The Commotions – Volume II
The Commotions are a rare act in the music world 2017. They certainly aren’t a retro band despite embracing a arch traditional popular music genre like R&B/soul/blues/funk as promoted by legendary imprints like Stax and Motown, but they demonstrates a clear breadth of musical knowledge while still offering listeners original material and a thoroughly modern presentation. The eleven member band calls the Ottawa, Canada area home and boast a lineup with a horn section, guitars, keyboard and, of course, powerhouse vocals. The singing comes from two different members, Jeff Rogers and Rebecca Noelle, and they bring very different but sympathetic artistic approaches to their respective songs that set the band even further apart from the pack. The band’s songwriting brain trust revolves around three figures, Noelle, guitarist David Gaw, and tenor saxophonist Brian Asselin, but there’s a seamlessness existing from song to song that comes together to make a deep impact on anyone listening.
Rebecca Noelle owns the first two songs on the album with her wild-eyed passion and mammoth singing chops. “Good Enough” is the album’s first song and they begin things with a track that has muscular verses and a chorus that Noelle takes straight into the atmosphere while the second track, “Bad Girl”, is a grittier number that Noelle sinks her teeth deep into while also demonstrating her range as an interpretive performer. The great singers get inside the material and seem to live it out for audiences as a song is playing and there are few better examples than these two tracks. “Let Me Kiss You, Baby” has a fantastic bass and drum performance from Ken Seeley and Jeff Asselin, respectively, and a lights out chorus that Noelle once again sends skyward. Ken Seeley makes his mark a second time with great playing on “Too Little Too Late” and the song’s breakneck pace is no obstacle to both Noelle and the band making it go even better with their attention to detail and a blast of rollicking attitude.
“Right Kind of Wicked” is one of Jeff Rogers’ best vocal turns on the album and he shows an ability to vary his delivery that enhances the song even further. The horn section is kicking particularly hard here and Rogers really picks it up for a hard hitting chorus. Noelle returns to vocals with the song “Believe In Yourself” and it’s a testament to her talents (and the band as well) that they excel so easily at promoting a positive message never risking cheesiness. The songwriting on this track, like so many on Volume II, stands out in this day and age for its layers and depth. Keyboardist Steve Boudreau gets his turn in the spotlight with the album’s lone ballad “Loving You” and this excursion into a patient, slowly developing love song is a welcome change of pace from the breezy R&B and funk dominating the release. The album’s final outing, “Come Clean”, finds Rebecca Noelle making her final contribution to the album with a resounding number that ends the release on an emphatic note. There are few albums in any style that will come out this year capable of matching the energy The Commotions fill Volume II with.