Before the Revolution
Moon Ska NYC
I can’t remember the last time I had such a hard time writing a review of a record I love. I don’t even know where to start with this one. The Adjusters’ new record has all but left me speechless. On paper, it sounds like anarchy: nine people playing everything from ska to northern soul to surf to funk to mod to reggae to rocksteady? Surely, some of it must be weak; there must be some place where the band falls short. Nobody can play all those styles on one record convincingly, right? Wrong. The Adjusters are for real, and Before the Revolution is the proof. With the assistance of ska über-producer Vic Rice (former Scofflaws and current New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble bassist, and producer of stunning records for the likes of the Articles and the Slackers), the Adjusters have put out nothing short of a masterpiece, destined to be a classic.
It’s almost pointless to try to pick this record apart or single out just a few tracks; if you put Revolution on, plan on listening to it the whole way through. It will compel you like nothing else. The liners will tell you that you bought the record for the cover of the Stylistics’ “People Make the World Go Round,” and when you hear Jessica Basta’s soaring vocals, you’ll find that hard to deny, but that’s doing the rest of the record a severe disservice. I defy anyone to sit still for the funky groove of “The Fightback (Part One).” If that one doesn’t get your ass movin’, call the coroner. “Loose Roots” is haunting dub reggae, while “Pressure 24” explores the older, skinhead-style of the music. “Number Three” is a striking northern soul rave-up, while “Witness” and “Toehold” (the latter being a Wilson Pickett cover) veer toward the more familiar Otis Redding school of soul. Elsewhere, there’s the stirring ska of “Armstrong,” the torchy, smoky soul of “The Bad Man,” and the spicy Latin flavor of “Mood Red,” among too many others to mention.
I’d be doing the band an extreme injustice if I didn’t mention their political agenda. They use their music as a platform for their Democratic Socialist views, and they aren’t afraid to preach what they believe. At no time is the message pushy, though it certainly will challenge you. The Adjusters are out to challenge listeners to confront injustice, and this record is bound to win plenty of converts to their cause.
In the liner notes, Rice tells a story of playing the mixes for a group of NYC ska luminaries including King Django, Agent Jay, and, Rocker-T. You’re sure to be as awed as those august gentlemen were. This record sounds like a time capsule of styles from the Sixties, yet at no time does it sound stale; to the contrary, this is one of the freshest-sounding records I’ve heard in a long time. That feel even manages to extend to the smart liner notes (which were designed by singer Daraka Larimore and Andrea Sims), which even make the package look like a time capsule. Perhaps you can appreciate why I’m having such a hard time writing about this record; to be blunt, words don’t do it justice. If you can’t appreciate Before the Revolution, the only taste you have is in your mouth. Moon SKA NYC, P.O. Box 1412, Cooper Station, New York, NY 10276; http://www.moonska.com