Guitarist Vernon Reid and DJ Logic released their first album on Rope a Dope in 2002, but their particular blend of rock, jazz fusion, electronica, and hip hop seems tailor-made to Thirsty Ear's Blue Series. On their second outing, The Tao of Yo, the Yohimbe Brothers join forces with Chris Castagno and Danny Blume, also known as GoodandEvil, a production team oft-used in the series. This collaboration yields a record which is powerful, eclectic, soulful, and stirring.
Reid has long involved political commentary in his music, and The Tao is no exception. Songs like "TV," "Words They Choose," and "More from Life" espouse casting a suspicious eye both at our government and the propagandizing of network media apparatuses. Guest turns by vocalists and rappers Latasha Nevada Diggs, Shantyman, Taylor McFerrin, Bos Omega, Traz, and Ricky Quinones assure that the narrators vary throughout the album, even if their message remains similar.
Of course, whether or not you are sympathetic to their viewpoint, there is no denying the force of Reid and Logic's formidable musical powers. Reid's guitar-god prowess remains undiminished; he is able to craft a funky and hard rhythm guitar groove on "TV" that would effortlessly fit in as part of his Living Colour oeuvre, while "The Secret Frequency" features incandescent solo fireworks. Logic's turntablism is consummately tasteful, mixing solid beats with singular textural flair. Even when the canvass is somewhat minimally constructed, as on "Words They Choose," all of the rhythmic essentials are present and placed with tremendous care. Tao of Yo creates message-filled music that truly resonates. - Christian Carey
Yohimbe Brothers - The Tao Of Yo (Thirsty Ear)
by Adam Hill
22 October 2004
What to make of this lively farrago, ranging from hip-hop to Latin pop to glam metal? Well, if you heard the Yohimbe Brothers previous outing, Front End Lifter, then you will not be surprised by the party mix sensibility that dispenses with any notion of cohesion. But will you be disappointed? That depends.
The Yohimbe Brothers are Vernon Reid and DJ Logic, both veterans of a NYC scene that thrives on a restless experimentalism with genres, which has made the idea of jazz players working with turntablists and rappers seem commonplace. And so it makes sense that this new recording appears on Thirsty Ear.
DJ Logic has done some fabulous work under his own name, as well as adding some charge to records by Medeski, Martin, and Wood. Vernon Reid of course is best known for his group Living Colour.
Logic work's on this new Yohimbe Brothers release seems to lack freshness; there's nothing exceptional in his beats or collaging of riffs, and while he has shown on many occasions how well he works with jazz players, working with a guitarist whose style is mostly informed by heavy metal is not a great match.
Vernon Reid is simply not a very interesting guitarist; his leads and solos are the stale stuff that, because they come off loud and fast, fools a lot of people with mullets into believing it's masterly. (Note to Vernon: spend some serious alone time listening to Sonny Sharrock on the headphones).
Most of the cuts feature vocals and/or raps, and many have a political edge to them. The best, by far, is "More From Life", which cleverly catalogs the injustices perpetrated by those "party people in the GOP" while scolding the voluntarily disenfranchised to "put the blunt down and pay attention to the town". The worst is "No Pistolas", a four-minute irritation in the form of a Latino pop song that seems absolutely ripe for a melodramatically silly video on Mexican MTV.
All in all, you really have to like hip-hop and DJ mashes to enjoy this release. There's nothing resembling jazz here (not a bad thing), though there are plenty of DJ Logic's funky-chunky beats. It's mostly fun, but nothing radically new.