Jump Up Records/Grover Records
(Review by Steve Shafer)
John Roy and the rotating cast of all-star ska musicians in his Smoke & Mirrors Sound System continue to be on a tear, reliably producing some of the best new ska and reggae music around. The latest proof of this is the stunning double A-sided 10" single that (sort of) reunites two of Symarip's main players, Roy Ellis and Monty Neysmith, both of whom have been releasing their own music as of late.
The magnificently fierce rockers-like cut "More Than Unites" (music: John Roy/lyrics: Tony Devenish of Rebelation UK) features Roy Ellis toasting and Dan Vitale of Bim Skala Bim singing of brother/sisterhood and solidarity in the face of fascism and hate.
"Don't separate us by our language
For it's the same air that we breathe
No division by color or heritage
Where the skin cuts still it bleeds
For we are all one people
Under one sun and sky
And there is more that unites us
Than divides you and I"
I don't know about you, but in these days of unprecedented selfishness, lust for power, and never-sated greed that threatens to destroy everything (people, nations, the planet), I need as many songs like this as I can get my hands on (I've been listening to a lot of '80s-era Billy Bragg lately, like the Between the Wars and Accident Waiting to Happen EPs).
With "Start All Over" (music: John Roy/lyrics: Monty Neysmith), Neysmith sings--in a terrifically impassioned performance--of surrendering, regrouping, and giving things another go. In this wonderful rocksteady hymn to hope, resilience, and grit, failure is okay if you learn from the experience--and it doesn't defeat you.
"I'm leaving this life behind
I now realize it wasn't all that kind
Today, I see the lights are shining so bright
And it tells me everything is gonna be alright
I'm gonna pick myself up
Dust myself off
And start all over again"
In addition to all of the stellar musicians on these tracks (including Matt Parker, Eric Abbey, Victor Rice, Buford O'Sullivan, and many more), the great Roger Rivas not only worked his keyboard magic here but did the boss mixes and compelling dubs.
Whoever's keeping tally, add this 10" to the list of best new ska and reggae releases of 2022...
+ + + +
For more about Smoke & Mirrors Sound System, read my reviews of their recent releases: