And it's good, very good. This disc has more soul, brims with more vitality, than half the discs that pass for music on corporate labels. Jam-packed with 74 minutes of music, Unity and Diversity shows off One World Tribe's many faces and facets to astonishing effect.
To be sure, it's not only a big band - with ten members - but a mighty diverse one. Members boast credentials in a variety of musical genres, including classical, jazz, reggae, rock, Latin, funk and R&B. With One World Tribe, they find a way to bring all those under one roof in a joyous, celebratory way.
What ties it all together - more than the world-music tag - is a common vision. Their assorted songwriters - and pretty much everybody contributes - ascribe to a similar world view. It's a we're-all-in-this-together thing, so let's-get-along utopianism; a belief that one universal truth governs us all. They mistrust power, decry poverty and violence, urge tolerance and respect of people's differences. And yet - beyond the lyrics - they say all this by the simple act of standing together on stage, making music. It's one thing to preach unity and harmony, regardless of race and sex and religion, and another to actually DO it, play it live, loud and proud.
"No Justice, No Peace" salutes Marley-style reggae with an in-the-pocket verve, thanks to Chin's deep-burbling bass and DeBoe's warm back-up vocals. Preach - a toaster up there with Toastmaster - also shines on the exuberant, horn-powered reggae opener "Go Forward," which has a nice, rippling piano break, and the more playful "Mr. Gahnja Mon."
The Doc also likes the furious scratch-funk of "Who Gets the Money?" and breezy, groove-laden "Money Don't Make It Right," an R&B pleaser. One World Tribe throws longtime fans a bone by doing the Meter's "Keep on Struttin," in a re-worked version that really cooks. Take it to the bridge? Take it to the bank: This jaunty/funky version swings like a night on the town. And "Maria Caracoles," a peppy, Latin-fueled burner sung in Spanis, works in any language. It's got some squalling guitar and a jazzed-up ending.
Guest star Terrance Simien provides stellar accordion work on the sassy "We Are One," which features scorching congas, some African chanting, and intense rhythmic undertow. OWT's rhythm section, by the way, is stellar.
With "Mosi Oa Tunya" and "Rio," One World Tribe widens its horizon, exploring jazzier terrain. The former also dives deeply into African chant and features an extended horn solo. It's a complex, fascinating track, one of the Doc's favorites. "Rio" has an airier feel, sort of Santana meets Manhattan Transfer, and closes with a jazzy jam.
The only cut the Doc doesn't much care for is the King's X remix of "No Justice," delivered in rapid-fire rap. But the reggae-tinged title track closes the disc on a bubbly, upbeat note. You gotta like a song which encourages you to sing, "no more lawyers." And when it kicks into percussive overdrive, it really lifts off, showing One World Tribe's musicality and inventiveness.
With Unity and Diversity, One World Tribe has produced one mighty good disc that might have some folks thinking they're from Erie, Jamaica, or Erie, N.Y., not Erie, Pa. It's a first-class package from a classy band.