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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

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Steel Pulse
Earth Crisis
Elektra/Rhino

By Tom Terrell

Published September 8, 2005

When Steel Pulse went into the lab in early ’83 to record their follow-up to True Democracy, one question weighed heavily on their minds: could they make great reggae music again without the crucial presence and efforts of original lead guitarist/arranger Basil Gabbidon? The answer was a resounding, “Hell, yes!” Musically, Hinds went for a more lead vocal-oriented sound underpinned by a fusion of Wailers-esque one-drop roots rock reggae grooves, and Aswad’s brass-driven R&B hooks with Pulse’s trademark vocal harmonies and dubasonic melodies and rhythmatics. Lyrics became denser and more politically world-viewing. Indeed, from its Fela Kuti emulating agit-prop cover artwork (stars and stripes, hammer and sickle, Reagan-Gorbachev-Pope Paul, riot-geared cops, starving Africans, KKK dude, naked Vietnamese children) to songs about the consequences of man’s hubris (“Earth Crisis,” “Wild Goose Chase,” “Tightrope,” “Bodyguard”) and his path to redemption (“Throne Of Gold,” “Grab Education,” “Steppin’ Out”), Earth Crisis leaves no doubt that great pop music can make you think, free your soul and shake your booty down. Four bonus tracks—“Steppin’ Out (dub),” “Steppin’ Out (extended),” “Roller Skates (remix)” and “Roller Skates (dub)”—grace this reissue.

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