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Victor Wooten: Words and Tones

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The simultaneous release of these companion-piece discs with the anagram-infused titles is intended to display two disparate sides of Victor Wooten, and does it ever. Although the recordings share several root compositions, and some personnel, the approaches are poles apart: Words and Tones is a vocal record, featuring a number of women expressing lyrics penned by Wooten-best known as the extraordinarily individualistic bassman with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones-sometimes by himself, other times in collaboration. Sword and Stone is an instrumental set that deconstructs and reassembles nine of the tracks from the vocal set. Each album also includes five songs not found on the other.

For Words and Tones, Wooten and his often often-oversized cast are out to spread positive vibrations. In well-framed, melodic, neo-soul packages that often border on classic smooth jazz or mainstream ’70s-esque R&B, the singers exhort us all to treasure what we’ve got, love one another and all that good stuff. “Heaven,” a song the Jackson 5 could have done wonders with, includes a dozen Wooten family members-kids and adults alike-reminding us to tell those closest to us that we love them “before it’s too late,” even though “I know I’ll see you again.” In the ballad “Be What U Are (I Love U More),” Cheryl Morse sings of the advice she was given: “Now that I’m older, my mommy’s voice still ringing, be what you are.”

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