A Band on Hope

album-cover-a-band-on-hopeAll ye who enter here…this is a new and genre-crossing project from producer Kristian Sharpe and the Scribes’ Ill Literate who combine here to generate an ambitious and original 13 track collection. It’s hard to define musically: Kristian Sharpe draws from hip hop, rock, funk, soul, blues, electro and jazz, while Ill Literate contributes thoughtful and creative lyrics.

Che Lives is vital and upbeat rap-rock, with some surprisingly retro guitar interludes, and possibly the only lyrical references to New Labour and proletarians that we are likely to hear this year. Dead Angels is musically more firmly within hip-hop but with a gentle musical edge, quite far removed from aggressive rap. God Knows is another rock-rap outing, drenched in a sad feel and, like the album as a whole, exuding regret rather than anger. Mindfields is melodic, and curiously reminiscent of something a late 60s rock band might have contemplated. So Far trots along happily with a rhythm that’s hard to pin down, while Trapped Inside Escape is full-on hip-hop. As if that were not enough, Spaced Out Break Out introduces a jazz feel to proceedings.

This is quite a unique release: the quality of musical settings is rich and diverse; the words are political but overall quite low key and melancholy.

Earlier reviews of the Scribes can be found on reggaemusic.org.uk 3rd February and 14th December 2015, and 22nd October 2012

A Band On Hope: 13 track LP, released 15th September 2016 from iTunes, Amazon and other online retailers

Toots and the Maytals: O2 Academy Newcastle

tootsOn a brief tour of the UK before heading for America (North and South), Toots Hibbert, born in 1945, is still going strong and the audience (young and old, black and white) of course loved this set at the Newcastle Academy on September 9th 2016: a performance still vital after all these years. The nine-strong ensemble (ten if you count the very visible roadie) sounded as though they were enjoying it rather than going through the motions which must be a tempting option for bands of this vintage. Kicking off with Pressure Drop, Toots and the band took us through a variety of tracks including the hits that everyone wanted to hear: Louie Louie, Never Go Down, Sweet and Dandy, Funky Kingston (accelerating very briskly to its conclusion), Light Your Light, ending with a fine Monkey Man. Surprisingly a high-spot was the bass-driven rendition of Country Roads, demonstrating that John Denver songs can rock after all. The encore brought a reprise of Monkey Man before going into 54-46 Was My Number, finishing on a high with some crashing rock chords. The only downside to the evening was the venue: shifted (for ‘regeneration’ reasons?) from the Boiler Shop to the Academy, involving an unnecessary queue for tickets (again) and sadly illustrating that the latter venue’s poor sound system and dire-quality video screens can take the edge off a great performance. But that’s not the fault of Toots and the Maytals who gave it all they had.