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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

ASWAD

By Tom Pryor
Published September 8, 2005

Aswad
Mango CCD

Aswad’s 1976 self-titled debut remains one of the great full-length roots reggae LPs, and still stands up well against anything recorded in Jamaica in that same year. The London dreads checked in with some well hard originals, brimming over with righteous anger and rootsman wisdom, and put the world on notice that British reggae had finally come of age. Drawing on contemporary funk, R&B and pop, Aswad brought a sophisticated music palette to bear, and their sound was tighter than tight. With Angus Gaye on drums and George Oban on bass, the group had a locked-down rhythm section that allowed it to explore dozens of different musical avenues. Meanwhile Tony Robinson’s slow-building organ added atmosphere and Brinsley Forde’s scratchy guitar crackled. Together they sounded like a jazzier version of the Wailers, and adventurous excursions like “Red Up” “Concrete Slaveship” and “Rebel Soul” all still resonate today. Though they would later end up sounding like a reggaefied Ashford and Simpson, their debut remains a masterpiece.