Backbeat Soundsystem - Together Not Apart (2014)

Published On: 4-01-2015, 17:32
Artist: Backbeat Soundsystem
Title Of Album: Together Not Apart
Year Of Release: 2014
Label: Easy Star Records
Genre: Reggae
Quality: Mp3, 320 kbps
Total Time: 00:52:17
Total Size: 124 Mb
WebSite: itunes


"01. Fighting Bull
02. Hey Girl
03. Against It All
04. I Spy
05. Words Are the Weapon
06. Come Undone
07. Losing Faith
08. Forever Never
09. Share with You
10. Two Time
11. Burning Up
12. December"

"Who is a definitive band in 21st century reggae? What can be gleaned from reggae's successful trajectory around the globe? The United Kingdom's Backbeat Soundsystem appear poised to answer both of these questions with their first full-length album. Multi-tracked vocals, catchy hooks, a lush sound with horns, organ, dub delay effects, and dancehall tempos engage to bring their live show energy to the studio. As a "caucasian" band, they face comparisons in terms of the techniques they use relative to their contemporaries of this ilk, as in Rebelution or SOJA. However they made notes and took lessons from their own UK foundation artists such as: Steel Pulse for their soaring African-styled tone, bold message and deep roots, analog sound, Maxi Priest for soulful, polished vocals in the evergreen Lover's Rock style, UB40 for their higher frequency, guitar, horns, and multi-tracked vocal production. They also gleaned wisdom from the UK Two-Tone movement; bands like The Specials and The English Beat who listened to the world around them and drew people close to the stage, ushering in a multicultural shift in music. Backbeat also appear to be students of the original dancehall style with Sir David Rodigan, still going strong on the BBC and in the dance, from him they have learned showmanship and the use of sound effects to turn up the vibes.
Lead singer Dean Forrest is also the producer of the album, he and the band team up with American label Easy Star for the release. This is an obvious choice, to ally with a crew that provides a haven for excellent reggae bands that make their mark first by consistent, outstanding live performances. The band toured with the label's house band Easy Star All Stars this past summer for club dates in the UK, but as a homegrown troupe they've made the scene in some of the world's largest festivals like Isle of Wight, Boomtown Fair and the UK's One Love Festival. Using Kickstarter crowdfunding to raise the funds to finish the album, they exceeded their modest goal of £1000 pounds by three times! Drawing undoubtedly from their devoted fan base, this Cornwall-based band has the vibe of a breezy, Western, beachside community so apropos to their current setting.
To lead the set Fighting Bull features slick horn lines that punctuate the message of being on the battlefield of life and working hard to overcome the "bull" in society and the hopeful promise to "keep your dreams within a stone's throw, if you don't try you will never know." A glorious breakdown divides the tune in two with a piano keyboard solo. Hey Girl is a first person love song pledging some of the basic things women want: to dance close, share both feelings and house, and to not have their boy at the end of the night, "leave with another girl". Influences of '80's funk are present with retro keyboard, horn, and guitar swirling in and out of a dancehall breakdown.
As we move Against It All blends dub effects with complex horns and a bass line that makes the case at the forefront of the mix. The lyrics speak to being courageous and to "stand up tall this could end in thunder" and it's infectious chorus that sings, "You know and I know, that good don't come around to those that stand down." The music is performed and composed at a rapid tempo that races as a constant through the album as evidenced by I Spy with its one drop that decries violence. An appropriate conceptual segue is Words Are the Weapon which seems to be required reading and hearing for those that experienced the riots of 2011 in the UK. An inspiring flow here, reminding the system that equality is the key to stem violence as the jam reaches a crescendo point. Come Undone seems to continue the societal observation, "you know something's wrong but you close your eyes." Repeating the question, "Where do the wicked come from?" in the bridge, the Backbeat Soundsystem warns, "If we let them run and if we let them run we take full blame for the world as one 'til it comes undone." This song also shifts tempo towards the end, mirroring the frenzy of the live setting as it moves into a ska groove.
For Losing Faith a straight-up ska tempo carries this theme of disilusionment and expands it to rest comfortably in the artist's angst, asking for answers, wondering, how long before I lose faith? Pondering "Now that I know what I want, I don't think I can get it...." the charming self-doubt of a musician striving to stay independent but yearning for the success that goal setting may bring. Again the tempo shifts for a breakdown in the middle of the song, so that Dean can do more of a toaster chant to invoke the good juju.
The drums are the centerpiece on Forever Never bringing a "flyers cymbal" open and closed style that channels the living legend Carlton "Santa" Davis himself. The bass naturally rounds out the rhythm section for some rub-a-dub close dancing in a sweet ode to the loved ones out there. The vocals channel David Hinds from Steel Pulse with their lilting call and response melodic phrasing. More loving vibes are exhibited on Share With You - another Lover's Rock song that evokes the future that the singer wants to share. For Two Time they flow from the Two Tone wellspring with a soulful chorus that follows the steps of romance. The song features abbreviated horn and guitar solos which must play well in the live setting. Another rise in the crescendo of what may be great to see live is Burning Up which features a dancehall cadence and chant from Dean during the beginning of the song, it then flows into a slower one-drop that covers the elements of a conflict as it burns up and out.
A smooth one drop carries the album out with a dreamy horn line and chime-effect guitars on December. This expands on the theme of following one's dreams and being a beneficial presence on the planet. The message strengthens the argument that "now is the time, the time is nigh" and that you can "take time to remember, you can shine so bright, like the north star in December the one bright light in the night sky". A bright light overall in reggae worldwide, may the Backbeat continue to rise and shine!"
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