Classic proof that you should never judge a band by its name and an album by its cover, the self-titled debut from San Diego's Crown 10 is thankfully not a rap record. Instead, it's a feisty amalgam of rock, funk, jazz and blues inspired by the likes of King's X, Crown of Thorns, Living Colour and 24-7 SPYZ. The ethnically diverse trio includes 24-7 SPYZ's ex-drummer (Joel Maitoza), a singer and guitar player who took lessons from Nuclear Assault's Dave DiPietro (James Brady) and a bass player without a background as intriguing as those of his bandmates (Roz Taylor).
What strikes me most about Crown 10 is how smooth the band sounds, despite the jagged edge of some of the music. Credit for that should go to Brady, a soulful singer who occasionally takes his voice higher than he should but who nevertheless breathes passion into these 11 tracks. Running the gamut from jazzy and laid-back mid-tempo songs like "Clearer" to the bluesy funk of "Shine" to the straight-ahead rock of "For What It's Worth" to AOR-inspired alternative rock like "Device" to introspective ballads like the 9/11-inspired "New York City," Crown 10 should appeal to a wide range of rock fans. Many songs begin softly and evolve into crunchy personalities.
One more note about that rap reference: "Innocent," featuring perhaps the album's most melodic (and simplest) chorus, has rapped verses that border on nu-metal. These guys make it work, though, and the song serves as one more testament to Crown 10's versatility.