Tag Archives: Easy Star All-Stars

Good times with The Green

51nGD+R-+lL._SY300_I’ve just had my first encounter with Hawaiian six piece band The Green. They’re part of the burgeoning U.S. reggae scene with successful bands such as Groundation, Easy Star All-Stars, Soja, Rebelution and John Brown’s Body. And Midnite of course. Even though they represent the Virgin Islands.

Their third album Hawai’I ’13 was recently released and it went straight to the top of the Billboard Reggae Chart and #77 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart.

And when listening to the 15 track set it’s easy to understand way. It’s easy accessible and just as appealing as a big scoop of chocolate ice cream on a hot and sunny day.

Some will probably dismiss this album and its fusion of reggae, pop and soul, with a slight touch of rock, as lightweight pop reggae. Well, yes, it is slick and it is as polished as a Wall Street bankers shoes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Hawai’I ’13 is jam-packed with infectious melodies, skanking grooves, memorable hooks, beautiful four part harmonizing and sing-a-long choruses.

It can be a bit slick and sugary though. The piano ballad Chocolates & Roses is one such example. Luckily enough there are a number of standout tracks that will keep you interested – Good One and Something About It are two such examples.

Hawai’I ’13 is a positive album from start to finish and it sounds like a warm breeze on a beautiful beach. This is good times with a capital G.

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Michael Goldwasser of Easy Star All-Stars about Thriller

One of the most successful reggae bands in recent years is Easy Star All-Stars from the U.S. They’ve made themselves an own niche recording reggae re-interpretations of classic rock albums.

The latest reggae do-over is however not a rock album. Instead they’ve taken on the most sold album of all time – Michael Jackson’s pop and R&B masterpiece Thriller, a set that includes smash hits such as Beat It, Billie Jean and the title track.

One of the musical minds behind Easy Star All-Stars is Michael Goldwasser, the son of a rabbi and a graduate from Columbia University. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to him about the new album and what drives him. Check the full story over at United Reggae.

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A thrilling remake of Thriller

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.

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Easy Star All-Stars lacks edge

About two years ago I noticed that American band Easy Star All-Stars topped the Billboard reggae list with their reworked version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band titled Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band. I remember I was a bit surprised since I hadn’t heard them before.

Now Easy Star All-Stars have managed to put out an album based on their own material.

First Light consists of 14 tunes (16 on the digital version). The vocal duties are nicely shared by Kirsty Rock and Ras I Ray, and give the album a good blend of male and female singing.

Easy Star All-Stars are probably best known for their reinventions of other albums, and this time they have to stand on their own feet. And the result is an album that lacks edge, but certainly has its moments.

Especially the pulsating ganja tune One Likkle Draw with guest artists Junior Jazz and Daddy Lion Chandell and the 60’s flavored Unbelievable featuring singer/guitarist and America’s Got Talent contestant Cas Haley.

But First Light lacks in diversity and it’s too courteous and kind. It is just too easy.

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Can’t buy me love

billboardschartsSmaken är ju som baken – delad.  Och det framgår tydligt när jag läser om Billboardlistans reggaesektion. I toppen ligger coverbandet Easy Star All-Stars med Beatleshyllningen Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band med gästartister som Luciano och Mighty Diamonds. På andra plats återfinns Buju Banton’s Rasta got soul och tredjeplatsen stoltserar med gamla godingarna UB40.

Ett antal tankar slår mig när jag läser listan – som för övrigt inte innehåller någon platta jag skulle köpa. Min första tanke är att dagens reggaemusik inte alls håller samma klass som på 60-, 70-, och 80-talen. Visst finns det bra artister. Lutan Fyah, Fantan Mojah, Alborosie, Pressure, Etana, Warrior King, Chezidek m fl gör bra grejor. Men, jag saknar namn som Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Lone Ranger, Max Romeo, Johnny Osbourne och Freddie McGregor. Och kanske framför allt vokalgrupper som Meditations, Mighty Diamonds och Heptones. Det fanns tider då man kunde köpa helgjutna album snarare än enstaka makalösa singlar.

Det andra som slår mig är att ett förhållandevis okänt coverband toppar listan. De har visserligen idel bekanta gästartister, men det känns ändå inte helgjutet. Krävs det sådana tilltag för att nå kommersiell framgång? Klarar inte dagens reggae av att slå stort utan att Beatles ska behövas blandas in? Missförstå mig inte. Jag är den förste att omfamna reggaecovers av kända eller okända låtar. Heptones version av Bob Dylans I shall be released eller Ken Boothe’s version av Bill Withers Ain’t no sunshine kvalar båda in högt på mina topplistor. Men, någonstans känns det bekymmersamt att Beatles toppar även reggaelistan.

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