyly slid underneath the overdriven guitars. It’s nine minutes of proof that RoC will not be confined by any sound or time limit. They interweave face melting guitar play, 70’s organ fills, dubby bass, and groove-oriented drums. It’s also proof that while they can have poetic song lyrics, they’re just as capable instrumentalists.

They cover the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place”, and I am admittedly not a fan of the Talking Heads. This version, however, is bass-heavy, a clear pause in the powerful RoC originals, and a moment to have fun. A good cover choice on their part.

They also cover Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How it Feels”, but in their usual way have added guitar fuzz and they turn the pop song into a cheery reggae groove, with light lead playing throughout. The bass feels like a cobra burping, (in this case, that’s a really good thing). Both covers are nice additions to the live set, to showcase the group’s influences and ability to make any song their own.

The album sounds live, certainly. It’s not too polished, but also isn’t overproduced. If you listen to the studio cuts off of Rise Up or The End of the Beginning, you find live RoC to sound much different, and in many ways preferable. Many bands are always trying to capture their live sound on studio recordings, and they can’t always do it. Luckily, RoC offers Vol. 2, the closest thing to actually being there.


 

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