Excerpt from George Graham’s review published on The Graham Weekly Album Review #1685
ALO: Sounds Like This
(Brushfire Records 16784 As broadcast on WVIA-FM 5/16/2012)
The jam band scene has been maturing and becoming more diverse. The styles can run from elaborate, almost art-rock, along the lines of Umphrey’s McGee, to more bluegrass oriented like Railroad Earth, to some more mainstream rock-flavored groups. This week we have the latest by a California-based quartet that in the past I called a kind of singer-songwriter jam band. The band is ALO, and their new CD, their fourth nationally-released, is called Sounds Like This.
ALO originally stood for the Animal Liberation Orchestra, a band which formed on during the 1990s on the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara, where they started as a 11-piece ensemble whose full name was the Animal Liberation Orchestra and Free Range Horns. After graduation, three of the principal members, all of whom were originally from around San Francisco, returned north to the Bay Area and launched the band as a quartet, with another transplanted Bay Area musician who studied at UC Santa Barbara. They released a couple of independent albums before hooking up with popular Hawaiian-based singer-writer Jack Johnson, who signed them to his Brushfire label.
The group has always been most at home on stage, freely improvising, so their CDs have sometimes been a bit of a compromise for them, as they tried to make music more succinct for the recorded format. ALO’s last album was produced by Johnson in his studio in Hawaii. But for this record, the band got together with their long-time engineer David Simon-Baker in the San Francisco area and rather blurred the distinction between pre-production — where the songs are worked out — and the actual recording of the CD. They were able to develop the material and stretch out, capturing almost all of it, and then whittling it down to what turns out to be probably their best album yet.