Lucid Culture


Album of the Day 11/13/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s mission is to get out of France, and out of classical music for bit. So instead we go to South Africa for some roots reggae and album #808:

Lucky Dube – Captured Live

Reggae triumphantly made its way home to Africa: some of the greatest roots artists have come out of that continent. Arguably the finest artist singing in English was Lucky Dube, who was already a mbaqanga star in his native South Africa when, inspired by Peter Tosh, he decided to switch to reggae in 1984. Dube, a talented keyboardist, built his signature sound with swooping, pitch-bending organ and synthesizer lines over a traditional roots rhythm section and horns. Released stateside in 1991, this towering, majestic live set was the band’s international breakthrough, capturing them at the peak of their trance-inducing power. It doesn’t have Dube’s biggest hit, the wrenchingly poignant Victims, but the set is still first-rate. Many of these songs clock in at close to ten minutes or more: the insistent Going Back to My Roots; the bouncy, swaying Together As One; the gospel-infused Born to Suffer and the catchy, anthemic The Hand That Giveth. Dube’s defiant anti-apartheid message comes across powerfully in Slave and Prisoner; the album ends with a sixteen-minute, dub-infused version of the anthem Truth in the World. He would live to see apartheid dismantled, go on to tour with Peter Gabriel and Midnight Oil before being murdered in a carjacking in 2007. Here’s a random torrent.

November 13, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, reggae music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Jahmings Maccow – Man Redemption

Anguila expat Jahmings Maccow, formerly of New York roots legends Catch-A-Fire and the Enforcers, writes catchy, Bob Marley-influenced roots reggae songs that would have been right at home on Jamaican radio back in the late 70s. Fans of golden-era reggae singers like Gregory Isaacs, Johnny Clarke, Sugar Minott or Jacob Miller will love this album: if Rockers TV was still in syndication, you would no doubt see “The Rootsman”  interviewing Maccow with much enthusiasm. The production here is far more oldschool than most anything coming out of Jamaica right now, a fat riddim with real keyboards and layers of guitar. Maccow is not only a good songwriter, he’s also a good guitarist, spicing his songs with an incisive yet tersely soulful, pensive edge. The Marley inspiration extends especially to the vocals, Maccow reaching up to the high registers with the same kind of inspired half-yelp. The tunes mix slow anthems in with the upbeat, hitworthy stuff. In keeping with the classic roots vibe, the lyrics address both spiritual and contemporary issues, hence the album title, Man Redemption – a bunch of uplifting tunes that frequently address some pretty heavy issues.

The big, slow, soulful title track – a prayer of sorts – contrasts with the upbeat, obviously Marley-inspired Let Them Grow, like something off the Kaya album with tasteful acoustic guitar accents and a clever, distorted electric guitar solo low in the mix. Set Me Free is more upbeat, late period Marley-style songwriting with a nice, long, thoughtfully doubletracked guitar passage.

How Ya Gwaan Crucify is predictably a lot darker, with a Rastaman Vibration edge. The album’s fifth track, Free the Pain has a playful phased guitar solo – the tune reminds a bit of the late great Lucky Dube. After that, Put You Down/I Didn’t Come has more of a vintage 70s Manhattans/Stylistics style smooth R&B feel. The rest of the album includes the rather apprehensive Dread; Didn’t You Hear, which manages to be both pro-peace and a cautionary tale; the Israel Vibration-inflected See Them Fighting/Ghetto Walls; the gloriously bouncy Jah Jah Say, and the vivid yet understated Cry for Tomorrow. If you’re a fan of classic roots reggae, this is a welcome throwback to a time when artists basically had to at least pay lip service to spirituality and be conscious of the world around them even if they didn’t embrace it. It’s obvious that Maccow is sincere about what he has to say.

