Steel Pulse

Babylon the Bandit

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AllMusic Review by

Steel Pulse's move from Island's Mango imprint to the Elektra label was marked by the brilliant True Democracy, arguably the strongest album of the band's career. That release was followed by the disappointing Earth Crisis, an album that found the group seemingly unable to decide whether they were more interested in delivering roots reggae in the confrontational/prophetic mode or slick pop reggae in the lovers rock mode. When Babylon the Bandit emerged two years later, it was received with some wariness by the band's fans. And as it turned out, many of the problems from Earth Crisis remained: the transitions between such stark politico-religious statements as "Not King James Version" and "Babylon the Bandit" and candy-coated pop reggae like "School Boy's Crush (Jail Bait)" and "Love Walks Out" were just as jarring, and the album-opening "Save Black Music" is twaddle. (From whom exactly did "reggae, jazz, funk, and blues" need to be saved in 1985? Was there an international conspiracy at work?) But there are still several great songs on this album, including the finger-wagging "Sugar Daddy" and the excellent "Not King James Version," an assertion of spiritual independence from the traditions of Babylon. As had been the case a few times before ("Your House," "Babylon Makes the Rules"), the album's best track is written and sung by keyboardist Selwyn Brown: a sweet and lovely song of romantic reassurance titled "Don't Be Afraid." Fans shouldn't hesitate, but newcomers might want to start with True Democracy and then explore the three Mango albums before trying this one.

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