Northern California’s reggae celebrities Groundation recently dropped Building an Ark, their seventh studio album, following 2009’s Here I Am.
This nine piece outfit was formed in 1998 by guitarist/singer/lyricist Harrison Stafford, keyboardist Marcus Urani and bassist Ryan Newman. Other members have fluctuated over the years, but have always included a brass section and strong backing vocals.
Groundation are no strangers to influences from non-reggae genres, and their albums – Building an Ark included – have been an eclectic melting pot of roots reggae, dub, jazz, funk, soul and salsa spiced with pop melodies.
Building an Ark has a distinct energetic live feeling throughout the ten tracks and also shows great musicianship via arrangements and several solos – guitar, trumpet, trombone and percussion particularly get the opportunity to show off.
The thing with Groundation though is Harrison Stafford’s singing style. It’s certainly an acquired taste, being nasal, nervous and dramatic. But the progressive musical backing along with soulful female backing vocals makes Building an Ark worth a few spins in the record player.
A few months ago I had the opportunity to interview Chezidek after his performance at Swedish reggae festival Öland Roots. When asked why his songs about ganja are some of his best work, he answered that he gets very inspired when writing and singing about weed.
And this seems to be true about several reggae artists when listening to the third installment of Greensleeves Ganja Anthems series, released late October, and just in time for the referendum on legalizing marijuana in California, USA.
This 18 track compilation didn’t help the supporters of proposition 19, but it certainly help you to get into a great groove.
The two former albums in the series largely focused on older ganja anthems from the likes of Mighty Diamonds, Eek-A-Mouse and the late Jacob Miller.
Hi Grade Ganja Anthems vol. 3 is instead dedicated to recent releases, and the only tunes not released in the last couple of years are Bubbling Telephone (Chalice) from Charlie Chaplin and Herb fi Bun by Daddy Rings & Cocoa Tea.
The rest of the tunes are probably familiar to those who have been listening to contemporary reggae, and include hit songs such as Acres from Capleton, Come Around by Collie Buddz and Sensi from Gyptian.
The riddims are largely one drop and produced by a number of different producers; Frenchie, Augustus “Gussie” Clarke and Kemal “Flava” McGregor to name three.
Even though the selection is great I miss two hugely herbaceous artists – Chezidek and Perfect. Those two have released several great weed tunes, and the compilation could have needed Chezidek’s Bun di Ganja and Perfect’s I Smoked a Spliff to be the ideal ganja compilation on contemporary reggae.