• SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh History and Autoformer Technology (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - NAD Viso HP50 Headphones (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - GoldenEar Technology's Anechoic Chamber (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - PSB's M4U 4 Earphones (April 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - GoldenEar Technology's Triton Two+ and Three+ Loudspeakers (March 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- KEF's LS50 (February 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Monitor Audio's Platinum II Series (January 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Pryma 0|1 Headphones (December 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- KEF's Blade Two Loudspeaker (November 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- KEF and the Uni-Q (October 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Monitor Audio Acoustics & Aesthetics (August 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- PSB's Imagine T3 Loudspeaker (June 2015)
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  • SoundStage! InSight -- Muraudio's Domain Omni Series (March 2014)

Easy Star All-StarsEasy Star ES-1034
Format: CD

Musical Performance ****
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

 

For nearly a decade, the Easy Star All-Stars have been carving a creative niche for themselves, revisioning classic albums by Pink Floyd, Radiohead, and the Beatles into dubbed-out tributes redone with reggae flair. Taking on the daunting task of paying proper respect to some of the greatest albums of all time, the group’s past work includes Dub Side of the Moon (2003), Radiodread (2006), and Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band (2009). With their latest effort, Easy Star’s Thrillah, the group tackles the best-selling album of all time: Michael Jackson’s masterpiece, Thriller.

Such an undertaking required the input of some of reggae’s own heavy hitters, including Michael Rose (Black Uhuru), Steel Pulse, Luciano, Mojo Morgan (Morgan Heritage), Yossi Fine (David Bowie, Lou Reed, Stanley Jordan), Joe Tomino (Dub Trio/Matisyahu), and Andy Farag (Umphrey’s McGee). Michael Goldwasser, who produced the album, approached the challenge as an opportunity to pay his highest respects to the King of Pop, infusing each track with careful arranging and artistry. The track list follows that of its predecessor, but the mellow stylizations and horn- and bass-laden structure of reggae add an altogether new feel to these familiar tunes.

"Billie Jean" incorporates reggae’s ever-present air horn as the song opens, until fat sax, syncopated synth, and Luciano’s gravelly voice take the reins, telling the timeless tale of the girl who "claims that I am the one, but the kid is not my son." "Beat It" gets the Nyabinghi rhythm treatment with densely layered bass and drums, which work exceptionally well with the song’s original structure; this track ends up being the most effortless and funky on the disc. For Jackson’s beast of a hit, "Thriller," extra attention is paid to spooky sound-effects such as creaking doors and eerie howling (though no samples from the original Thriller are used anywhere on this album), and singer Spragga Benz gives his eeriest Vincent Price impersonation. But the scariest thing about all this is that this November Thriller celebrates its 30th anniversary. Yikes! Extended instrumental dub versions of "Beat It" and "Thrillah," respectively titled "Dub It" and "Close to Midnight," close out the disc. If you’ve never before imagined that zombified, dreadlocked Rastas could stagger through the streets circa 1982, now is your chance.

Listening to the Easy Star All-Stars’ tribute to Thriller 30 years after that album’s original release is notable for two reasons: 1) today’s reggae artists have given their all in utmost respect to the great gloved one, resulting in an altogether worthy listen; and 2) Michael Jackson’s music and spirit are timelessly relevant but still untouchable, despite anyone’s attempts at emulative duplication.

. . . Shannon Holliday
shannonh@soundstagenetwork.com