Album Review: Mellow Mood - Mañana
by Gardy Stein
From festival stages straight to your stereo: Mellow Mood have not only rocked several live shows during the summer, they have also just released their sixth studio album entitled Mañana. Another lockdown baby, the album was written and recorded during the past two years, and the special thing about it are the many international features that make up half of its 13 tracks. Producer Paolo Baldini has taken great care to include a well-balanced diversity of rhythms and tempi, and his skill as recording and mixing engineer ensures a holistic, high-quality sound overall.
His contribution to the group's sound can best be heard in opener Dub Jah Bless, as this is 100% Mellow Mood. From the laid-back beat to the powerful bass-lines, from the interlacing of the voices of Jacopo and Lorenzo Garcia to its sing-along appeal, this song is all the band has grown to be.
The subsequent My Bed, on the other hand, is an excursion into completely different territory. Featuring Jamaica's "rudebwoy" Konshens, it is a fast-paced, danceable affair, an ideal playground for the sexy voicing style of the MC. The twins join him in a lament of partners who disappear "like a thief in the night", using not only their usual mix of Patois and English, but also Spanish, which plays a role beyond the album title, as we will see below. A runaway in the other direction of the bpm-scale is Promise, a calm Gospel piece for which the band has worked with a real choir for the first time. Equally spiritual, Blessings On Me gives thanks and praises to the Most High for our existence. The singers count their blessings vocally, while surprising extras like hand clapping, a lion's roar, a trumpet or a flute set sonic highlights and make this track one of the most interesting of the release.
Firmly back in Reggae waters, Sweet Like Honey is a reflection on the gift of life. I especially like the way the singer (not sure if it's Jacopo or Lorenzo) plays with his voice in the beginning, half shouting, half rapping the thanksgiving lyrics. Similar in focus, gratitude despite rough times is the subject of the pushing Laser Sight as well: "Even in the darkest time JahJah gives I laser sight and the power to spit fire with this likkle voice of mine..." Boom!
My personal highlight of the release, though, is the magnificent I And I Chant for which Mellow Mood teamed up with Brother Wildman, Sistah Maryjane and Maga Lion aka the Emeterians from Spain. This vocal trio has an incredible range of harmonies and sings with a warmth and intensity that is simply touching. When I first heard this song upon its release in December last year, I was completely overwhelmed with emotion as both the oh so true lyrics and the sweet offbeat hit home. It still feels the same every time it plays now, especially since the recently released remix with Alborosie and Anthony B (included as bonus track on the album) add another dimension to it.
Another Spanish guest, we hear the voice of Sr. Wilson on the title track Starting Mañana. The song is best enjoyed watching the accompanying video (shot by Terralstudio in Barcelona), as it not only gives you a visual clue of the coolness oozing from the three singers, but also a transcript of the lyrics, which are an eclectic mix of Spanish, Patois and English. "Y yo no dejo para mañana lo que pueda hacer today. Se que a veces cuesta pero es mejor if you do it this way..."
Speaking of cool: in Mr. Global, another artist that can be thus attributed picks up the mic along with the twins, and if you are familiar with Kabaka Pyramid's woke output, you won't be surprised that the piece is a harsh critique of the shady transactions of big multinational companies. On a more individual level, Paris Rock describes the urge to flee the "concrete jungle" of huge urban agglomerations, convincingly brought across by the twins and Sweden's Million Stylez. Let's go to the promised land!
While the tracks mentioned in the previous paragraph leave us kind of alert and tense, Make It Better is the perfect occassion to exhale. Both the decelerated beat and the hopeful lyrics, enhanced by the US-American Reggae band Iya Terra, contribute to a relaxed descent towards the last tune. With In My Town, the album ends as it begins - Mellow Mood full on!
Chapeau to the whole team, but especially to bassie Giulio Frausin, guitarist Matteo Da Ros, drummer Antonio Maria Cicci, Roberto Dazzan (trumpet), Marta Cecconi (flute), Flavio Passon (piano & organ) as well as Alfredo Puglia aka Forelock, who played and arranged most of the keyboards. Team work makes the dream work! Today and tomorrow, Mañana will remain a vibrant testimony of finest Reggae music outta Italy.
Mellow Mood - Mañana
DIGITAL RELEASE [Ineffable Records, La Tempesta Dub]
Release date: 08/19/2022
01. Dub Jah Bless
02. My Bed feat. Konshens
03. Mr. Global feat. Kabaka Pyramid
04. I and I Chant feat. Emeterians
05. Paris Rock feat. Million Stylez
06. Starting Mañana feat. Sr. Wilson'
07. Laser Sight
08. Sweet Like Honey
10. Blessings On Me
11. Make It Better feat. Iya Terra
12. In My Town
13. I and I Chant feat. Anthony B, Alborosie & Emeterians (Remix)