Sunday, 1 November 2009

Steel Pulse 'True Democracy' (1982)

My posts have been getting a bit oppressive lately, so here's something more buoyant and conscious. This record gives me butterflies and flashbacks to amazing sex that never happened. Here are ze opening and concluding paragraphs of my little brother's exhaustive review; 'True Democracy' made #5 in his 'top 100 albums' list back in April:

''I always find it hard to review reggae with sounding like some raddish who has no idea what he's on about but, nevertheless, I'll do my best to do this album justice - officially my favourite reggae album of all time. While I could just as easily call their 1978 debut, Handsworth Revolution, a classic (it is the album that got me into reggae music and all), Steel Pulse's fourth album here stands for me as the pinnacle of Birmingham reggae (don't even get me started on that joke of a band called UB40). To put this album into a bit of context, with their aforementioned debut, Steel Pulse had caused a few ripples in the music industry and had gained a sizeable cult following, and had even supported Bob Marley and Burning Spear on tour. They'd become known for using much more of a polished studio sound than their roots reggae contemporaries, as well as peddling very politically-motivated, anti-apartheid songs (it doesn't take much of an imagination to think what they'd be on about for a song called Ku Klux Klan for example). As yet, though, mainstream success had eluded them. In hiring legendary producer Karl Pitterson (who had albums such as Bob Marley's Exodus and Peter Tosh's Legalize It under his belt, as well as Steel Pulse's first two albums), the band attempted to find a more mainstream sound as well as, in lead singer David Hinds' words, "your earth-man style and your militant style". It's the best way to sum this album up in a stylistic sense. From the bare bones of the instantly-recognisable reggae backbone, True Democracy employs an eclectic mix of upbeat dance rhythms, political and social commentary and a state-of-the-art feel that sets it apart from the sound of contemporary Jamaican reggae of the day. It's mainstream yet militant, preaching yet unpretentious, and one of the absolute essentials on top of that.''

''Whereas their earlier work is just as meritable, True Democracy sees Karl Pitterson's production creating a much fuller and uptempo sound and, therefore, a much more accessible one. Such is the reason if I had to recommend one classic reggae album to someone who's never heard any good reggae before, I'd go with this album. Another reason it's impossible to hate this album is because, while softening their approach in order to gain a more mainstream audience, Steel Pulse still explore the deeply evocative, militant and thought-provoking lyrical matters of social and political commentary, with Hinds incorporating some unusual subjects into his lyrics. As well as all this, Pitterson's splendid production allows each band member (particularly percussionist Phonso Martin) to really stand up and make themselves heard. All these factors are the building blocks to a classic reggae album, and one I couldn't give enough praise. Brilliant album. If you've ever thought about getting into reggae but aren't sure where to turn, I recommend this.''

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Portrait Of Handsworth Riot in 1985 - Pogus Caesar - BBC1 TV . Inside Out.

Broadcast 25 Oct 2010.

Birmingham film maker and photographer Pogus Caesar found himself in the centre of the riots and managed to document these images. The stark black and white photographs featured in the exhibition 'Handsworth Riots - Twenty Summers On' provide a rare, valuable and historical record of the raw emotion, heartbreak and violence that unfolded during those dark and fateful days in September 1985.