It’s easy to enjoy Robert Randolph and the Family Band’s Colorblind, but in the end, it will have you searching for a copy of his stellar debut Live at the Wetlands. That’s the rub with Robert Randolph, as years ago, the more his sets grew repetitive and his jams predictable, the more we craved stronger, more varied songs. But does the quest for songs mean no more goofy, sloppy fun?
Colorblind tries to deliver as much, but it teeters dangerously close to throwing the baby out with the bathwater: too much emphasis on mixes, production, and tidy endings, and surprisingly little of the mojo that makes Randolph, Danyel, Marcus and Jason such a scintillating combo. And despite Randolph’s ever-expanding Rolodex of pals–of whom Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, Leroi Moore, Rashawn Ross, and Leela James appear on Colorblind–it’s only James that meets Randolph on his party-ready terms, making sexy work of "Stronger." As long as the Family Band is firing on all cylinders, a great song from them is a gift, and the first two ("Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That" and "Deliver Me") definitely taste good.
But to rein in the band, it only further reminds the listener that RRFB’s songwriting talents are miles below its virtuosity, despite the fact that the band’s tastes and reach–funk, R&B, sacred steel, jam-rock, gospel blues–continue to broaden. What should be a graduation from the more loose-limbed songs on 2003’s Unclassified actually pales in comparison in many cases. I suppose we can’t have it both ways. Then again, given the towering musicianship and infectious, let’s-boogie attitude of both Randolph and his co-conspirators, is it really too much to ask?