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4.8 6
by Robert Randolph & the Family Band
Plucked from the House of God Church, a Pentecostal denomination that's known for its roof-raising incorporation of pedal steel guitar into its worship, Robert Randolph continues to spread his ecstatic gospel with Unclassified. Not that Randolph specifically invokes Christianity on this album. But the soul-shocking power of his music is undeniably sourced in


Plucked from the House of God Church, a Pentecostal denomination that's known for its roof-raising incorporation of pedal steel guitar into its worship, Robert Randolph continues to spread his ecstatic gospel with Unclassified. Not that Randolph specifically invokes Christianity on this album. But the soul-shocking power of his music is undeniably sourced in the church, and his mainstream success may just be the biggest boost that gospel's gotten since Ray Charles took spirituals to the top of the pop charts in the '50s. Backed by the Family Band, which includes his cousins Danyell Morgan (bass and vocals) and Marcus Randolph (drums), Randolph conducts his shows and recordings like a church service -- or a jam band -- with each song reaching higher and higher, harder and louder, before pulling back. The flirtatious call-and-response is at the root of rock and goes deeper, encompassing all African-derived rhythms, some of which Randolph samples on Unclassified. The Sly Stone–style funk of "Soul Refreshing" and "I Need More Love" meets Latin rock on "Calypso"; "Run for Your Life" counts on the pedal steel's country associations to drive its point home; while "Why Should I Be Lonely" roars forth straight from the church. Randolph's knees-weakening playing holds it all together, taking the music higher and higher, thanks to his deep arsenal of licks, judicious use of effects, and a simply inspired way with his unique instrument. One listen to Unclassified, and newcomers will join the choir in praise of this dynamo.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
The second full-length from sacred steel genius Robert Randolph & the Family Band delivers, from the studio, the same promise, grit, grease, and sweat that Live at the Wetlands did. Randolph pulls out the stops in the studio, using his own band, without any of the hotshot guest stars who he's appeared with in the last two years. Unclassified features a road-tested, studio-savvy band using all of its collected gifts with producer Jim Scott to make a record that is as much about soul, funk, hard rock, folk, and jam band intensity as it is about the gospel music that first inspired the unit. On first listen, listeners might be taken aback by "So Refreshing," with its soul groove and tight gospel arrangements and a greasy P-Funk bass running alongside Randolph's razor-wire and switchblade steel. But contrast it with the in-the-pit wail of "Squeeze," with organs and syncopated rhythms playing counterpoint to the steel and bass, or the Stevie Wonder-esque hard funk of "I Need More Love," with keyboards rollicking along the groove as the bass literally pops around a chorus that delivers the call-and-response choir in full-on, Sunday church, Funkadelic effect. Unclassified is, in all of its varied approaches to gospel music and the sacred steel tradition, incontrovertible proof that they can deliver from the booth as well as they do on a stage and with more variety. This is a free-sounding record, given how so much of it feels live with its intensity and its focus on shape-shifting rhythmic and harmonic structures in the improvising, yet all within the context of "song." "Smile" features tender lyrics and gorgeous harmonies, while "So Refreshing," with its Sly Stone Fresh-era open R&B pockets of easy melodic invention and rumbling funky overtones, gives the vocalists lots of room to bring home the atmosphere of the tune; it's summery, free, and full of light. These two tracks stand in sharp contrast to the jam sensibilities that much of the rest of the album operates on, but they are wondrously multi-dimensional portals into the band's collective psyche. While it's true that Randolph's steel, which is immediately recognizable everywhere here, is supplanted by the fattest, gnarliest bass this side of Bootsy Collins, the instrumental attack of the Family Band is in its ability to change its sound on virtually every track. "Calypso," with its flights-of-fancy explorations into the realms of jazz-rock and Santana-esque Latin jam consciousness, opens up the American gospel palette infinitely, and the shattering country gospel -- via New Jersey nightclub rock & roll infusion -- of "Run for Your Life" that caps the disc is a summation of the journey; that journey is spiritual and full of humor, empathy, and expansive notions of what music is, and how it plays a role in the relief of suffering in everyday life. This is multivalent music, full of the message of joy, passion, and realization, and it is played in such an enlightened manner, so completely unburdened by the rigidities of context and category, that it exists on its own plane. How many times can you say that about a pop record in the 21st century? Unclassified is truly awesome and inspiring; it provides a guidepost for sacred steel music in the future and will hopefully enter the mainstream -- though that's doubtful -- of American popular culture.
Rolling Stone
Randolph sings expressions of devotion to a lover or a higher power with a believer's conviction, then relies on his wailing, writhing, soaring-at-eagle-altitude guitar lines to bring his point home.
Entertainment Weekly - Chris Willman
[Randolph's] signature sound... suggests Sly's own Family meeting the brothers Allman and Doobie at a gospel throwdown. (B)

Product Details

Release Date:
Warner Bros / Wea


Album Credits

Performance Credits

Robert Randolph & the Family Band   Primary Artist
Neal Casal   Background Vocals
Candace Anderson   Background Vocals
Daniel Morgan   Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Electric Guitar,Vocals
John Ginty   Piano,Hammond Organ
Lenesha Randolph   Background Vocals
Robert Randolph   Acoustic Guitar,Pedal Steel Guitar,Electric Guitar,Vocals
Marcus Randolph   Drums

Technical Credits

Jim Scott   Producer,Engineer
Rick Fowler   Duet
Daniel Morgan   Composer
Mike Buckman   Art Direction
John Ginty   Composer
Ryan Hewitt   Engineer
Lenesha Randolph   Duet
Robert Randolph   Composer
Marcus Randolph   Composer
Robert Randolph & the Family Band   Producer

Customer Reviews

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Unclassified 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
great cd...and that's great pedal steel, my dear..nonetheless one of the best live performances you'll ever catch nowadays...backing vocalist , neal casal, is def worth checking out in his own right...
Guest More than 1 year ago
I grew up with listening to tunes like this in church. We had 2 pedal steel players in our church, growing up, although they have moved away from using these dynamic instruments in today's services. But I miss kind of musicianship being in our services. BUt this music is HOT and makes it hard to listen and be still, its a real mover!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When Robert Randolph And The Family Band took the rock scene by storm in the early-2000's and became another star on the Jam Band circuit, he would be hailed by the music press as a fresh and diverse voice in rock and roll which would result with a highly successful recording contract with Warner Brothers. Starting with his dazzling debut live CD Live At The Wetlands in 2002, the band's rise to fame would be complete as the album became a blockbuster success as it topped the rock chats--and the band would be selected by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the Best New Artists To Look Out For In 2002. Then with the release of their studio album Unclassified in 2003, the future of Robert Randolph and his band was finally solidified when the CD topped the rock rock charts while it again showcased Randolph's electrifying steel pedal or guitar solos and the band's high-rocking energetic tone during their explosive rise to fame. So if you are interested in great high-swinging rock and roll with an energetic tone, then I would strongly suggest that you pick up both Live At The Wetlands and Unclassified. With five CD's added to their credit, including Above The Rest (2005), Colorblind (2006) and their upcoming CD in 2009, we will be hearing a lot more of Robert Randolph And The Family Band for a long time. The band is unique!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great slide guitar....legendary! I would hardly classify this under the religious music because it is way more jam, although they have connections to many soulful tunes. Wonderful show at Bonnaroo! Do not miss!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago