Saturday, March 9, 2013

REVIEW: The Lions - This Generation

The Lions are an LA-based reggae outfit featuring 18 members and five vocalists, among them Robbie Shakespeare's cousin Black Shakespeare. It's an assembly of great musicians who share, in addition to their obvious talent, a deep reverence for roots and dub reggae - the kind of stuff that keeps you searching through the used record bins in the hope of finding one more Scratch Perry or King Tubby record that's new to you, that you've never heard before - because they just don't make that stuff anymore, right?

Well, good news. Somebody makes that stuff now. And we have the fine people at Stones Throw to thank for the Lions' latest album, This Generation. It's got all the ingredients: deep rhythms, scratch guitar, horns and extremely soulful vocals. On the song "Revelations", Black Shakespeare takes the lead, and the harmony vocals are stellar. And the extended horn section on "New Girl" (featuring James King) is delightful... but keeping in mind that all good reggae starts with a solid drum and bass underpinning, that's the element that makes this such a good record.

To get you started, here's a soundcheck video:

Being an American band, the Lions aren't simply replicating the dub sounds of the 70's - such a thing might be impossible outside of Jamaica anyway - and it's on songs like "Pieces of a Man" where the influences of American soul music show through - and highlight the specific talent of this band. In lesser hands, an attempted melding of Philly falsetto soul and reggae might just fall flat - here, it shows the best of both worlds. And have you ever wondered what a reggae version of "Jamie's Cryin'" might sound like? Well, for starters, it's heavy on the vocal harmonies.

Here's the video for the title track - a timeless reggae song:

Here's a deep dub cut, "Padre Ichiro":

And here's the dub of the title cut:

It was released Feb. 18, and you can listen and buy at Stones Throw.

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