Editors' pick

Martin Luther and Res

Rock
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Editorial Review

Mike Joyce reviewed Martin Luther's 2004 album "Rebel Soul Music" for The Washington Post:

Though this neo-soul rocker was born a few months after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, he's obviously spent a lot of time knee deep in flower power music. "Rebel Soul Music," Luther's sophomore release, is chockablock with songs that suggest the influence of Sly Stone, Marvin Gaye and Jimi Hendrix -- tunes that are socially conscious, crooningly romantic and guitar-driven by turns.

Now that his choir-boy tenor has turned smoky, the San Francisco-bred singer-songwriter could easily get by as a R&B balladeer, exclusively singing the sort of love songs that occasionally pop up on "Rebel Soul Music." "Daily Bread," for example, may be awash with studio-tweaked psychedelic colors, but the lyric amounts to nothing more than a sugar-coated Valentine. "Lust," on the other hand, is a bit more complicated since it concerns infidelity. And yet even here, when Luther delivers the line "you know what your man would do if he caught you here?" one gets the feeling he couldn't remove the heart from his sleeve without major surgery. Only "Truth or Dare," a twin showcase for Luther's swift Eddie Van Halen-meets-Prince guitar work and a woman's orgasmic pleas, comes across as contrived.

The songs that ultimately stand out find Luther addressing violence, poverty, racism and personal irresponsibility with a mixture of anger and sorrow -- songs as cutting and topical as "Miss America" and "Sleep Walking."