The Lions Set to Start A Soul Riot with Their New Collection

The Lions Soul Riot

Happy New Year to all the Ska & Reggae lovers around the world! Have I got some really great news for you to usher in 2015 with.  Right off the press and hotter than fire is a brand new musical biscuit from LA’s powerhouse Reggae/ Soul masters The Lions! The new album, their second on Stones Throw Records, is titled Soul Riot and hits the streets February 10.

The album once again brings it heavy featuring the quadruple vocal prowess of Black Shakespeare, Alex Désert, Malik “The Freq” Moore and Deston Berry. There is no other group like this on the planet right now! These cats know how to harmonize feeding off each other like they were born together and started in the womb.

The players backing the all-star vocalists are without a doubt some of the toughest players on the planet as well. You’ve heard it before but I’ll say it again. The band is tight.

They also brought along a few other friends into the recording sessions including label mate Myron Glasper (one half of vocal duo Myron & E) and Dr. Mad Vibe himself Angelo Moore from Fishbone.

Lions’ producer, guitarist, and master-mind Dan Ubick did an interview where he revealed a little bit about the idea behind the album: “This new batch of tunes came straight from the heart on all fronts. With everything that’s going on today we wanted to make an album that speaks to peoples emotions and frustrations while also giving them a chance to dance and release some stress.

The first single from the album is “When It Rains” featuring Malik & Shakespeare. On the track Malik and Shakespeare sing about all the bad things that are happening in the world today but things will get better as change is coming. The band has already filmed and are finishing a video for the track as you read this.

As mentioned Angelo Moore guests on a track, “Rhythm Rock,” dropping a blistering intro that sets the tone of the track. He also contributes some of his like no one else on the planet can play Theremin to the mix. This cut heavily proclaims the bands love for all things from JA to LA. It could almost be mistaken as an unreleased session from The Clash’s triple album Sandinista if a bit more polished and funkier.

Speaking of The Clash’s influence on music in general, and all the members of the band in particular, one track that appears on the album is a wicked cover of The Clash’s “Magnificent Dance.” It was originally recorded and licensed to the Spanish label Golden Singles’ for their tribute to the band The Clash Goes Jamaican. The tune has always been one of my favorites by far as I just love dropping it at any DJ night. Covers are always a tricky thing to pull off. You can almost never hope to match the original in anyway to make it interesting enough but in this case I think it REALLY works. Just check out the tune below and tell me that isn’t a completely new take on such a classic iconic tune. It’s bubbling baseline, hand claps, heavy heavy organ work along with it’s screechy interjections make it a haunting tune for me and feels like a dangerous statement of intent from the band itself with Shakespeare’s toasting proclaiming “Turn it all the way up!” I think I will.

Dan talks about the track in the interview where he said “Shakespeare is on fire and the backing vocals are a really cool tribute to Joe [Strummer]. Alex used to hang with Joe, so I know some personal touches went into what we came up with. It just seemed natural. Most all of us in the band grew up being inspired by The Clash and The Clash were obviously super inspired by Jamaican music.” Think it goes without saying that the cut is indeed a highlight of the collection and that’s saying a lot!

I think the song “Run Along” is the one cut that truly wears the bands heart on it’s sleeve as they say incorporating the Choo Choo refrain so well known to the Ska and Reggae massive. The rest of the cuts in the middle part of the album such as “Feels Good”, “At A Loss”, “Smoke & Mirrors”, “(Will You Be) My Girl”, “Going Nowhere” are firmly planted in the bands more traditional soulful reggae roots which don’t disappoint in the least.

The closing track “Wilder Style” is exactly what it’s title suggests – a little wilder groove for the collective. It chugs along like a freight train right up there with the best of The Skatalites or Hepcat could throw down (which is no surprise given the pedigree of the band!) and I love it.

The collection tries to stretch out a bit from prior releases incorporating a few different beats than before which is evident of any band really embracing all of their members and influences while maturing as a unit. The album as a whole will in no way disappoint as it’s filled with what we’ve come to expect from the band: amazing rhythms, burning vocals, a complete mastery of their influences in order to take them in, mash em around and spit out something completely new and exciting. That’s the key to any true artist. We all know everything has been done in music before. It’s how one incorporates all those influences into something that rocks the listener’s brain-case and mashes down Babylon!

Full Track Listing
1. The Absolute Best (Intro)
2. When It Rains (ft. Malik “The Freq” Moore & Black Shakespeare)
3. Rhythm Rock (ft. Black Shakespeare & Angelo “Dr. Maddvibe” Moore)
4. Run Along (ft. Alex Désert & Black Shakespeare)
5. Feels Good (ft. Black Shakespeare)
6. At a Loss (ft. Malik “The Freq” Moore & Black Shakespeare)
7. Smoke & Mirrors (ft. Malik “The Freq” Moore)
8. (Will You Be) My Girl? (ft. Myron Glasper)
9. Going Nowhere (ft. Alex Désert)
10. Falling (ft. Alex Désert)
11. The Magnificent Dance (ft. Black Shakespeare)
12. Wilder Style (ft. Alex Désert)

The album will be available digitally from iTunes, Stones Throw and probably many more on February 10, 2015. A double LP (AT 45 RPM!) with gate-fold and download card is available to order now.

Check out the bands website and Facebook page for more information on upcoming tour dates.

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I've been involved in the Los Angeles music scene since at least 1995 going to shows, promoting, spinning records and running labels. Ska and Early Reggae are my passion among other things of course.