The third release by Charlottesville-based Sokoband is a step in a new direction from their previously mellow origins. The band took the songs from their debut album, In November Sunlight, and re-recorded and mastered them for what is overall a huge improvement over already great songs.
In November Sunlight was a very jazzy, smooth album that could be described as "easy listening." The new versions of these songs really pick up the pace.
"Jiriki," somewhat of a classic song from this band which features Dave Matthews on vocals, used to be a light, vaguely tropical 5/4 jam with chords similar to "Take Five." The redone version of this adds rock 'n' roll flair, with electric guitar spicing it up and much more lively drums. Over the past years, Dave's voice has declined in some areas and improved in others, and I have to admit, on this track I prefer him in 1996. Still, it's wonderful, and would be fine if I hadn't been spoiled by the old version.
"Energy Change" went through an energy change, and was thoughtfully renamed to "Energy Changed" on the new album. Just like "Jiriki," it gets a heavy dose of electric guitar to bring it closer to rock. In the middle of the song, it even borders on techno. The new recording has a revised baseline which opens up the "sound space" for these new instruments. In addition to this we also find a new transition into the double-time section which makes it seem like a segue into a new song rather than the continuation. This could be either a pro or con, but I like it. Note: The band recently tweeted me mentioning that this is actually the old (1979) version of the song. So it changed back, not forth.
Added to "Coast to Coast" are horns or saxophones (I don't know how to tell the difference). The old version of this song was somewhat repetitive; the melody didn't really "pick up." In its new slot on the album, as opener, it gets it going with solid horns/sax, then mellows down to become like the In November Sunlight version. The sax solo on this track gives the listener a real feeling of adventure. It's exciting.
"And Yet Your Smile" is one of two all-new songs on this album. It's very percussion based. Perhaps I'm just impatient, but I feel like this is a bit drawn out. I would love to see it as a 1-2 minute intro to "Jiriki" or maybe "Body Home."
The other new track, "Nightfall," is also a percussion song. This song, while not particularly outstanding as-is, is a perfect finisher for the album that really cools down the ears well.
There are 5 more tracks on this album that I didn't get to, but trust me, they're all great. This album is one of the better ones I've purchased in a while. It has more guests than band members (17 vs 3), but this gives the songs somewhat of a "communal" feel that is nice to hear. All in all, it's a solid album and is a great introduction to this band.
Cross posted from Give Or Take.