Sunday, January 27, 2008

Happy Birthday from L.A.!


Truth and Soul


Half a lifetime ago, during my freshman year in high school, I was given this CD (in one of those horrible looooong CD boxes) by my friend Gabe for my 15th birthday on May 11, 1992. What I knew at the time was that Fishbone was one of my favorite bands in the universe and that I would soon be going to see them perform live for the first time (with NOFX opening!). What I didn’t know at the time was that Gabe was handing me their magnum opus.

Truth and Soul
starts out with an energetic take on Curtis Mayfield’s Freddie’s Dead. It’s the perfect opener; an announcement that Fishbone will be picking up where Mayfield left off musically and lyrically. Truth and Soul, then, are the message and the messenger. Their take on Mayfield’s classic emphasizes the nature of the band itself; all of the members take turns with the lyrics and with solos. It’s a musical declaration of who the group is where they will taking your over the next hour.

From there they dive right into "Ma and Pa", a take on chaotic family upbringings and their effects on society. It forms the latter half of a perfect one-two with the opener. When they’re done, you’re not sure what decade you’re in but damn does it sound good! "Question of Life" follows with what can only be described as a modern ska version of Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. Truth and Soul indeed.

The album continues like this, never slowing down to let you catch your breath with filler. Every track on here showcases the frantic bass playing of Norwood Fisher and guitar work of Kendall Jones. Their trademark energy blasts out of the speakers on every track. The band tackles subjects such as the class divide (“Deep Inside”), race relations (“One Day”, “Slow Bus Movin’”), friendship (“Mighty Long Way”), death (“Pouring Rain”), total absurdity (“Bonin’ in the boneyard) and everything in between.

20 years after its release, it still sounds as fresh as they day it was pressed. The themes are familiar to anyone living in this time, and the instrumentation’s perfection is a stark reminder of just how much talent this group packed in their earliest incarnation.

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