Easy Star's Thrillah
Easy Star All-Stars
Easy Star Records
August 26, 2012

Easy Star All-Stars Track list
  1. Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' feat. Jowil & Ruff Scott
  2. Baby Be Mine feat. The Green
  3. The Girl Is Mine feat. Mojo Morgan & Steel Pulse
  4. Thriller feat. Mikey General & Spragga Benz
  5. Beat It feat. Michael Rose
  6. Billie Jean feat. Luciano
  7. Human Nature feat. Cas Haley
  8. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) feat. Kirsty Rock
  9. The Lady In My Life feat. Christopher Martin
  10. Dub It
  11. Close To Midnight
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 4 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 4
American Reggae labels are few and far between and it takes much tenacity to survive. Back in the 1980's, Delroy Wright's Live And Learn label put out many a classic. Gary Himmelfarb (Dr. Dread) and R.A.S Records made a lasting impact and is directly responsible for resurrecting Israel Vibration's career; the emergence of Peter Broggs and the longevity of Freddie McGregor and Don Carlos to name a few. Inna this yah time, New York City based Easy Star Records is carrying the Reggae torch here in the United States. They are about to release their cover of Michael Jackson's monster album, Thriller, here released as "Thrillah".

Easy Star Records was founded in 1997 by Remy Gerstein, Eric Smith, Michael Goldwasser and Len Oppenheimer. They made initial impact with two killer compilation albums featuring the likes of Sister Carol, Sugar Minott, and Sluggy Ranks (R.I.P). Then, they released a comeback album of sorts by The Meditations called "Ghetto Knowledge"; an absolute cornerstone!! They stepped up their strategy more so in 2003 with their take on Pink Floyd's classic; transformed into "Dub Side Of The Moon". This groundbreaking album still bubbles in the Billboard Reggae Top 200! Guest vocalists included Sluggy Ranks (Breathe) and Frankie Paul. A few world tours later and Easy Star was a force to be reckoned with. Further cover albums are "Radiodread" and "Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band" that did shine with interpretations of Beatles anthems by Luciano, Sugar Minott and Max Romeo. They have released original material; 2008's "Until That Day" and last year's "First Light". To sum it up, Easy Star is an all inclusive label, production house and rotating roster of musicians and vocalists. The team has learnt well from East Coast Reggae legends who have mentored them -- Andy "Radics" Bassford, Jr. Jazz, Mikey Jarrett and Courtney Panton.

"Thrillah" opens up with the talented combination of Jowil and Ruff Scott sounding eerily like The King Of Pop. The riddim lacks Reggae elements but services well enough. The Green's take on Baby Be Mine is uneventful but the musical licks are accomplished. A highlight is The Girl Is Mine, redone by Mojo Morgan and Steel Pulse's David Hinds/Selwyn Brown. Heavy basslines from Yossi Fine (musical brother of Ernest Ranglin) and taut drums from longtime "Star" Joe Tomino complement the vocalists' intelligent and full reworking. Thriller turns into a Reggae orchestra courtesy of an Israeli based horn section (big up) but Mikey General's and Spragga's yard style gets lost in the mix. Beat It is transformed into a predictable 'slow jam' but shows redemption with Mykal Rose's royal prowness on the mic.

The standout selection is Billie Jean, expertly cut by Luciano. He rides a progressive riddim that shows that Luciano matures with every recording he does. A very recent San Francisco performance proves that he holds the handle to take Dennis Brown's "Crown Prince" -- wicked iya! Relative newcomer Cas Haley, whose sophomore release is in the works, shows flashes of brilliance on a polished Human Nature. Longtime Easy Star vocalist Kirsty Rock shines like a blazin' fya on P.Y.T. Her ethereal voice rises over a musical backbone that showcases ex-Burning Spear saxophonist Jenny Hill and Easy Star fixture Victor Rice's easy organ playing. Rising Jamaican crooner Christopher Martin handles The Lady In My Life with authority -- this young Lion can sing. This concept album closes with acceptable dubs of Beat It and Thriller, handled by Matisyahu's producer Joe Tomino.

"Thrillah" wants to break a barrier that has been broken. Cover albums by Reggae outfits have been done well for decades. Easy Star hit musical paydirt with their first cover album and have continued to attract the attention of the musical world, but the initial impact is hard to maintain. Taking on one of the greatest albums of recent times is a task and the original is best left alone. No criticism intended for the gifted Easy Star crew, but this release does not hold up to the lofty expectations that is going hand in hand on the August 28th release date. 'Nuff said, capture a live show by the Easy Star All Stars and you will become a fan of their overall work.