Album Review: Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

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3.5

The sound and color of the latest Alabama Shakes release may not lure fans as much as their first record did, but this new studio effort from the Athens, Alabama native blues/garage/roots rock, five-piece soul project presents a toned down energy that grooves and still has some memorable moments.

From the very first note of the title track, played on rhodes keys with an airy effect, listeners are hypnotized with music that belongs in stoned Dazed and Confused movie scenes. The syncopated drumbeat will generate a steady head nod and powerful vocal harmonies complete with recurring xylophone triplets drive the song.

Don’t Wanna Fight blasts off into the Shakes’ classic sound as Brittany Howard begins the song with vocals that mirror the screeching brakes of a car, stopping short to prevent an accident. Although most of the album provides a lower energy, this tracks proves that the band don’t wanna fight with the critics who look forward to major changes from record to record.

The third track Dunes presents this slower, after-midnight energy that is present throughout most of Sound & Color but with booming guitars and howling vocals, the band serves the large dose of power and soul that hooked their fans on Boys & Girls. The song ends with a minute of distorted guitars and crashing drums, as the Shakes channel Led Zeppelin’s classic tune Ten Years Gone.

The placement of Gimme All Your Love on this record is perfect because at track five it encapsulates both the slower toned town theme as well as the hard-rocking soul dominated verve on songs like Be Mine and Hold On from the first album. During the chorus Brittany belts out “Gimme all your love” with only a soft drumbeat backing her, setting the power and mood for the rest of the song.

One of the most memorable songs on the album is track eight The Greatest. The fast paced drum beat and distorted power chords channels The Doors as the Shakes create their own spin on progressive punk. The song is a psychedelic ride of synthesizers and a roller coaster of energy, which is probably why listeners will quickly re-listen to the tune. Sound & Color is a weird step for the Alabama Shakes, but the hard-rock feeling and bluesy power still rocks on.

Scott J. Herman