The cover of the new Strides album The Youth, The Rich & The Fake shows an Indian sadhu (white and red painted face and festooned topknot as befits your local holy man) taking a nice deep drag on a chillum of (i would say) potent bhung. If you want to know how the gentlemen is feeling, all you have to do is step inside and let the Strides be your guide.

Australia’s premier proponents of reggae and dancehall, the 8-piece Strides have released their best yet in The Youth, The Rich & The Fake, their thirdThe band is already bristling with championship musicians, rappers and singers, and for the new one they have added guests to the party such as soul sister Ngaiire and Sierra Leonean ragga man Blacker Conteh.

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Across the twelve tracks they spread their message, their virtuosity and many moods, yet without ever losing the roots(-reggae) of what they do so well. The variety and scope is wide as a Barbados beach, yet all are lit by the same sunshine. The easy reggae of ‘History’ with the sinewy horns of Jeremy Rose and Nick Garbett to the fore; the smooth croon of frontman, reggae master Ras Roni, over ‘Murawina’; the clipped ska of ‘Wizard’, with its suggestion of Horace Silver‘s ‘Song For My Father’ under it all; the mellow yet tough dub of ‘One for One’, the sort of dark groove that Fat Freddy’s Drop do so well; the sunny hymn to Jah’s love, ‘One Heart’; so many moods.

Hip-hop flavours add sweet-and-sour to ‘No Drama’ (shades of Slim Shady) and closer ‘Rude Boys’, rapper Ltl Gzeus’ joy-of-sex rap over a spooky funk reggae chug. Ngaire’s two features, ‘Rasta Live’ and especially ‘One for One’ are warm and smooth as skin.

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Standout track ‘Arnhem Land’ shows alto saxist Rose and piano player Danny Pliner stretch out on their jazz chops: Rose’s solo climbs like a snake or like a vine seeking sunlight at the top of the jungle; Pliner’s piano solo goes some dissonant places that would even make our Indian holy man sit up and take notice.

Worked up at Campbelltown’s Art Centre in gritty Western Sydney and recorded in a Byron Bay rainforest studio (U-Live), The Youth, The Rich & The Fake is a unique and uplifting statement of reggae music by one of our – and one of the World’s – best.

 

Published March 2015 on theorangepress.net
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