July 28, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Songs of the Day 7/17-18/09

Computer crisis at Lucid Culture HQ has curtailed all but the most basic functions. We have not been idle and will continue with news, reviews and a brand-new NYC live music calendar no later than August 1. Right now we can’t do much more than adding our daily song-of-the-day.  Sorry for the inconvenience – we should be back running on all cylinders by 7/20 or so.

Song of the Day 7/17/09:

376. Lucky Dube – Victims

The great roots reggae songwriter and keyboardist triumphantly lived through the dismantling of apartheid in his native South Africa, only to be murdered in 2007 in an attempted carjacking. Little would he know how eerily prophetic this heartbreaking tale of the aftereffects of violence – a mother grieving for her dead son and all the others like him – would be. Title track from the 1989 album.

and for 7/18/09

375. Bruce Springsteen – Independence Day

In this brilliantly elliptical, organ-fueled anthem, a son leaves home defiant but bitter, brutalized and only a step away from the violence he grew up with. Anyone who might confuse Springsteen’s art with the yahoos who make up so much of his fan base needs to hear this. From the River, 1980; mp3s abound, and the studio version is the best. Although the link above, an early live take from 1978, isn’t bad.

July 17, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lucky Dube: An Appreciation

It came as a shock to us to learn that international roots reggae star Lucky Dube had been murdered in an attempted carjacking in Rossetenville, South Africa this past October 19, leaving behind seven children including one born just this year. Dube was 43. Born to a woman who had been told she could not conceive – hence the name Lucky – Dube would release five mbaqanga albums in Zulu before turning to reggae, where he would find a vision and create a body of work that would reach pantheonic proportions. It could be said that he was the king of African reggae, although he would undoubtedly scoff at that title. Dube was a pure embodiment of the roots reggae esthetic, a champion of the underdog, passionate supporter of democracy worldwide and crusader for equal rights for people of all races. He did not merely pay lip service to these ideals: he lived them and breathed them through his music, all 22 albums recorded in Zulu, English and even one (a platinum-selling ep of satirical songs) in Afrikaans. While roots reggae, as played with a traditional band including bass, drums, guitars and keyboards, may be a rapidly dying genre, Dube remained faithful to it all the way through his final cd, Respect, issued earlier this year. While he did not play on his recordings, Dube was also an outstanding keyboardist particularly adept at the organ, something his fans would discover at live shows (his 1990 album Captured Live remains one of the best reggae albums and also one of the best live concert albums ever made). His heartfelt, sometimes anguished, Peter Tosh-influenced vocals and magisterial stage presence made him one of reggae’s most dynamic performers. Although Dube didn’t speak English until he was 18, his lyrics are terse and often even poetic, a mix of fiery political broadsides, social commentary and longing, spiritual meditations.

Considering that Dube was hardly materialistic and deplored violence, it is cruelly ironic that he would die murdered by a stranger attempting to steal his car. In his best song, Victims, Dube offers a poignant and insightful look at the effects of random violence through the eyes of a grieving woman:

Dear lord, she was crying until now
As she turned to move her head
She said boy oh boy it brings tears to my eyes
I said why

She said boy it brings tears to my eyes
Bob Marley said, how long shall they kill our brothers while we stand aside and look?
Little did he know that eventually the enemy will stand aside and look
While we kill our own brothers
Knowing that already they are the victims of the situation

Still licking wounds from brutality
Still licking wounds from humiliation
She said these words as the wrinkles on her face
Became perfect traces of the tears of a race
We are the victims everytime

We got double trouble everytime
She took me outside in the churchyard
Showed me graves on the ground
And she said, there lies a man who fought for equality
There lies a boy who died in his tracks

Can all these heroes die in vain while we sit back and kill our own
Knowing already that they are the victims of the situation
Still licking wounds from humiliation
We are the victims everytime
We got double trouble everytime

Lucky Dube was an artist we’d planned on featuring here for sometime. It’s tragic that we were never be able to do anything on this great songwriter and performer while he was alive.

November 27, 2007 Posted by | Music, obituary, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment