Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 9/29/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #853:

Israel Vibration – Vibes Alive

There are few more heartwarming music success stories than Israel Vibration. The vocal trio of Wiss (Lascelle Bulgin), Skelly (Cecil Spence) and Apple (Albert Craig), all crippled by polio in early childhood, met in their early teens in a Jamaican orphanage. They discovered Rastafari, left for the bush and the rest is history, as documented in the film Israel Vibration: Reggae in the Holy Land. Over the course of their 35-year career, they’ve released over a dozen albums and all of them are worth owning, if you like classic reggae. Their harmonies may be wobbly, but their songwriting, even by roots reggae standards, is firmly entrenched in the here and now, whether attacking the inequalities of the system, standing up for the sufferahs or simply celebrating a good time. They’ve also released two first-rate live albums, this one from their 1992 US tour being the first, including a good, inspired mix of their many styles: the confrontational Vultures and Racial Discrimination; a defiantly careening version of the ganja-smoking anthem Red Eyes; a raw, guitar-fueled take of the prisoner’s lament On the Rock; and a lusciously jangly, redemptive, practically rock version of Pay Day, which might be their best song. Behind them, bassist Flabba Holt leads the Roots Radics band through one joyous vamp after another as the audience enthusiastically eggs them on to stop the song and start it all over again. Craig left the band in the early zeros; Bulgin and Spence carry on under the same name and continue to tour worldwide. Here’s a random torrent.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, reggae music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review from the Archives: Israel Vibration at Irving Plaza, 8/23/96

[Editor’s note: since we’re on vacation, we’ve gone through the archives for some memorable NYC shows from the past several years. Back in the 80s and 90s, August was usually reggae month: here’s a prime example.]

A solid hour and a half of some of the best original roots reggae around. The Roots Radics, roots reggae icons Israel Vibration’s longtime backing band, opened with a 45-minute set of their own, vastly inferior material, surprising considering what a terrific band they are. Bassist Flabba Holt led them, showing off his signature pulse and smartly, unpredictably melodic riffs. Finally, after an instrumental medley of hits (including Gregory Isaacs’ Night Nurse), the vocal trio came up to the stage and delivered an excellent, stop-and-start, exhortative performance. “Yes I” became the phrase of the evening: they’d start a song, go as far as the first verse, then stop it and start over again as the audience predictably roared and screamed. Together Wiss, Skelly and Apple – who famously began the band in the bush after leaving the orphanage, all three of them having survived childhood battles with polio – have a nonchalant chemistry that transcends their limitations as singers (their harmonies are melodic but not particularly on-key). It’s their songs that stand out, for their consistently conscious lyricism and smart, often confrontational politics.  As much as their songs from the late 70s and 80s are the ones they made their mark with, their recent material has been just as good, particularly their recent album On the Rock, from which they did several numbers. They opened with Strength of My Life, title track to their new album, followed by the understated, politically charged Vulture. We also got to hear the youthman anthem Rudeboy Shuffling, the biting, catchy title track from On the Rock and the highlight of the night, a driven, powerful Jailhouse Rocking complete with incisive, chromatic minor-key guitar solo. The encore began with a brief version of their first big hit, the ecumenical togetherness anthem The Same Song, into some other tunes, finishing with a surprisingly blithe version of New Wave. Despite their crutches, nobody sat down, in fact one of their singers doing the splits Chuck Berry style and popping up with unexpected agility for a polio survivor.

August 22, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, reggae music, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment