H.R.

It's About Luv

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With cover art showing the lion of Judah, the star of David, and pot leaves, going solo would seem to give Joseph I (aka H.R.) a chance to explore his obvious reggae roots a little more closely than before. But as with his work in Bad Brains, on It's About Luv, jah and deep bass still alternate with some fiery punk rock that takes no prisoners. That band's drummer, Earl Hudson, sits in throughout, demonstrating as before his ability to rampage and play it cool as needed, but most of the time things are just ripping right along (some of David Jordan's guitar solos almost sound like they're getting ahead of their own notes). Songs like "It'll Be Alright" and the live cut, "Free Our Mind," are all hyperspeed playing and feedback, but at least on the former H.R.'s warm, reedy voice carries through the mania, mixing love beautifully into the anger. "Let's Have a Revolution" takes a slower tack that pays off well, dub vocal effects and soft chants echoing through the catchy punk chug; imagine the Clash actually able to pull off a real reggae/punk fusion and that's what's here, right down to the wailing sax. The second half brings out the generally calmer side of H.R.'s work -- "Who Loves You Girl?" is a nod back to Bad Brains' earlier jazz-funk days and ways (check out some of the soloing) and H.R.'s take on lovers rock shoots through with sudden energy. The title track and the softly skanking "Happy Birthday My Son" are also winners, the latter touched with smart lyrics about trying to keep others upbeat when in a bad way oneself. Points for credit as well to the humor that crops up here and there -- the various calls in the middle of "We're Gonna Get You/Heaven Forbid" to "gimme back my marijuana" are both pointed and enjoyably nutty.