Album Review: Steel Pulse - Mass Manipulation
When Steel Pulse first arrived on the scene, they caused quite a stir. Formed in 1975, their debut single Kibudu-Mansetta-Abuku (1976) and album Handsworth Revolution (1978), left an indelible mark on both the musical and political landscapes of the day. However, as time passed some sensed that whilst Steel Pulse’s musical product and stage antics were always impressive – including a Grammy win for their album Babylon The Bandit (1986) - they never really made the same impact as that effected by their virgin voyage.
However, the good news is that Mass Manipulation – backed by over 30 sponsorship partners - makes a concerted effort to recapture some of that original vitality and radical disposition, that their main man David Hinds will always be associated with. In fact, Hinds, together with keyboard player Selwyn Brown, are the sole survivors from those heady days of confrontation with Britain’s National Front movement. Hence, this release is timely, coming as it does when Britain’s far and not so far right are making a decisive and divisive impact on the world’s fragile sense of unity.
The militant messages are evident from the opening Rize track, with its call to ‘freedom fighters’ to ‘exercise your human rights’ to the compilation’s closing Nations of the World. This track is a cover of Steve Winwood’s ‘Higher Love’, as it exhorts ‘every woman, every man, boy and girl’ to listen and reason in the pursuit of ‘freedom for one and all’, legitimately demanding that you ‘give me one good reason why we can’t get along’.
In between, the album hosts a range of professionally produced politically-oriented tunes, including the retrospective Thank The Rebels (for ‘standing up like lions’), to the jumpy Justice In Jena (highlighting Louisiana’s racism, with classy horn inputs from the illustrious Dean Fraser, Nambo Robinson and Dwight Richards), followed by Human Trafficking and Cry Cry Blood, that prompts the listing of 54 racist executions on the album’s sleeve. The same (racism) theme also features on Don’t Shoot, before the haunting 31-second Trinkets and Beads? precedes the orientally-influenced entree to the Rasta-promo No Satan Side, which is followed by yet another Rasta-promo N.A.T.T.Y. (‘natural and true’) track.
The album’s title-track Mass Manipulation – as creatively captured on the album’s cover – with its prophecy of doom, is suitably followed by the World Gone Mad, as Hinds namechecks the usual suspects. This precedes his targeting of the Black and White Oppressors, prompting the prophetic and pacey track entitled The Final Call. The album’s penultimate track is a logical winding down and conclusion to the work, as it points to a Higher Love (Rasta Love), with the lyrics and music taking an upfull and more optimistic twist before the aforementioned Nations of the World pulls the curtains on proceedings.
This album – which is Steel Pulse’s twelfth studio album, but the first from their stable in 15 years - also offers some melodic musical variation, from the funky organ-infused The Final Call to the 30 second Zem Dem showcasing Nyabinghi-style percussion, whilst the Stop You Coming and Come track specialises in vocal harmonies. Indeed, this vocal dimension is quite the hallmark of the complete work, providing a welcome contrast to Hinds’ sometimes forceful style of delivery.
Overall, it’s good to see and hear that the Pulse is alive, well and kicking out some quality tunes of the revealing and instructive variety. To survive for over 45 years in the shark-infested waters of the music industry, whilst wearing your radical heart on your sleeve, yet still come up singing, takes some doing. Well done Mr. Hinds and his Steel Pulse.
Steel Pulse - Mass Manipulation
DIGITAL RELEASE [Rootfire Cooperative / Wiseman Doctrine]
Release date: 05/17/2019
02. Zem Dem
03. Stop You Coming and Come
04. Thank The Rebels
05. Justice In Jena
06. Human Trafficking
07. Cry Cry Blood
08. Don’t Shoot
09. Trinkets and Beads?
10. No Satan Side
12. Mass Manipulation
13. World Gone Mad
14. Black and White Oppressors
15. The Final Call
16. Higher Love (Rasta Love)
17. Nations Of The World