What do you do to bring renewed interest and a new demographic of listeners to a legendary album like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, or The Beatles’ near-perfect Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band?
Easy Star All-Stars is a reggae collective with a rotating roster of musicians and singers co-founded by Michael Goldwasser, Eric Smith, Lem Oppenheimer, and Remy Gerstein of New York City-based Easy Star Records in 1997. They are best known for covering popular albums in a reggae and dub style and have released three cover albums to date: Dub Side of the Moon (2003), Radiodread (2006), and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (2009). They also recently released their first original title First Light (2011), which features the likes of The Meditations, Cas Haley, Junior Jazz, Lady Ann, and Tony Tuff.
The core of the touring band remains largely intact since 2003: Ras I Ray (bass, vocals), Ive-09 (drums), Kirsty Rock (vocals), Jennifer Hill (saxophone, flute) and Buford O’Sullivan (trombone). Menny More has handled deejay vocals since 2006.
The All-Stars burst onto the New York City reggae scene in the late 90’s as primarily a studio entity until they make a move in 1999.Through their early association with Brooklyn, NY sound system Twin Sound, the Easy Star All-Stars organize three tribute concerts for dub melodica-king Augustus Pablo, who passes away in May 1999. At the shows, the All-Stars back performances by reggae legends Sugar Minott, the Meditations, and Sister Carol. Still, they remain mostly a studio entity until the much-hailed release of Dub Side Of The Moon.
Since the release of that seminal album in 2003, their worldwide album sales have surpassed 300,000 units, with Dub Side of the Moon staying on Billboard’s Reggae Chart since its release. Upon it’s release in 2006,Radiodread spends almost 2 years on Billboard’s Reggae Chart and earns praise from the members of Radiohead themselves. As for Lonely Heart’s, the record cracks the Billboard Top 200 twice, becoming the first reggae album to do that in over two years.
Throughout the late-2000’s, the Easy Star All-Stars play hundreds of shows across the globe in support of their dub tribute albums. In 2009, the band is nominated for a UK Festival Award for its three-day, three-stage performance at Glastonbury. Their incessant touring during this period establish them as a force to be reckoned with on stage.
They are a stellar live act, never failing to bring the heavy dread. During the current renaissence of uninspired and unoriginal American reggae acts, the All-Stars are truly something special, with a sound and style unlike any reggae act touring right now. They record with the best and brightest in Jamaican roots music including Horace Andy, Sugar Minott, Toots and the Maytals, Big Youth, Israel Vibration, Frankie Paul, Sluggy Ranks, and many more. Their street cred is earned and real, legitimized even more by the stature of the artists that continue to appear on their albums.
I spoke recently with Eric Smith, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Easy Star Records, and he tells me that the All-Stars are in the studio right now working on the new tribute album due for release on August 28, 2012. The album release will be followed by a world tour in late 2012 and into the early part of 2013. Of course he won’t reveal which album they are “blessing” right now, but he assures me that they plan to press release it sometime soon.
Click HERE to hear a studio session and an interview with Easy Star co-founder Eric Smith.