With their sophomore album Gutterfly – the original Soundtrack (a soundtrack to a movie that has never been made) the Portland, OR trio Lifesavas takes us on a journey to the streets of “Razorblade City”, impersonating the roles of Sleepy Floyd (JUMBO the Garbageman), Bumpy Johnson (VURSATYL) and Jimmy Slimwater (DJ SHINES), delivering a solid theme-album consisting of 70s funk inspired beats. Motivated by Baraka Feldman’s incomplete film sketches, using live instrumentation including horns and a smooth bass, the three North western musicians created a very melodic album that tells stories of the mean streets in a city where funk and soul are fundamental; add the profound lyrics that you would expect from label Quannum (best example are label mates Blackalicious) and you get what could have became a great album.
“Could have been” because a theme album can become magnificent but also go terribly wrong. Lifesavas did a pretty good job; however their songs seem to loose focus on the storyline at some points.
Unfortunately the album starts off with a song that might abate your interest. The beat chosen for “Double up” is annoying at times and the flow questionable. If they lost you with this one, they will win you back with the following track. “”Gutterfly”” features Camp Lo’s incomparable sound and shows that MCs Jumbo and Vursatyl don’t fail to shine amongst legends. This song made me want to put “Luchini” back in heavy rotation.
For the mellow part of the album you can find the neo-soul inspired “No surprise”, supported by Vursatyl’s vocal abilities and the therapeutical “Take me away” where Lifesavas talk about the beautiful struggle life brings and claim “I chose to be a prophet over profit”.
Their conscious side is perfectly displayed on the songs “Night out” (ft “The Prime Minister of Funk” himself George Clinton) and “Freedom Walk” dispensing their shared political message.
What are remarkable on this CD are the guest appearances. “The Squeeze” takes you to the gutter with a raw New York type of beat and brings in Smif N Wessun to show that the East coast has still got it.
“Freedom Walk” is one of the outstanding songs on this album partly because of guest MCs Dead Prez who added their touch to this revolutionary song as well as Vernon Reid of Living Colour on the guitar.
The CD does have its weak moments with songs like “Shine Language”, which becomes draggy after the first minute, or “A Serpent’s Love” offering a good message but an idea that wasn’t implemented in the best way.
Nevertheless by closing the album with the uplifting, party vibe loaded “Celebrate” the trio leaves you wanting to put the CD back in rotation, although you might skip some tracks.
Overall this is an enjoyable album with good production, winning you over with its’ charm and a sense of humor that will make you reminisce on De La Souls first albums. Diversity is what makes this one stand out.
Favorites: “Gutterfly”(ft Camp Lo)
Take me away