UNKLE - The Road: Part I (2xLP - Gatefold)
After a rollercoaster twenty-five year career as an artist, curator and tastemaker, James Lavelle returns with Unkle's fifth studio album, The Road: Part I.
James Lavelle was one of the key players who shaped the cultural landscape of the 1990s. As the founder of Mo' Wax Records and Unkle, Lavelle nurtured, worked and rubbed shoulders with some of the most influential artists of the decade, including DJ Shadow, Ian Brown, Thom Yorke, Richard Ashcroft and Massive Attack.
For the album's title track 'The Road', Lavelle recruited the Mercury nominated and Lewisham raised Eska to inject her unique blend of psychedelia and soul. Her lead vocal is undoubtedly one of the stand out moments on the record. The Road: Part I was starting to take shape. However, Lavelle needed to anchor this eclectic mix of modern London in Unkle's classic sound. For this, he looked to past collaborators. He picked up the infamous black book, made some calls and packed his bags for Los Angeles where he took residence at Pink Duck Studios. Amongst Lavelle's self-proclaimed 'American Family', he recruited War Stories producer Chris Goss, Marilyn Manson bassist Twiggy Ramirez and Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leuwson to contribute on 'Nowhere to Run'; a track in which Lavelle takes the lead vocal. Lavelle also met with long time Unkle collaborator Mark Lanegan and wrote 'Looking for the Rain', a call to arms in our turbulent modern world.
Lavelle also found new friends and collaborators in Queens of the Stone Age drummer Jon Theodore and Beck drummer Justin Stanley, who make definitive contributions throughout the record. After a productive trip to the States, Lavelle returned to London to add the finishing touches to what was shaping up to be another classic Unkle record. He got back in the studio with legendary composer Wil Malone, who added strings to 'Looking for the rain' and the album's epic opening track 'Farewell'. He also teamed up with longtime collaborator Philip Shepherd, who took time out of composing material for the new Star Wars franchise to contribute strings throughout the record. In what was proving to be one of the most joyous Unkle records ever made, Lavelle then managed to conclude a twenty year conversation with Primal Scream's Andrew Innes, as the pair finally got together in the studio. Innes plays lead guitar to the album's title track 'The Road'. Another first for Lavelle was a collaboration with Planet Funk's Gigi Canu and Marko Baroni, who along with Duke Spirit starlet Liela Moss, contributed to 'Sunrise (Always comes around), Unkle's reinterpretation of the summer anthem.
The exhibition at the Lazarides Gallery was a celebration of 25 years of Unkle and whilst The Road: Part I may be their fifth studio album, it is in many ways a new beginning. With shows booked throughout the year and The Road: Part II already in the making, it feels that even after 25 years, the road for Unkle has only just begun.