I’ve been listening to a digital version of course, but I won’t hesitate to say that the last time I’ve played any record to such cruel kind of death was three years ago with The Frightnrs. Did Aggro live up to my expectations? Did they record an album not only good as “Rugged Road” or “IV” but actually outstanding as “Dirty Reggae”, from which it all started? I’m worried that I lack distance. Several dozen listens over just two weeks made me feel like those song were with me forever. I’ve activated a very strange mechanism of feeling new music through a sentiment typical rather for recordings from past decades. But let’s be honest, it wouldn’t stand a chance to work like that, if the album wasn’t perfect.
From the first tones till the very end – every song focuses full listener’s attention. There’s no background music, no needless intermissions, fillers, tracks you’d like to toss out from the playlist. In accordance with opening track’s “Pound For Pound” lyrics – it’s gonna be strong, if you wait that long for the Aggro sound. Guys have waited out, took part in other projects, evolved very much for sure. And now they’re back stronger than ever.
First song sets the bar very high and makes you feel like home when you listen to classic, original “dirty reggae”, for which you’ve waited so long. Next one, “Say or Do”, shows what has changed. After a beautiful keyboard intro comes Jesse with a vocal so silky, that if it wasn’t for an unmistakable panther on the cover, there’s no way I would have recognized his voice. “Love Me Tonight” also fits into this aesthetic. I’ve heard Jesse sing in similar style during Freedom Sounds Festival this April, where he performed with The Badasonics. You can also hear this kind of more atmospheric singing in Reggae Workers of the World. With Aggrolites it’s something new and it supplements their sound really nicely. In some way it’s also an answer for new trends and a clear signal that these guys won’t get overrun by young blood so easily. Rising stars of Steady 45s are in the forefront of this kind of romantic soulful playing. It’s worth to mention here that if you hear a trombone, saxophone or even flute on this record – it’s all Joseph Quinoes, ex-member of Steady 45s.
Some of you could fear that this album might be dominated by Roger Rivas instrumentals. Personally, I probably wouldn’t be very sad about it. I love his “Autumn Breeze”, “Last Goodbye” and “Organ Versions”. Yet I understand those listeners who prefere their songs with vocal. I assuage your concerns – balance on “Reggae Now” is perfect. There are five instrumentals. Actually four and a half if you consider “Invasion”. There are some pretty backing vocals there by Alex Désert and Deston Berry. You might know both gentlemen from Hepcat and The Lions. You’ll hear more of them on this album. My personal instrumental favourite is “Western Taipan” – either it has an atmosphere of some jungle expedition or it’s just my raving imagination and today’s tropical temperature. Rivas does marvels here and reminds everyone who’s the organ king. While writing about Roger’s virtuoso performance I have to mention “Jack Pot”. Keys are also handled by Rivas here. By Rivas senior that is. Now you can’t have any doubts that true talent is passed in genes.
Hungry for some classic aggro hits? You’ve got plenty to choose from. “Groove Them Move Them” beautifully continues the vibe set in “Pound for Pound”. “Help Man” and “Why you Rat” are simply 100% Jesse and the last vocal tune “Aggro Reggae Party” tells you with its title that it’s gonna be quintessence of The Aggrolites. As I mentioned before – there are no bad songs here. Every piece of the puzzle fits perfectly. It’s one of those albums, you’re gonna listen to so long, that if someday you’ll hear one of these songs taken out of the context, you’ll be surprised why isn’t it followed by the first sounds of next “Reggae Now!” playlist item.
It’s good that this album is released just now. This is all so much summery, that I can’t imagine its premiere during any colder season. With every sound you can feel the California sun and hot air off the ocean. I put my headphones on again, correct my sunglasses and get out into the streets of Warsaw Los Angeles. Wee-hihi!