After the first round of listening to the album, I mentally deduced that this album would be best appreciated on vinyl (which you can purchase on Stones Throw). It would’ve sounded awesome in all its gloriously unadulterated elements of reggae. Personally, the genre never fails to deliver a sort of subdued-sunshiny vibe, whatever the underlying message is – heartbreak, politics, religion, etc – it is always effervescent. Reggae is my foolproof feel good music.
This time, my dopamine trigger is The Lions, a dozen-strong band of musicians from Los Angeles, with an impressive musical lineage – vocals include members from the ska band Hepcat, Desiton Berry and Lex Desert, and Black Shakespeare, cousin of Robbie Shakespeare (from Sly & Robbie).
The band gels very well, infectious riffs backed with brazen and catchy lyrics. The track ‘Padre Ichiro; “she loves marijuana more than she loves me, she doesn’t even share her good stuff with me”, and on ‘This Generation’ “You can’t roll a spliff on no MP3”, sung in despair, reinforcing the band’s casual mirth.
Nothing is taken too too seriously here. Message of politics and oppression are replaced with sexy, groovy tunes, reminiscent of their personal influences, such as The Upsetters, Soul Syndicate, The Rockers Band and Roots Radics.
I later discovered that the rhythm section was recorded on tape –exploiting the raw gritty feel of the harmonics coming together – subconsciously influencing my thoughts on listening to a vinyl copy. Naturally assuming that they were only given one take, there were apparently mistakes, none of which I’ve yet to realise, nothing evident to the untrained ear. I enjoy when live bands get a little off beat, like “free-jazzing”, caution thrown to the wind and living in the spontaneity of things.
Unlike the spiritual movement of roots reggae, The Lion takes on a lighter and positive approach, which may come across as slightly dense, but it still does not take the charm and fun out of listening to the album in its entirety.
01. Bird on a Wire feat. Malik Moore
02. This Generation feat. Malik Moore & Black Shakespeare
03. Picture on The Wall feat. Leroy Sibbles
04. Revelations feat. Black Shakespeare
05. New Girl feat. James King
06. Pieces of a Man feat Alex Desert
07. More Higher Ways feat. Black Shakespeare & Malik Moore
08. Jamie’s Cryin’ feat. Alex Desert
09. Be Easy feat. Alex Desert
10. Padre Ichiro feat. Malik Moore
11. Let’s Go Out Tonight feat. Black Shakespeare