|Lettuce - Outta Here|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Tuesday, 16 July 2002|
Velour Recordings, 2002
| Performance 8 | Sound 8 |
With a name like Lettuce, you’d expect this CD to be bland, tasteless, crunchy hippie music, but that is far from the case. Collard Greens would be a better name for this ultra-funky bunch of twenty-five-year-olds who all attended a Berkeley School of Music summer program together when they were only 15. By day, the band used the school’s instruments for their music classes, because they didn’t have their own gear with them. At night they hit the streets asking Boston area club owners "Let us borrow your drum kit," "Let us crash on your couch," and of course, "Let us play,” hence the name of the band, Lettuce. Ten years later, these seven friends got back together to put together their debut album titled Outta Here.
Calling on influences ranging from Parliament, Earth Wind and Fire, Herbie Hancock and James Brown, to name just a few, Lettuce manages to pull off the seemingly impossible. This batch of 25-year-olds sound so much like true 1970s-era funksters that you’d think this album was pulled out of a time capsule buried by the members of Rick James’ band.
Outta Here is filled with guest appearances from some of the band’s musical heroes, including guitarist John Scofield, who tears it up on the jazzy tracks “Flu the Coop” and “Back in Effect.” Trombone legend Fred Wesley kicks out some jams with the band on “Superfred” and the title track “Outta Here.” Soulive organist Neal Evans joins the band as well on these tracks.
Outta Here is a mostly instrumental album, but the lone song with vocals titled “Twisted” features Tonni Smith from Jamaica Funk doing her best Chaka Khan impression, while the band moves and grooves with a Boosy Collins-esque fuzzy bass tone.
This funkfest from Lettuce could be the soundtrack to virtually any blaxploitation film of the ‘70s. Pop in the CD, cue any virtually any track and picture your favorite scene from “Foxy Brown,” “Dolomite” or “Superfly.” It’s incredible to hear such convincing funk coming from the instruments of musicians who were in diapers during the golden area of funk. Of course, the band does try to show off their Berkeley School of music chops and sometimes the songs dance on the edge between ‘70s funk and fusion jazz. This is most evident on the album’s last track “Nyack,” the lone live recording on Outta Here. Outside the confines of a studio, Lettuce shreds for nearly nine minutes straight, trading solos and musical ideas in a live jam session.
As vintage as the music on Outta Here sounds, the recording has the same vintage quality. There is an analog warmth to the recording of the album that manages to come across, even on CD. If Outta Here was recorded on a digital mixer and tape machine, the producer and engineer did an outstanding job of keeping the organic feel of a 1970s recording studio.
If you are tired of boring pop music with sub-par musicianship and want to hear some fresh talent from young musicians who are honor roll students in the school of funk, you’ve got to check out Lettuce.