As shocking as it is, Three. Stacks. Eliot‘s days old album is also the jazz-rooted (mostly) instrumental band’s first release to date. It’s not easy to be thrown, what with the group’s frequent presence behind Klassik at his live outings and sporadic sessions accompanying others artists both on stage and in living rooms. The Message Is Real finds the young band that’s perhaps best known for its accompaniment in the driver’s seat this time around and taking the listener all kinds of places during the nine-track trip.
Instrumental opener “Before Burden” rocks the record into motion with a cool and calculated blend of funk and classic rock. It’s chased with “Sociology,” which features distorted verses regarding a distrust of police by rapper Genesis Renji and Fivy’s gorgeous vocals that are offset by stark spoken word stanzas about social unrest amid Three. Stacks. Eliot’s ominous backing. Along with Genesis Renji and Fivy’s contributions, rapper Reggie Bonds, Mike Regal (both of whom are featured on “What We Need”) and Vonny Del Fresco (who steals the album with “Sycamore”) stretch the sonic boundaries with disparate styles and perspectives. Those looking for an unabated version of Stacks better fit for its old haunts of Jazz Gallery or The Jazz Estate will get that from lively, too-real-for-Schoolhouse Rock number “Econ” and the jazzy title track, “The Message Is Real.”
With its debut, Three. Stacks. Eliot has made its way from backing band to the front of the mix in grand fashion. With the help of talented vocalists and some of the city’s best/most under-appreciated rappers, the band has assembled a concept album that somehow manages to cultivate great sounds from the weighty and important overriding message of racial and economic oppression in Milwaukee and America.