New Age Steppers

Action Battlefield

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Less experimental and just a shade less exciting than their self-titled debut, 1982's Action Battlefield slightly pares down the lineup found on its predecessor and hones in on vocal-heavy, extended version-like renditions of songs originally written by the likes of Horace Andy ("Problems"), Black Uhuru's Michael Rose ("Observe Life"), B.B. Seaton ("My Love"), and the Heptones' Leroy Sibbles ("Guiding Star"). There aren't any Raincoats, there aren't any former members of the Pop Group, and -- perhaps most unfortunately -- there's no Style Scott gracing these grooves, but that shouldn't deter anyone whose interest in the New Age Steppers was piqued by their involvement with the first album. Most of the music is laid down by Aswad's George Oban, Creation Rebel's Tony Phillips, Eskimo Fox, and the Slits' Ari Up, who also takes on most of the vocal duties. As far as the other contributors are considered, the honey-sweet "My Love" features the vocals of a pre-stardom Neneh Cherry (then of Rip Rig & Panic) and cult legend Bim Sherman. That's as solid as a lineup gets, and one thing this record does have in its favor over its predecessor is a greater sense of cohesion. To wit, this record sounds more like a band than the temporary collaborative effort that it truly is. With a lack of instrumentals and original songs on deck, Sherwood's production doesn't get as wayward or crazed as it did on the first Steppers record, but there's still plenty of mind-bending psych-dub to wrap your head around. "Nuclear Zulu" benefits from reverberant funk guitar treatments that sound like Eddie Hazel as produced by Lee Perry, and, like most of the other tracks, it has a drum/bass/piano lock groove that sticks like a leech.

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