I must admit, before going any further I’ve never been a big fan of reggae. I, of course love Marley (who doesn’t) but as a genre I’ve never been taken by it. To me reggae on the whole meant repetitive beats, safe melodic content and feel good lyrics that just never hit home for me.
Until now. Truly.
Xavier Rudd and his newest band “The United Nations” sports some amazing material. You’re getting bright, boastful horn sections, beautiful lyrical content, and (surprisingly) complex flute sections that Ron Burgundy could be proud of. The first track “Flag” starts off as you would expect, reggae beats, Rasta accenting, lyrics pertaining to the unity of nations (you know the drill). But then it happens. Nothing less than a multicultural choir of angels, the hook seeps into your consciousness, echoing call and response between instruments saddled with a surprising dirty guitar riff. A strong introduction to this creative venture.
The triumph continued in the second song “While I’m Gone”. Mature, easy going, feel good melodies through and through. Then the extended outro hits you. I couldn’t believe it but I found myself being moved like I did when I first heard Marley. “My Island, My Home” repeated over and over in the best way, this song eases you out with a melodic hug and the first taste of that classic Rudd acoustic sound.
“Nanna” the title track, challenges the ear I have to say. I kept waiting to love it as I had done for every other song so far, but the reverb was so all encompassing it almost sounded messy. Luckily “Rainbow Serpent”, “Bundagen” and “Sacred” Nailed the airy feel and redeemed the slower paced tracks that trickle through the album.
After I’d aurally plundered the album, it was time to answer “that” question.
“Is it good?”
Well on the whole I liked it a lot. It challenged me in terms of themes and expanded my taste in music. Some of the songs left me cold but as Xavier sent me off with a personal touch (just the man himself and a guitar), I was reminded that it takes a lot of balls to abandon chart topping formulae and just record a full on reggae album. I couldn’t listen to the whole thing too often but some of the tracks are just brilliant, (the second track so much so that I’m bumping this review up from 3.5 to a 4).
A genuine reggae classic coming into the fold in 2015 of all years.
Xavier Rudd & The United Nations – Nanna