Easy Star All-Stars are not new to the reggae scene. They have been über successful in their previous efforts, including their tributes to Pink Floyd, Dub Side of the Moon and Dubber Side of the Moon. With First Light, listeners get the first true recorded glimpse into the creativity that this large band with a various cast of players has to offer.
From the ivory tickling, thunderous bass line, and subsequent trickling of the full horn section at the onset of the second track on First Light, “Break of Dawn,” it is apparent that this is not a standard-fare reggae record. This is not to say that one can’t shut his eyes and envision himself sipping on a chilled beverage while staring at an infinite abyss from a Caribbean shore when listening or that the genre has been abandoned. What it is saying is that in contrast to political agendas and homage to marijuana – a sound/message that a disproportionate number of reggae/ska artists have shifted toward – Easy Star has traced reggae back to and through its origin in American jazz undercurrents and Toots Hibbert beginnings. It is feel-good music, and there is only one THC-laden track.
Highlighted by “Universal Law” and its dual female vocalists, a backdrop bass line and an upward moving horn crescendo, the album hits on what seems to be exactly its intent … to be an easy listen that holds appeal to a vast audience. But its hit also marks its partial miss in that it plays it too safe at times and lacks a dirty dub track that takes its listener by the scruff and demands that every other sound in the room be silenced – given previous Easy Star outings, there is no doubt that this crew is fully capable of that sound.
Overall, First Light is a release that is worth taking note of. Though it is a departure from Easy Star’s splitting sound, the album delivers in positive vibrations that dare listeners to attempt to be pissed off while spinning it. That attempt would be futile.
First Light will be released April 5 on Easy Star Records.