Covers have always been an important part of reggae music, especially in the genre’s early years in the 60’s when Jamaican singers such as Pat Kelly, Slim Smith and many other rocksteady and early reggae luminaries did their versions of U.S. soul and R&B masterpieces.
U.S band Easy Star All-Stars have taken cover versions in reggae to a whole new level with their reggae renditions of the classic rock and pop albums Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, OK Computer by Radiohead and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles.
They strayed away from the formula last year when First Light was released – the band’s first album collecting originals.
Now, they’re however back with another reggae redo. This time they’ve taken on the most sold album in music history – Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Thriller isn’t just any album. It was awarded no less than eight Grammy’s in 1984 and all of its seven singles reached the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 list. It’s a bona fide pop, R&B and disco masterpiece.
To tackle this massive challenge producer Michael Goldwasser and his crew are joined by fresh talents as well as several of the reggae stars from previous albums, including vocalists Michael Rose, David Hinds from Steel Pulse, Mojo Morgan from Morgan Heritage and Luciano.
I can’t imagine that Easy Star All-Stars’ intention was to make a better album than the original. It was probably rather about presenting great songs in a new light to a new audience. And the reinvented result is a still as danceable as Thriller itself, but with a different groove.
It’s innovative and fresh, particularly the intensified afro-beat rhythm in album opener Wanna Be Startin’ Something or the dread and eerie Beat It with always reliable Michael Rose on lead vocals.
Not a wild guess if snobbish reggae traditionalists shun this album, but I dare you to leave your preconceptions aside and have a listen, because many people might be pleasantly surprised by this one.