‘The Positives’ puts the soul back in rock ’n’ roll


Groove. Funk. Soul. You don’t hear those words very often these days when it comes to new music, but Person L is out to change that.

I was more than a little skeptical upon reading Person L frontman Ken Vasoli claim his new album was influenced by the likes of James Brown, Curtis Mayfield and Sam Cooke. You see, Vasoli isn’t exactly rooted in soul. Up until 2008, he fronted the criminally underrated pop-punk band The Starting Line. When The Starting Line went on hiatus, Vasoli formed Person L with a small collective of friends from Pennsylvania and took the opportunity to stray from his fans’ expectations. Their first offering, the eight-song Initial EP released last year, was rather messy and dull. However, with The Positives, Person L’s first full-length album, Vasoli shatters all expectations with the most original and cohesive work of his decade-long musical career.

“I’ve been hearing rumors of a revolution,” sings Vasoli on Goodness Gracious, backed by loud, distorted guitars and a healthy dose of tambourine and cowbell. With two drummers at their dispense, there’s plenty of innovation in Person L’s percussion department. The instrumentation is nearly flawless on this album, and Aaron Marsh’s production creates a perfect blend between old and new. A very unusual feeling hovers over the entire album, because these songs are undeniably rock ’n’ roll, but rock ’n’ roll hasn’t been performed like this in quite some time.

Lyrically, Vasoli isn’t reinventing the wheel, but his carefulness in avoiding clichés is much appreciated. It’s his vocals that are truly remarkable on The Positives. The six-minute-long Changed Man finds him exorcising his demons with more intensity than you’d ever think was possible from his earlier work with The Starting Line. He even channels the unmistakable, blood-curdling scream of the late James Brown in Pleasure is All Mine.  His vocal nuances and unusual phrasings were part of what made The Starting Line so unique, but he finally hits his full stride on The Positives.

If for no other reason, listen to this album because it’s something different. The modern-day music scene is saturated with predictable trends and fads, and it’s easy to lose faith in the genre of rock ’n’ roll when its current poster-boys are the likes of Nickelback and Creed (yes, Creed has returned!). Person L may not be poised to make much mainstream impact, but that certainly doesn’t mean The Positives should be overlooked.