Echo Beach / Way Out Eventi - Indigo
February 20, 2009

Track list
  1. Intro
  2. Island
  3. Save All The Kids
  4. Don't Leave Me Today
  5. Hily Place feat. Raymond Wright
  6. Wasn't It You
  7. Mao Interlude
  8. Iron Man Wang
  9. The Great Wanderer
  10. Addicted
  11. 2 Of Them Interlude
  12. To Them
  13. Everything You Are
  14. The Ogoni Interlude
  15. Ken Saro Wiwa
  16. Let There Be Light
  17. If
    Hidden Bonus Track
  18. The Great Wanderer Dub
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 4/5 Backing : 4 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 3/4
It was not by chance that Alessandro Soresini (drums, vocals, production), Gianluca Pelosi (bass guitar, production) and Marco Zaghi (sax, flutes, production) got together in September 2004 and gave birth to the Smoke project. These three musicians had performed in several well known bands like the Reggae National Tickets (together with Italy's best known reggae singer Alborosie), Neffa, 88Tasti, Radical Stuff and many others. Their shared long experiences in Jamaica and Europe led them to found a band named Smoke and record its self-titled debutalbum. After several live tours and five albums recorded as members of Reggae National Tickets, Soresini and Zaghi were officially invited to Montego Bay’s Reggae Sumfest in 2000. This made one of their dreams come true; the experience in Jamaica allowed them to consolidate working relationships and friendships with artists, producers and managers not only coming from Jamaica. Soresini decided to stay on the island and share the opportunity with Alberto 'Alborosie' D’Ascola of taking part in a project called Adelante that, under the supervision of John Baker of Gee Street Records and GeeJam Studios, gathered international musicians, among which Ki-Many Marley.

During a year spent in Port Antonio, Soresini establishes a good working relationship with Jon Baker at GeeJam Studios where he has the chance of playing with several well known artists. That's where he meets Afro-German singer Zoe Mazah with whom he collaborates under Alborosie's supervision. All drums on Zoe's album "Exile African" are played by Soresini with Zoe soon afterwards receiving two German Reggae Awards, for best female artist and best videoclip. This artistic liaison continued, Zoe was invited to Italy to work on a song called "Ciao Amore" that became the first single to be taken from Smoke's debutalbum. Soresini's collaboration with bassguitarist Gianluca Pelosi occurs during a tour with Italy based Jamaican singer Raymond Wright and this natural evolution and artistic development is later completed when maestro Marco Zaghi joins the band.

Soresini, Zaghi and Pelosi bring more life to their project, when singer and songwriter Andre T. Halyard aka Dre Love from New York joins them. For their album they are also joined by Zoe, Raymond Wright, Jamaican singer Blessed and of course Alborosie who mixed the album together with Andrew Seidel (from Germany) at GeeJam Studios. The next important change of the line-up is the replacement of Dre Love as lead singer by South-African Séan Daniel Martin. Sean is a singer, rapper, eclectic artist and one of the founders of the Italian hip hop scene and lead singer of The Dining Rooms, whose single "Tunnel" was considered by Giles Peterson of BBC RADIO ) one of the 50 best songs made in 2003. Another fundamental addition on stage is guitar player and backing vocalist Cesare 'Cesarone' Nolli a.k.a. 'Sisarhouni' and Marco Zaghi is joined by Franziska's Riccardo 'Jeeba' Gibertini on trumpet. Keyboard players Sergio Cocchi and Angelo 'Gange' Cattoni complete the full live version of Smoke.

After an "Intro" making clear what the main lyrical themes of this album besides love are as it is an audio-collage of news-broadcasts about Tibetan monks being killed by the Chinese government in the runup to the Bejing Olympics, the riots in the banlieues of Paris, George W. Bush's statement that "it turns out he didn't have weapons of mass destruction, but he did have the capacity to ... " a bluesy guitar leads us into the beautiful first love-gone-wrong song "Island In The Sun" followed by "Save All The Kids" inspired by the horrific stories about child-soldiers (and released as a single on Ingo Rheinbay's Pow Pow label in May 2008 together with Raymond Wright's "Wify". Another melancholic love (gone wrong) tune - although with too much solo guitar for my taste - is the strong "Don't Leave Me Today" followed by the magnificent "Hily Place" co-written by Raymond Wright who also contributes very strong vocals to this tune. The rather harsh (yet very understandable) "Wasn't It You" who said you didn't need my love no more is a great ballad and then a "Mao Interlude" is the prelude to the inspired song "Iron Man Wang" about the consequences of Mao's regime for a simple Chinese labourer having to work night and day far away from home.

And although there might throughout the album be a bit too much of rock/blues guitar for my taste, the musical backing is fabulous, tight often slightly dubbed up riddims, great keyboards and magnificent horn riffs add to the overall big impression that this album makes on you as a listener, clearly showing that all musicians involved have gained lots of experience playing roots reggae before establishing Smoke together and are now having a great time playing together. This applies of course also to the optimistic spiritual "The Great Wanderer" and the catchy first single (released on February 20 as well) taken from the album "Addicted" on which Alborosie plays bass and guitars. After the shocking "2 Of Them (Interlude)" Séan Daniel Martin delivers his first hand account about the apartheid-system in his country of birth South Africa "To Them" being born as a third class citizen to them, before the lighter side of things is again reflected upon in "Everything You Are".

"The Ogoni (Interlude)" is a prelude to another accusation about the situation in Africa, this time about the death penalty of "Ken Saro Wiwa" for the benefit of the totalitarian Nigerian regime and Western capitalism in the form of oil companies. More abstract, but beautifully put into words and definitely more uplifting is "Let There Be Light", inspired by the book of Genesis and the desire for a true paradise, before the album is brought to a close by the smashing Nyahbinghi-ballad "If" that closes (officially, as their is a great "The Great Wanderer Dub" included as hidden bonus track) a very satisfying roots reggae album from Europe's mainland that everybody should give a listen (and subsequently buy) as it has well-sung brilliant lyrics over great music.