|"The Mood-Soundsational" - Avila Brothers
by Michael Heyliger
In the history of urban music, it's not
uncommon for producers or production
teams to play both sides of the board
and make records. Babyface was as
popular as a smooth vocalist as he was
for producing everyone under the sun.
Teddy Riley invented hip-hop R&B as a
producer as well as a performer with Guy
and BLACKstreet. Then, of course, there
are the multi-artist compilations that fall
under a producer's name-like Quincy Jones or Dr. Dre albums.
The latest urban production team to switch over as a recording team
are the Avila Brothers; Bobby Ross and Isaiah. Well-that's not entirely
correct. Bobby Ross Avila made a couple of albums dating back to the
early Nineties-when he was a child prodigy passed off as the Chicano
Tevin Campbell. After a slammin' adult album got shelved by his
record company, he and his little bro signed on as the apprentices of
super-producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, and have since been
responsible for some of the tastier moments on albums by Usher
("Truth Hurts" & "That's What It's Made For") and Janet Jackson
("Like You Don't Love Me").
The duo's "The Mood-Soundsational" is sort of a combination
plate-there are tracks where Bobby Ross sings, tracks that contain
guest singers and/or rappers, and a couple of instrumental
cuts/interludes as well. Despite sounding on paper like a little bit of a
mess, "Soulsational" is definitely one of those albums that has a
distinct flow to it. It's one of those albums that has a mellow, vibey
sort of quality. Even the club tracks fit in with the rest of the
album-you can imagine hanging out with friends and lounging to it, or
laying back to it, or doing the nasty to it.
Bobby Ross' voice has a mellow, smooth quality to it, drawing
favorable comparisons to vocalists like Jon B. or Chico De Barge. "I
Want You" is a lush jam that nicks a little bit from the Marvin Gaye
classic of the same name. Gently galloping echoing finger snaps and
an enchanting melody help set a dim-lit easygoing mood. It also pops
up as the instrumental coda to the album. "Love's Mystery" is a
Latin-spiced duet with female vocalist Shelea Frazier and the song's
woozy early-morning flavor brings me back to "Taking Book"-era
Stevie Wonder. It's nice to hear a duet that sounds organic as
opposed to two vocalists practically fight-singing over a track trying to
outdo one another. Bobby then takes the reins for a fairly traditional
pop ballad. "Nic Of Time" (misspelling intentional) boasts a tasty
chorus and a melody that wouldn't sound out of place on a Lionel
Richie album (one of the good ones anyway).
The hip-hop oriented songs on here are well-crafted enough that
even non-hip-hop fans will enjoy them. The MC's included here all
perform well. Little Brother drops a quick 16 on the sunny "Smile".
"Tilt Ya Cup" features MC Sly Boogie, who's no more or less
embarrassing than any other MC who'd rhyme on a song called "Tilt
Ya Cup"-he's just an anonymous cat-the song is saved by a
hip-wiggling beat and a nice little flute solo at the end of the track.
"It's Over Now" is another trunk-rattler, featuring forgotten mid-90's
rapper Ahmad AKA "Back in the day when I was young/I'm not a kid
anymore...". Boasting much-improved rhyme skills, Ahmad takes it
back in the day again, making an intelligent plea for the skills that
made the glory days of hip-hop so special. He also gets the creativity
award for rhyming "razors" with "made ta" with "Stojakovic
Peja"-sorry, I like silly sh*t like that. There's one hip-hop related
misstep called "Something To Feel" featuring a rapper named Dirty
Birdie, who tries to hard to sound like "Guilty Conscience"-era Eminem
and winds up sounding like one of the lesser members of D12-not a
The instrumental interludes are OK, particularly the ones that sort of
pad the beginning of the album-as they mix a jazzy, mellow musical
bae with some frenetic turntable scratching and vocal samples that
bound in and out of the mix. Long time Jam/Lewis associate "Big" Jim
Wright steps in on "Big Jim's Sonata", and the unfortunate result
sounds like someone playing the 30 second intro of a Minnie Riperton
ballad-for 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
Thankfully, the album rebounds with jams like "Give The Horns Some".
This track is like dueling instruments. Over an irresistibly funky bed,
trumpets blow, people chant, and the brothers work the vocoder like
Roger Troutman used to back in the day.
What sticks most about this album is that these brothers obviously
love music. They're able to take several genres of music and mesh
them into an album that sounds like a cohesive hole. Unlike many
multi-artist single-producer compilations, the album doesn't sound
messy, the guest shots don't sound forced. While "Soundsational"
will almost certainly fall under the commercial radar, boasting not one
big name guest, it's definitely an album that will be appreciated both
by the more musical hip-hop fan, or fans of soul or jazz that don't
mind occasional rhyming in their music
Find out more about the Avila Brothers by visiting their site: