Over the past two decades, Lettuce has managed to solidify themselves as the clear standard of excellence for all modern funk bands, which continues to be clear in their new album “Elevate.” What began as a modest jam session between like-minded students at Berklee College of Music has since escalated into a world-renowned funk band that continues to tour and transcend the genre.
Each of the group’s six members feed off each other’s energy to deliver a string of riveting solo performances, and their studio albums paint an in-depth portrait of the band’s diverse talent and ability.
Every new album released by Lettuce seems to do its part to push funk music to new heights while still maintaining the soulful quality of the genre’s past. “Elevate” continues this pattern of transcendence with 11 unique songs that showcase the group’s broad musical range.
“Elevate” marks the band’s seventh studio album, and they’re only getting better, which makes it a necessary addition to any true funk fan’s repertoire. Though each of the album’s songs bring its own “spice” to the final project, there are five in particular that best demonstrate the band’s incredible craft.
Lettuce is known for beginning each of their albums with a bang. As the first song on “Elevate,” “Trapezoid” is their best introduction yet. It is unlike any Lettuce song to date, as it starts in an unprecedented half-time tempo and features archetypal trap synths and percussion. The track is Lettuce’s first club banger, and it’s sure to get any crowd moving their feet.
But where most club-friendly tracks feature catchy vocal hooks, Lettuce substitutes their own signature blend of deep modular synths, courtesy of keyboardist Nigel Hall, and an enthralling brass-section melody. Good luck making it all the way through “Elevate” without returning to “Trapezoid” a dozen times. It is one of the most catchy and memorable songs on the album.
Just when you think you have the band’s style pegged, “Krewe” becomes another testament to the diversity of Lettuce’s musical taste. If each song on “Elevate” had a corresponding taste, “Krewe” would be the hottest and spiciest of the bunch. There are Latin elements across the track, ranging from the fast-paced drum rhythm to the lively horn section.
Saxophonist Ryan Zoidis showcases his talents with a passionate south-of-the-border solo that’s completely unique to the funk genre. He and trumpeter Eric Benny Bloom do a wonderful job of exemplifying the sheer power and emotion behind brass instruments by delivering remarkable riffs that are guaranteed to put a smile on any listener’s face.
Tears for Fears fans did a double-take after reading the song title. Lettuce has certainly covered their fair share of songs in the past, but they are often those of funk legends like Curtis Mayfield, James Brown and Earth, Wind & Fire. This time, the band took a pop song from the 1980s — arguably one of the most stereotypical ‘80s pop songs — and “funkified” it.
Lettuce’s “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” outshines the Tears for Fears version. The original opening synth melody is repackaged into a soothing guitar riff that Adam Smirnoff delivers with subtle perfection, and the slower tempo improves the song and distinguishes it from Tears for Fears.
The cover also gives Nigel Hall his first opportunity on “Elevate” to show off his impressive vocals; his soft but emphatic voice breathes new life into the 34-year-old song and makes it fit in flawlessly with the rest of the album.
4. “Gang Ten”
Spanning just over 13 minutes, “Gang Ten” is the longest song to appear on “Elevate” and one of the longest songs in all of Lettuce’s discography. A typical live performance by Lettuce will consist of the band digging deep into their own songs, extending each of their most popular tracks into something spacey, psychedelic and never before heard by the audience.
What makes “Gang Ten” so special is its expansive and experimental feel. The song’s many breaks evoke the sensation that the listener is hearing Lettuce perform live, listening as they continue to push their artistic limit to the next level.
What best holds this psychedelic journey of a song together is Adam Deitch’s enchanting drumming. His comforting beats will carry you effortlessly from break to break, and, before you know it, 13 minutes have passed, and you have a new favorite Lettuce song.
The most avid Lettuce fans (self-proclaimed “Lettuce Heads”) have been waiting for years for the band to release this song. In 2017, a video emerged of Lettuce performing “Purple Cabbage” at Jam Cruise, and the track has been a fan-favorite ever since. Lettuce Heads are sure to be thanking their lucky stars after seeing that “Purple Cabbage” has made it onto the album.
The song features another psychedelic melody, layered with phenomenal drumming and a catchy hook from the brass section, but what really differentiates it is the captivating bassline. Erick “Jesus” Coomes, the charismatic, straggly-haired bassist who never stops dancing on stage, clarifies with “Purple Cabbage” that he brings the same energy to the recording studio.
The bassline he delivers acts as the perfect decrescendo for “Elevate,” gradually bringing the album’s crushing momentum to a relaxing halt while wrapping a bow around yet another remarkable project.