Groundation – A Miracle
1.) Riddim Hold Dem
2.) Defender of Beauty (feat. Marcia Giffiths)
3.) Free Rider
4.) Gone a Cemetery
5.) Liberation Call
6.) A Miracle (feat. Judy Mowatts)
7.) Hold Your Head Up
8.) Jah Defend the Music
9.) Born Again
10.) Cupid’s Arrow
The Pier Album Rating:
Release Date: October 10th, 2014
Record Label: Groundation Music LLC
Official Website: Groundation Website
Groundation was founded in the fall of 1998 when three long time musicians Marcus Urani (organ/keys/piano), Ryan Newman (bass) and Harrison Stafford (guitar/lead vocals) met in their jazz program at California’s Sonoma State University to form the core of Groundation’s style and sound. Over the years, the band grew to become a 9 piece band including a Jazz horn section, several percussion players and Jamaican background singers.
Groundation is hard to nail down. So many influences can be heard in this album and although this is as Roots as it gets, Groundation brings a strong Jazz backbone to their music, breathing very unique life into these songs. Harrison Stafford, the lead singer, has such a percussive and punchy voice, but can also deliver soft melodies that dance over Groundation’s complicated chord structures. Everything about Groundation is authentic, from the music and singing to the equipment used and even drawing on lineage in its members, tying them to the legendary Kingston band, The Aggrovators.
A Miracle slides in with “Riddim Hold Dem”, a harmonically beautiful song that establishes Groundation as a band made up of exceptional players. The Piano solo is colored with a dissonant flavor not often heard in reggae and absolutely shreds.
“Defender of Beauty” is sung by the Queen of reggae, heavyweight and legendary I-Threes singer Marcia Griffiths. Such a beautiful vocal performance, which could be expected from the songstress, delivering the powerful message of the blessings of life with a touch of softness. I love the laid back bass solo in this song.
“Free Rider” drives forward with its Nyabinghi drums and hypnotic rhythm, once again showcasing the talent behind the keyboards known as Marcus Urani.
The title track features the second I-threes guest on the record, Judy Mowat, one of the biggest names in reggae. The song, and album for that matter, is a dedication to the spirit of women all over the world and Groundation could not have picked a better line up for that tribute. Judy Mowatt’s range is unreal and has some of the strongest pipes in reggae.
The transition from “A Miracle” into “Hold Your Head Up”, one of the more upbeat tracks on the record, is epic. This tune borders on ska, but is held in place with a steady one drop beat and is the perfect canvas for the very talented horn section of Groundation. The muted trumpet is a great touch & this is as close as an anthem as it gets.
Groundation is group that appears to truly live their message of positivity and living a life of meaning. The internationally acclaimed band’s 9th studio release, A Miracle, is filled with roots reggae & a Jazz sensibility. I could not help but to compare their style to the compositions of Ernest Ranglin and fans of his will for sure enjoy this record. This is an album for Reggae purists, fans who look for deeper meaning in their music and lyrics. This is an album that needs to be peeled back layer by layer discovering gems as you could have expected from a group formed over a decade ago in a Cal State Jazz program. My only real criticism of the record is the amount of fade outs used to end songs. As a listener, I always wonder what happened after the fade out…
Written & Reviewed By: Tommy Dubs (of A Sunny Place For Shady People)
[Editors Note: All reviews are reflective of the album in it’s entirety, from start to finish. These reviews are the honest opinion of each writer/reviewer expressing their feedback as a genuine fan of the music. Each star rating reflects their review of the album, NOT the band. Music is subjective. Regardless of the review or star rating, we encourage you to listen to the music yourself & form your own opinion. Spread the awareness of all music in its art & contribution]
Watch: Groundation – A Miracle Album Announcement