Tonéx & The Peculiar People
Out The Box
Out The Box signifies the unexpected, the unusual, the unorthodox. Tonéx, of course, is all of those.
From his Pronounced Toe-Nay opener (see album review) to 2002's O2 (see album review) and the scads of underground joints, collaborations and production associations in between, the Gospel nation has been caught up in the thrills and chills that the San Diego, genre-inducing whiz has brought to the scene.
While some may have anticipated a fall as quick as his rise, that hasn't happened, due to the artist's profound vision for ministry coupled with his phenomenal talent.
Out The Box is a two-disc (mostly) live-recorded set from Verity Records, and as the third and most compelling commercial release from Tonéx, is (as usual) like you've never heard him before.
Covering a variety of styles, including Gospel, Praise and Worship, rock and even a little Broadway, this release (recorded in Tonéx's home base of San Diego), features Kirk Franklin, Sheila E, a hot band and The Peculiar People, a multicultural 30-voice vocal aggregation.
Production comes from T-Bizzy, with Marcus Hodges and Steve "The Chef" Russell sharing co-producer duties.
On the first disc (subtitled San Diego City), after a hype intro from Yolanda Adams and a dramatically eclectic, radio-edged double-track opener, Tonéx dives into the psuedo rock/Gospel "Trust Theory", with The Peculiar People backing up with vocals over the hectic track.
The electricity continues with "Alive", which features a horn sample from The Jackson Five's "Dancing Machine". Here, Tonéx and crew celebrate Jesus' resurrection in story-telling fashion that includes chant, song and more. It's immediately followed by the reprise, "Alive 2", featuring Tonex's high, melismatic tenor and the electric guitar work of Tim Stewart of hip hop crew, 4th Avenue Jones.
Out The Box
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Then the contrast begins. "Work on Me" has the Big Band vibe, with just enough Gospel sound to be sung by church and community choirs everywhere. The choir arrangements on the song will make Hezekiah Walker, Donald Lawrence and Youthful Praise proud.
Tonéx again shows his creativity on "Games" as he hangs the whole song on the theme music for the Family Feud game show. He and The Peculiar People use the piece to warn of Christ's soon-coming return. The rock-infused "Children's Bread" is a testament to deliverance. It blurs genre lines and has Ms. Tonex joining in towards the end with powerful ad-libs.
In a lengthy album sub-section, Tonéx revisits some old favorites (throwbacks he calls them), covering his own "Real With U", "Why?" and "Taxi" as well as radio favorites "Personal Jesus" and "God Has Not 4Got". Kirk Franklin works the piano on the latter as Tonéx sings and testifies to the throngs about how God has brought him through.
On the second disc (subtitled San Diego County), Tonéx flows into a Praise and Worship set, popping and jumping with the hip hop uptempo jam "Nureau Ink".
Then there's that cut that anyone who saw the 2004 Stellar Awards can't forget "Todos Juntos" (see awards recap). The Southern California District Choir and percussionist Sheila E. add some Latin spice on this rousing praise. Sheila astounds with her fantastic timbale solos, while Tonéx shows that his versatility extends into the Spanish tongue.
"Believer" is a bonafide choir number, complete with intricate sectional breakdowns music ministers, get ready to teach this contemporary song at choir rehearsal, because you'll be getting requests.
Intimacy with God is the theme of songs such as the extenda-cut "Your Word" (with Morpheus stepping in for softly-traded vocals with Tonéx) and "The Spirit Realm". Nureau's poster boy takes time to allow the people to fellowship with God in this set. The first radio single from the album, "Make Me Over", is a wonderful and tender ballad that asks God to do just that make us over. Radio worthy indeed.
Kirk Franklin comes back to add his signature ad-libs, co-writing with Tonéx on the funky church joint, "Since Jesus Came".
Not to be neglected on this mega project are the studio cuts included. The ballad "God Is Love" moves sweetly in its laidback groove and stacked harmonies. "Doesn't Really Matter" featuring Ink Delegate Applejaxx brings the laidback hip hop heat (be sure to watch for more from this artist). "Ain't" is musically hard-to-pin and showcases Wyzeguys on bass. It's an urban, slowed-down, disco jam that pulls no punches in tackling the topic of pre-judgement.
"Thank Q" is a gratitude cut with two tempos: one for the verse and one for the chorus, and some wild musical elements thrown in to boot.
There is one bonus track on the album (try to find it!). Probably titled "That Devil Lyin'", it's one of those club jams reminiscent of "My Baby Daddy".
At the risk of repeating ourselves, Out The Box, like Tonéx himself, is like no other and is properly titled. Its wide array of genres and bountiful 36 tracks allow the whole church family, as well as those in the unchurched collective, to find something suitable.
Tonéx shows that he continues to grow musically and spiritually, making Out The Box one of the best albums to come out in a long while.
Tonéx, get your shelf ready for those awards! And bring on the DVD!
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album release date: May 18, 2004
reviewed by Stan North and Dwayne Lacy —
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