Monday, 3 June 2019

Aswad


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ASWAD (1976)

1. I A Rebel Soul
2. Can't Stand The Pressure
3. Ethiopian Rhapsody
4. Natural Progression
5. Back To Africa
6. Red Up
7. Ire Woman
8. Concrete Slaveship         

Aswad’s debut album, from 1976, saw them in their initial incarnation as a roots reggae band. In later years they exploited soul and pop influences to achieve a modicum of chart success. Here they are very much in a roots mould, similar to sort of material put out by Bob Marley on Rastaman Vibration - rootsy but with an ear for a tune and a use of lilting, melodic guitars as opposed to a bassy, dub-heavy sound.

I A Rebel Soul is an upbeat, catchy opener, with Brinsley Forde’s emotive, throaty voice on good form and some very Marley-esque skanking guitar backing. Rather like The Gladiators, early Aswad blended a Rasta devotion with the recording of some attractive, appealing material.

Can't Stand The Pressure is in the same groove - sumptuous rhythm, harmonious vocals, that rimshot drum bit on the backbeat that The Wailers used such a lot. A quirky organ break in the middle too.

  

Ethiopian Rhapsody is a laid-back instrumental of the highest quality. The instrumentation, sound quality and execution on this album is excellent for a debut outing.

Natural Progression is an insistent, militant mid-paced number with some blues harmonica lending a real atmosphere to it. Once again, the guitar work is outstanding - used in the way that both Marley and Peter Tosh enhanced their recordings. Back To Africa is a laid-back Third World-esque summery vibe with more conscious lyrics.

Red Up is another captivating instrumental, with keyboard and guitar solos. This was not speaker-shaking dub booms and little else. There was some musical showing off being done here. Impressive stuff.

Ire Woman is a little lightweight, and probably the weakest track on the album. The album’s lengthy closer, Concrete Slaveship is a very Marley-influenced number in the Catch A Fire/ Slave Driver vein with a meaningful lyrical content, convincing vocal and a general feel of competent professionalism. This was a very impressive debut album indeed.

One small drawback, however, is that it is too short, just four tracks on each side.



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