Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 10/25/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s album is #827:

Black Uhuru – Sinsemilla

For a brief period after Bob Marley’s untimely death, Black Uhuru was the biggest reggae band in the world. Touring with the Police (who they routinely blew off the stage, night after night on the Spirits in the Material World tour) didn’t hurt. It’s safe to say that everything they did with the original lineup (Mykal Rose, Puma Jones and Duckie Simpson on vocals, plus the incomparable rhythm section of Sly Dunbar on drums and Robbie Shakespeare on bass) is worth owning, if you’re into this stuff. We picked this 1980 album over their debut and the pretty sensational Live 1981 album because the tracks here are more diverse and arguably stronger than the tunes on on the first album, and because the live one has an anti-choice song on it. It’s nice to see how well it’s aged, with the band’s biggest hit, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, along with the reliably smile-inducing title track, the anthemic Push Push, Fire, and Endurance, the genuinely anguished Happiness, and the bitter, confrontational Vampire. They also celebrate their roots (and, ultimately, everybody’s roots) with World Is Africa: at the time this came out, being socially aware was a necessity if you wanted to get anywhere in reggae music. The harmonies soar and the band pulse along without any help from computers or drum machines. Here’s a random torrent.

Advertisements

October 25, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, reggae music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mykal Rose Plays Downtown Brooklyn

Former Black Uhuru frontman Mykal Rose’s career spans both the roots and the dancehall era of reggae: seeing him outdoors under the trees this afternoon was a little like being at Sunsplash back in the 90s, for part of roots night and a little of dancehall night too. New York is just like MoBay in the summer now, hot and full of tourists – but you can’t smoke “marijuana, the healing of the nation,” as Rose put it, on the street like you could before Rudy Mussolini and his thugs took office. So it was nice to hear Rose kick off his show, the last one of this year’s Thursday noontime BAM concerts at Metrotech Park, with Sinsemilla. They played part of that one again at the end of the show, by request: “You know us Jamaicans, we don’t take no for an answer,” Rose laughed. In between he and his tremendously good four-piece band and two backup singers mixed the classics that the surprisingly energetic massive had come out for along with some more dancehall-oriented fare, including a couple of tracks from his new album Kingston 11.

The early stuff was a trip back in time: this could have been 1980. The band was strictly roots, the keyboardist sticking to electric piano on the verses and sometimes organ on the swells of the choruses, the bassist holding down the fat riddim along with the excellent drummer, who kept it simple and smart while the guitarist would throw in the occasional dub flourish. The cautionary tale Shine Eyed Girl, General Penitentiary with its catchy bass pulse, the watch-your-back anthem Plastic Smile, the bouncy What Is Life with its vibrant harmonies and even the anti-choice number Abortion got the crowd waving their hands and swaying. Then Rose snarled, “Get up, motherfuckers,” and launched into the “new segment,” as he put it, and suddenly we were back in 2010 again. As cheesy as the synthesizer lines were, at least his dancehall stuff is conscious. The first of these was the best, Run From Police, which as Rose explained had topped the reggae charts all over Europe (28 weeks in the UK, he said): “When you gonna make it number one in New York, motherfuckers?” he wanted to know. He big-upped Super Cat and Shabba Ranks, did a relatively rapidfire sufferah’s number, the bitter, synthy ballad Feeling So Lonely (“for the ladies”) and then it was back to the oing-boing-boing toasting and the classics. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner segued into Happiness and then into a new dancehall song, followed by Party in Session, Ganja Bonanza (one of his solo hits, a pleasant surprise), a little Sinsemilla again and finally closed over an hour and a half’s worth of music with the politically charged pop-reggae smash Solidarity. Rose’s voice has deepened and taken on a rasp in the decades since Black Uhuru ruled the charts, but he still rose to the level of the topnotch group behind him, pretty impressive considering how many thousand times he’s sung this material.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, reggae music, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars – Rise & Shine

Feel-good story of the year: Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars have emerged from the refugee camps there with a genuinely inspiring, indomitably high-spirited album that literally transcends the horror they’ve collectively experienced. Their cause is peace, unsurprisingly considering what they’ve been through. They’re a terrific roots reggae band, although this new cd intersperses the reggae tracks among a traditional peacemaking chant and a handful of circular, jangly afropop numbers sung in a vivid English patois along with several African languages including Mandingo and Mende. Recorded both in Sierra Leone and New Orleans, with the Bonerama Horns’ sly brass livening three tracks, the songs bring a striking global social awareness to the party: it’s good-time music, but it’s also rooted in the here and now. This isn’t just a good party album, it’s an important one.

The first of the reggae tracks, Global Threat has frequent lead singer Reuben M. Koroma smartly making the connection between global warming and global violence in a fervent rasp similar to Apple Gabriel of Israel Vibration, the band grooving behind him with a slinky, dark vintage Black Uhuru feel capped by an ominously careening trombone solo from Trombone Shorty. They follow that with a hypnotic traditional call-and-response chant over simple percussion. Translation: “Mr. Banker I do not know, do not know what you have done to someone but people hate you.” Living Stone follows, a defiant, triumphant, wickedly catchy upbeat reggae song with the feel of an Israel Vibration classic featuring some sweet soul guitar from Augusrine Kobina Valcarcel. “We are the Rolling Stones,” Koroma triumphantly declares: in their corner of the world, maybe they are.

Jah Mercy does double duty as hymn and sufferah’s litany of injustices; the fast reggae shuffle Jah Come Down aptly revisits the Burning Spear classic Slavery Days for the teens. The acoustic reggae number Bend Down the Corner is a come-on to a pretty woman; the afropop tune Goat Smoke Pipe, sung in Krio (a pidgin English variant) offers a savagely satirical look at food shortages, cows discovering cassava while the goat smokes his pipe to keep hunger at bay. With the trombones going full tilt, the upbeat GBRR Man (Trouble) sounds like Toots & the Maytals. The album closes with a slap at religious hypocrisy, Watching All Your Ways, an all-acoustic reggae song recorded outdoors while the band was sitting around a campfire in Canada. The album’s out on Cumbancha; Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars play the Highline Ballroom on April 14 at around ten (popular African hip-hop group Bajah and the Dry Eye Crew, featuring terrific baritone sax player Paula Henderson, open the show around 9), advance tickets very highly recommended since the show will sell out.

April 12, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment