Feb 5, 2013

RhoDeo 1305 Roots

Hello, these past months we traversed the UK dubscene, but before all that there were a few UK bands bringing reggae to the island, obviously they found their lead in Jamaica who's first big stars came to the british shores in the mid seventies, some needed backing like Burning Spear who asked todays band to tour with him, it must have been a real honour and acknowledgement to this band that had sprouted from UK's West Indian immigrant community .  .... N'joy

Note the MEGA key is below the tracklisting

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Aswad (the name is Arabic for "black") was formed in Ladbroke Grove, West London, in 1975. Originally, the group was a quintet featuring lead vocalist/guitarist Brinsley "Dan" Forde (a native of Guyana and a onetime child actor on the BBC), drummer/vocalist Angus "Drummie Zeb" Gaye, bassist George "Ras Levi" Oban, guitarist Donald "Benjamin" Griffiths, and keyboardist Courtney Hemmings. Their sound was already rather eclectic from the beginning, mixing elements of soul, jazz, and funk with hard roots reggae, lovers rock, and dub. In 1976, Aswad became the first British reggae band to sign with a major label when they landed a deal with Island Records. Their debut single, the classic "Back to Africa," was released that year and hit number one on the U.K. reggae singles chart. Their self-titled debut album -- a collection chronicling the experiences of London's West Indian immigrant community -- followed not long after, and the group scored another hit with "Three Babylon." By this point, Aswad already had enough of a reputation that touring Jamaican stars -- Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Dennis Brown, Black Uhuru -- often hired the group as backing musicians.

Hemmings subsequently left the band and was replaced by Tony "Gad" Robinson. In 1978, Aswad moved over to the independent Grove label and issued the single "It's Not Our Wish," which was followed by their second album, the rootsier Hulet (later licensed for release by Island). Oban left the group in 1980, at which point Gad switched from keyboards to bass. Also in 1980, Forde appeared in the film Babylon, whose soundtrack featured the Aswad classic "Warrior Charge." Toward the end of the year, Aswad signed an even bigger major-label contract with CBS, and debuted with 1981's acclaimed New Chapter, a bright, soul-inflected, intricately arranged record that balanced classic and modern sounds. The singles "Love Fire" and the non-LP "Finger Gun Style" found some success that year, yet New Chapter wasn't quite the breakout commercial hit that both band and label had hoped for; the punk era and its fascination with reggae were waning, and the record was somewhat underpromoted. Aswad stripped back their sound on the 1982 follow-up, Not Satisfied, but it too met with relative commercial indifference, and the group parted ways with CBS.

Before the end of 1982, Aswad issued a one-off single, the classic "Roots Rockin'," on their own Simba label, and subsequently returned to Island on the Mango subsidiary. Their next release was the concert set Live and Direct, which appeared in 1983; by this time, the core group had been reduced to a trio of Forde, Gad, and Zeb, augmented by a horn section featuring saxman Michael "Bami" Rose and trumpeter Eddie "Tan Tan" Thornton. Aswad's next studio outing was 1984's Rebel Souls, which featured their first British pop-chart singles in "Chasing for the Breeze" and the Toots & the Maytals cover "54-46 That's My Number." The 1986 follow-up To the Top found them flirting with dancehall on the singles "Bubblin'" and "Kool Noh."

Having enjoyed some degree of crossover success, Aswad overhauled their approach and unmistakably went gunning for the charts with 1988's Distant Thunder. A lighter, poppier effort closer to mainstream R&B, Distant Thunder climbed into the British Top Ten as its lead single, a reggae cover of the Luther Ingram soul number "Don't Turn Around," went all the way to number one on the U.K. pop charts. Both album and single also made the Top 50 on the U.S. R&B charts, and in 1994, "Don't Turn Around" would be covered for an international smash by Ace of Base. The follow-up, "Give a Little Love," fell just short of the British Top Ten, and a non-LP single, "On and On," made the Top 20 in 1989.

Aswad attempted to consolidate their commercial breakthrough on their next album, Too Wicked, which was recorded in Jamaica with producer Gussie Clarke and released in 1990. However, in spite of a guest spot from dancehall star Shabba Ranks, a host of club-friendly beats, and a minor hit in "Next to You," the record failed to match its predecessor's sales. Aswad next returned in 1994 with Rise and Shine, which restored their commercial standing in Britain via the Top Five hit "Shine," and also earned them their first Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album. 1997's Big Up attracted somewhat less notice, and for 1999's Roots Revival, the group made a partial retreat from crossover material, covering several rocksteady classics and spotlighting guest vocals from Algerian rai star Cheb Mami. Forde left the group in 2000, and Gad and Zeb continued on as a duo. They released Cool Summer Reggae in 2002, since a pair of compilations have been released but no new work.

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Aswad's debut on Mango is still one of the band's strongest efforts. Nicely displaying the group's jazz-tinged, roots reggae sound, Aswad features such vocal highlights as "Can't Stand the Pressure" and "Concrete Slaveship," as well as the fine instrumental "Red Up." And while not as successful as their British peers Steel Pulse, Aswad still qualifies as one of the best roots outfits to emerge outside of Jamaica. A fitting start to the band's long and impressive run.

Aswad - Aswad (flac  240mb)

01 I A Rebel Soul 4:59
02 Can't Stand The Pressure 4:20
03 Ethiopian Rhapsody 3:29
04 Natural Progression 6:06
05 Back To Africa 5:33
06 Red Up 2:56
07 Ire Woman 3:04
08 Concrete Slaveship 8:29

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Those who know Aswad as the slick pop-reggae group responsible for such crossover hits as "Don't Turn Around" and "The Best of My Love" may not recognize them in this collection of early singles, which begins with "Back to Africa" (1976) and ends with "Babylon" (1980), the latter of which was recorded shortly before the band's big major-label break and their slow evolution from hardcore roots-reggae practitioners to pop-dancehall fave raves. Despite the militant lyrics of songs like "Back to Africa" and "Warrior Charge," the music here is very smooth and mellow, perhaps too much so. Brinsley Forde's jazzy vocals are clearly influenced by Steel Pulse frontman David Hinds, and the languid tempos and relatively complex chord progressions sometimes seem at odds with the songs' confrontational messages. An exception to that tendency is the bracing "Rainbow Culture," which proceeds at a brisk tempo and features an eerie background vocal chant.

As the album title indicates, the songs are presented in "showcase" style, with a dub version following each vocal version without pause. This version of showcase adds a number of tracks from it's follow up, the strongest dub album of several that were produced during the group's career. A New Chapter of Dub was produced by Aswad in collaboration with the up-and-coming dubmeister Mikey Dread (credited here as Michael [Reuben] Campbell), whose work as a radio DJ had made him a household name among London's West Indian expatriate population even before he began establishing himself as a top studio producer. A New Chapter of Dub finds him digging deep into the traditional bag of dubwise production tricks, using echo, drop-out, and delay in ways that had been pioneered by King Tubby, but applying those effects in a wanton and sometimes exaggerated way in a manner more reminiscent of Lee "Scratch" Perry, an approach that sometimes anticipated developments that would emerge as much as a decade later.  .

Aswad - Showcase (flac  448mb)

01 Rainbow Culture 5:40
02 Warrior Charge 5:50
03 Babylon 5:02
04 Promised Land 10:13
05 Back To Africa 5:39
06 Three Babylon 7:00
07 It's Not Our Wish 5:38
(A new chapter of Dub)
08 Zion I 5:00
09 Natural Progression 6:05
10 Ghetto In the Sky 6:18
11 Truth 4:16
12 Bammie Blow 3:54
13 Tuffist 3:42
14 Shining Dub 3:01

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Recorded at London's Notting Hill Carnival 1983 the band is accompained by a powerful horn section and plays own songs & an exciting medley of dancehall favourites of the day, and one of the most energetic performances ever - sure, Aswad bait and play to popular instincts here (albeit ones from the carribean ghettos of east london). These are completely reworked, latinized songs rigged up with a splendidly thin horn section, complemented by the second best reggae drummer of all time and a basement keyboards section which is so beautifully rootsy you never guess it was really 83.

The previously lethargic dub jam "Not Gulity" is here transformed into a double tempo ska-reggae number that absolutely flies, the lovers rock is dignified, sweet and sung by the drummer (this was not a white rock band, mind), the performance of angry dub-soul freakout "African Children" is stone-cold reggae cannon anyhow, and the medley is so loose and joyful, if occasionally neglectful of it's source material, that you cannot help yourself, ever. Shit, even the closing baiter "Love Fire" is the stuff of legend, or used to be. It's gallant, soulful and brimming with understated power. A party from start to finish

Aswad - Live and Direct (flac 288mb)

01 Not Guilty 4:50
02 Not Satisfied 5:03
03 Your Recipe 4:25
04 Roots Rocking 4:05
05 Drum & Bass Line 3:57
06 African Children 5:50
07 Soca Rumba 1:31
Rocker's Medley
09 Ease Up 1:36
10 Your Love's Gotta Hold On Me 4:00
11 Revolution 2:06
12 Waterpumping / Love Fire 8:12

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Anonymous said...

Greetings Rho.

Thanks as always for your sharing of great music. Although I have all offered albums, it's still appreciated.

I only want to add a correction: Michael "Reuben" Campbell is not the same Michael Campbell also known as Mikey Dread, but the engineer who worked on most of Aswad's early albums.

The confusion is understandable tho', two identically named men both working as sound engineers in reggae.

Don Julian

Grant McDonald said...

Hi there appears to be a problem with the mega link thought you might want to know thanks for a truley wonderful blog Cheers Grant

Rho said...

Hello Grant, in all likely ness my mistake, i have adapted all 3 Mega links now, I got a combined link-key figure, these should be split, Mega will ask for a key once you followed the link, i think this then should be be browser independent. You'll find the key below the track listing.

Anonymous said...

hi rho, could it make you happy to re-up these lovely tunes. me would make this happy too. with love. irene

Anonymous said...

Hi Rho, can you please re-up this early Aswad? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Aswad - Live and Direct filefactory link down already?

Rho said...

sorrry probably forgot to enter the new link and as im away for a few days i wont be able to enter the new link until saturday

Rho said...

looks like you.re in luck, i notlced new link at mirrorcreator have entered it now

Anonymous said...

great job, thanks :-)