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Album Review

The Aggrolites may be the best reggae/soul/funk band in the land, a hard hitting ensemble now trimmed down to a powerful quartet — Roger Rivas on piano and organ, Brian Dixon on guitar, bass man Jeff Roffredo, and frontman Jesse Wagner, a singer with a powerful, soulful set of pipes. They're proudly retro and although their sound is pumped up with a tough post-punk energy, their bedrock grooves pay tribute to the early days, and bands, of Jamaica's music scene when hungry young dudes were mashing up American soul and local folkloric rhythms to produce a sizzling hybrid that went by the names of ska, bluebeat, soul, and, by the mid-'70s reggae. The Aggrolites have studied JA's book of rules and trimmed away all the fat, to forge a sound that tips its hat to the past while remaining fiercely contemporary. Like the bands they love, they combine killer melodies and socially conscious lyrics to produce songs that keep you moving and thinking. IV has 21 tunes and delivers more than an hour of solid music that bounces along from the Toots & the Maytals tribute "What a Complex" with a suitably raspy lead vocal from Wagner, slinky keyboard work from Rivas on clavinet, and soaring backing vocals, to the bubbly ska/R&B fusion of "Keep Moving On," and the Memphis-meets-bluebeat raveup of "Wild Time," a rowdy tune that shows the band at its uncontained best with a greasy Dixon guitar solo that tosses a bit of fat into the fire. Other standouts include the one-drop rocker "Feelin' Alright" laughs at the hard times with its positive vibration, "Tear That Falls" and "Precious and Few" are slow, simmering reggae love songs with gorgeous backing harmonies, and "The Sufferer" is another socially conscious lyric with an aggressive groove and an uplifting message. "It's Gonna Be OK" closes the album with a mellow lover's rock groove, buoyed by the chiming piano of Rivas, the band's mellow vocal harmonies, and Wagner's smooth, soulful crooning. ~ j. poet, Rovi

Biography

Formed: 2002 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '00s

Blame it on No Doubt or blame it on Sublime, but by the middle of the 1990s, very little of the pop music that was described as ska had anything to do with Jamaican dance music of the early '60s. Too many bands whose sole connection to the musical style had been a few singles by the Specials or the English Beat got it all exactly backward, with the punk influences drowning out what little Jamaican influence remained: the result was basically Green Day with horns, and it wasn't any good for anyone....
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Iv, The Aggrolites
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