Living Room by Ali Baba’s Tahini

It is a rare and enjoyable thing when a CD can evoke nostalgia and sound fresh at the same time. Such is the case with the new Ali Baba’s Tahini CD “Living Room”. This is a CD that harkens back to 60’s psychedelia, 70’s Jamaica, roots country, classic rock, childhood innocence, and better times. It does so without getting trapped in any of them. Instead of molding their songs into a given genre’s format, Living Room tends to draw diverse elements from different eras to fuel the bands songwriting. Unlike some bands, they don’t let the on going musical sight seeing overly distract from the journey to good songs. The strength of the material makes it all work, and over the years they have in fact become quite good songwriters.

Once one of the hottest original bands in the area, original members Jake Cinninger, Karl Englemann, and Steve Krojniewski parted ways in 2000 and Cinninger’s career took off with Umphrey’s McGee, leaving this band behind. They kept in touch though, stayed friends, and had a reunion and CD in 2005. What has kept the project going over the years and what really shines through on this CD is just how good these guys sound together.

The band members are a natural fit for each other musically and clearly have a blast together. Their musical chemistry has aged quite well and even improved over the years. They clearly brought all the outside experiences from their other bands into this CD. Where as once they sometimes sounded contrived to my ears, the musical flow here is quite nice, even polished. Occasionally the vocals can grate in an overly strident REM like whiney hillbilly way, but usually they anchor the songs well. There is something almost pop about how catchy this CD sounds. Cleverly constructed songs, talented musicianship, socially conscious lyrics, and exceptionally creative production all shine here. With the demands of the member’s other full time bands I was expecting a hastily recorded reunion CD of half finished songs. Much to the bands credit this CD obliterated those expectations in the best possible way.

“Living Room” is a real achievement for the band. For all practical purposes I had thought Ali Baba’s Tahini had peaked in the summer of ‘98. Was I wrong! This CD is likely the band’s creative zenith to this point. This is musical eclecticism on a grand scale done by seasoned musicians who sound really great together. “Living Room” is like a musical bike ride that stops by a variety of musical eras gone past while taking you somewhere fun you have never been before. It is a place definitely worth visiting.

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