Deal's Gone Bad


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In the early years of the Jamaican music scene, pianos, and electric keyboards were integral to song's arrangements, but it was the brass that reigned supreme. A shift in this established order began in the rocksteady age, and with the rise of reggae the organ donned the musical crown, relegating the brass to the positions of musicians-in-waiting. This musical change is beautifully illustrated by Deal's Gone Bad's first two albums, which between them capture this dramatic shift in style. The band's debut set, Large and in Charge, was ska driven and brass riven, leaving their original organist Aret Sakalian very much in a supporting role. However, by the time the group recorded their follow-up set, Overboard, a new keyboardist, Julio Herrera, was in place, and with his arrival DGB's sound now began evolving in much the same way as the Jamaicans'. Inevitably, as the spotlight shifted to the organ, it dimmed around the brass, although, DGB's arrangements are a bit more egalitarian than their island counterparts, and on songs like "Stop and Listen," "In the Land Where No One Walks" and "Loverboy," the horn players are given plenty of room to strut their stuff. That latter number is a rousing boogie, a style reprised on "Honest Woman, Honest Man," where the keyboardist also gets to showcase his best barrelling style. A huge fan of Jamaican legend Jackie Mittoo, and like his hero incredibly stylistically adept, from R&B progressions to the showboating solos so popular in the early reggae age, Herrera stamps his imprimatur on every piece. His prominent performances gives much of the album a decidedly reggae flavor even when the rest of the band are playing ska; for organ, after all, is totally intertwined with early reggae, while piano was the keyboard of note in the ska age. The other notable change is that DGB have departed the bars (the lyrical setting for much of their last set) for the wider world, opening up their thematic vistas to great effect. What hasn't changed, though, is Mike Park's fabulous R&B flavored vocals, nor the band's ability to subtly bring that styling to even the most adamant of reggae arrangements. Deal's Gone Bad may have shuffled the deck, but they've retained a winning hand, whilst simultaneously exploring a fabulous new sound, which together will thoroughly satisfy trads, mods, and skins alike.

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