The Young Presidents - Coalition
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: Feb. 11, 2014
You always want to root for the bands that try something different, the ones who aren’t afraid to take chances. On their latest release, Coalition, New York City’s The Young Presidents enlisted the help of some friends. Foremost of those friends is the silky smooth vocalist Ivan Neville, who lends his vocals to two songs; Boston frat-rocker Adam Ezra, who sings on another two; South African musician Blondie Chaplin, who sings on four; and Galactic/Living Colour vocalist Corey Glover, who sings on five.
The disc opens with arguably one of its strongest songs, the freewheeling, sun-drenched feel good jam “Time,” in which Neville’s vocals soar and usher in a yarn that’s refreshing, invigorating and deeply memorable. There’s a throwback vibe here and the way its presented is completely effortless, unadulterated and without pretense. Granted the production is not as strong as it should be, but the song still works quite well. That’s a good thing considering its successors “We the People” and “Stand Up For Love” absolutely fall apart. Thankfully, Adam Ezra steps to the mic on the tender cut “You Got Me Deep,” a honeyed, soulful and organ-kissed effort that wades comfortably in acoustic rock. On the heels of that is Corey Glover’s first big effort of the disc, an old-school R&B cut called “Universal Pain.” Side A of Coalition concludes with a puffed-up version of the Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong hit “War.” Though the song is more cluttered and busy than it needs to be, it still works well and finishes the disc’s first half with a rousing fist pump.
Glover returns to the mic on the sweeping “Unacceptable You,” a horn-drenched affair that borders on theatrical and seems more destined for Broadway then the pop charts, a trend that is revisited in spades throughout the duration of Coalition. Arguably one of the album’s strongest and most indelible cuts is the string-laden “Love You Forever,” featuring the first-rate vocals of Chaplin. Ezra steps back into the forefront on the pensive and warm “Grey Space,” a doughy and delicate effort that borrows heavily from strings and the song’s languorous arrangement. Penultimate cut “Dripping With Honeysuckle” rises on the wings of an airy organ, a funk backdrop and Chaplin’s inspired timbre. Buttressed by a gospel chorus, the song towers over much of the rest of the disc and stamps itself as one worth revisiting. Coalition closes with “You Will Be On Your Way,” an ageless and spartan effort that begins with just Chaplin and piano. Gradually the song rises and by the end, the urge to press repeat is almost too hard to ignore.
In the end, Coalition is an unexpected, imperfect treasure. Were it not for the contributions of each of the vocalists, these songs would probably fall asunder from their bloated arrangements and The Young Presidents’ deeply theatrical ambitions. While it is abundantly clear the band is deeply committed to writing a mini rock opera, the reality is this album borrows more from 1960s Memphis than anything currently circulating the contemporary pop canon. Be that as it may, anyone who is a fan of strong-lunged soul vocalists and Broadway musicals will certainly find favor with at least half the disc.