About 20 years ago I was caught in the American ska craze with bands like The Toasters, The Slackers and The Pietasters. The spark that lit my fire was a compilation called Give ‘Em the Boot, and on that album was a ska band called Hepcat with singers Deston Berry and Alex Désert.
Unfortunately Hepcat soon went on a hiatus and I didn’t hear anything about them until two years ago when The Lions dropped their excellent debut album This Generation, dubbed to perfection the year after by Tom Chasteen.
Deston Berry and Alex Désert form half of the vocal team along with Malik Moore and deejay Black Shakespeare, the cousin of Robbie Shakespeare. And on The Lions’ brand new album they have also invited label mate Myron Glasper, of soul duo Myron & E, to showcase his talent.
And it’s no coincidence that a soul singer is appearing on Soul Riot, as this brilliant twelve track set is titled. It’s definitely a reggae album, but with a myriad of other influences, particularly funk, soul, hip-hop and a little bit of disco.
This is hip reggae sounding like it did it in the late 60s and early 70s. It’s creative, playful and festive, such as Rhythm Rock with its live-played hip-hop-ish beat with bright horns and the discofied Magnificent Dance.
But it also has a more emotive side, as shown on Smoke & Mirrors with Malik Moore’s sweet falsetto and the smoky Falling with Alex Désert on the microphone.
Soul Riot is steamy and breezy at the same time and it’s a fantastic album that deserves wide attention.