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October 29, 1980 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-10-29

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ARTS
The Michigan Daily Wednesday, October 29, 1980 Page 5

Steel Pulse
pumps steadily

SAN FR ANCISCO SYMPHONY

By MICHAEL KREMEN
Steel Pulse is a six piece, self-
contained reggae band from Bir-
mingham, England. They are also very
good, as all of those fortunate enough to
attend their show at the Second Chance
Monday night will surely attest.
The rhythm section, central to the
band's power, is supple and powerful.
The sound mix was amazingly
crystalline, possibly the best "sound"
I've heard in this venue. Unlike the in-
struments-in-isolation approach that
*most Jamaican combos opt for, Steel
Pulse was a fuller, more textured
sound on many of their songs. One such
tune, "Babylon Makes the Rules," ex-
pressed an awareness that the
dominant society defines reality and
urges that black people, (Jamaicans in
particular), retain their culture even
when separated from their roots. The
combination of powerful, politically
committed reggae music mixed with
*Jah Herb must activate an endorphic
reaction. Great waves of pleastre over-
took yours truly, and by all appearan-
ces, the rest of the dance-floor full of
smiling "skankers."
"UNCLE GEORGE" - A remem-
brance of George Jackson, the Soledad
Brother-was another highlight, with
Phonso's vocal communicating great
passion. As stated (and it cannot be
overstated), the power of this group
begins with the potent rhythm section.
Electric bass and drum kits are
Waugmented by a percussionist who adds
variety to the bottom. The melody in-

struments, keyboards and two guitars,
all participate in establishing a hyp-
notic groove. The guitar is mixed more
forward here than is usually the case
with Jah based bands. Lead guitarist
Basil's style has a rock-aware feeling
that reminds me of both Junior Marvin,
of the Wailer's band, and Ernie Isley's
work with the Isley Brothers.
The keyboard player, Selwyn, has
multiple boards and he succeeds in
achieving great variety in his sonic at-
tack. "Reggae Fever", the title tune of.
the band's third Lp was only one in-
stance (of many) where the keyboar-
dist's playing shined.
The band was studio-tight, creating
dub-style textures during many of the
extended instrumental passages.
"Macka Splaff", from the first LP
Handsworth Revolution, involved all
six players in a "little instrument" per-
cussion jam that rivaled the Art En-
semble of Chicago. The sound of the
snare drum when it kicked in at the end
of the jam was mule-like in its intensity.
Strong vocals by two lead singers, in-
ventive melodies (especially on the
tune "Handsworth Revolution"), and
the oh-so-crack rhythm section
produced one of the strongest reggae
sets I've had the good fortune to
witness.
Although they're not a brand name
band and they live in England, which
offends certain roots-bound critics,
Steel Pulse is a hard and tough band.
Hope they come back soon.

Fron
By LAURIE ANDERSON,
The San Francisco Symphony, con-,
ducted by Edo de Waart, performed at,
Hill Auditorium on Saturday evening,;
offering a nicely-balanced program
featuring music of Mozart, Stravinsky,;
and the contemporary composer DavidI
Del Tredici. The concert opened withi
the Del Tradici composition, which wasw
commissioned for the San Francisco
Symphony to celebrate the opening of'
the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall on
September 16 of this year.
Like many contemporary composers,
Del Tradici, in this piece anyway,
seems to be moving away from the
"avant-garde" and twelve-tone music
characteristics of this century toward a
more traditional, tonal-sounding com-
position. The piece, in three movemen-
ts, was lively and light-hearted, and de
Waart and the orchestra seemed to
have great fun with its jazz-like rhyth-
ms and harmonies. Also included in the
composition were several lovely lyrical
sections, some solo passages for harps,
and the use of a wind instrument of sor-
ts that resembled a wind-up Victrola.
The Del Tradici was well received by
the audience, except for a few members
who, baffingly enough, heartily booed
at its conclusion.
THE PERFORMANCE of Mozart's
Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola
and Orchestra was quite successful. de
Waart's approach to Mozart is crisp
and clean, with graceful, beautifully

baroqui
contoured phrases, well controlled
dynamics and a good balance between
orchestra and soloists. The violinist's
strong, energetic playing, however,
greatly outshone that of the violist, who
seemed concerned only with playing all
the right notes, instead of making the
instrument sing. The violinist and
violist seemed to be bored by the second
movements and played rather
lifelessly, but de Waart picked up the
pace in the third movement, bringing
the piece to a rousing conclusion.
The last half of the concert consisted
of the ever-popular La Sacre du Prin
temps (Rite of Spring) by Stravinsky.
de Waart approaches Stravinsky
correctly-the playing under his baton
was precise, dry and abstract-but
there was something soulless about this
exactitude, and the overall performan-
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ce was too serious and intense. The or-
chestra did not have the rich sonority
that one likes to hear in this piece, par-
tly because it played with so little
dynamic contrast.
In the first section, the orchestra
played at the same unvarying dynamic
level for ten full minutes. The finale of
the second section of the piece was not
as thrilling as it might have been
because Mr. de Waart began so loudly
that it was impossible for the orchestra
to crescendo. Also, a few of the nicer
moments of the piece were marred by
ugly noises coming from the woodwin-
ds, and the over-zealous percussionist
who seemed determined to drown out
the rest of the orchestra. Had de Waart

to modern

paid more attention to details like the;
solo passages in the orchestra and;
dynamics, the performance might have
been stunning. The Rite of Spring is an
orchestral showpiece, and the San
Francisco Symphony is certainly large:
enough and sufficiently skillful to per-
form it masterfully, but Mr. de Waart
did not make full use of the resources he
had at hand.

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