Writes of Passage
If you haven't experienced the work of percussionist Sheila E. outside the realm of '80s pop/R&B hits like "The Glamorous Life," get ready to be floored by the many influences, tricky timings and jaw-dropping performances highlighting Writes of Passage. With the support of a stellar ensemble, including keyboardist Renato Neto, saxophonist Eric Leeds and guitarist Ray Obiedo, Sheila crafts crackling stand-up jams ("Protocol"), anthemic ballads ("Passing Through," lent a rootsy Americana feel by Dino Soldo's harmonica work) and flaming fusion timing pieces ("Virtuosity") with detail and unparalleled energy. Writes manages to be both daring and innately accessible: where "Truth" boasts an almost Middle Eastern vibe, with Neto and Leeds conversing through the changes, "Rituals" integrates a Latin under-stomp on a lithe timing piece that features a great, feathery Obiedo guitar solo. Other highlights here include the uplifting, authentic retro-soul jam "Paragon," featuring some truly groovy Rhodes work by Neto, and the surprising, gospel-tinged "N Perfect Time," which sparkles with percussion and Sheila's uplifting vocal lead praising joy wrought from patience ("Brothers and sisters, take your time/Knowledge and wisdom we will find").
Though her percussive work is the pulse of the album (and spotlighted on some truly wicked solos), it permeates rather than dominates, lending the stories told a warm, inspiring vitality.