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May 28, 1981 - Image 7

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1981-05-28

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Arts
Thursday, May 28, 1981

The Michigan Daily

Page 7

TONY BROWN BAND
Reggae:for the masses?

By KEN FELDMAN
Reggae never had the deserved
commercial breakthrough that writers
and fans repeatedly predicted for it
throughout the seventies. But,
ironically, now that the expected mass
popularity for reggae has been
acknowledged as a pipe dream, a more
subtle, almost invisible, but real accep-
tance seems to be taking place.
In the past, reggae seeped into the
collective consciousness through
watered-down American "inter-
pretations" and a few minor hits by
Jamacian artists. But now, even the
more hardore "dub" records no longer
induce the "What the hell is this?"
reaction they did just a few years ago.
The Tony Brown Reggae Band's
Tuesday night show at Rick's
illustrated this point perfectly.
ALTHOUGH BROWN'S band plays
an amalgam of reggae styles, they rely
heavily on the drenched-in echo
effects and out-of-phase mood-
iness of Jamaican "version"
or "dub." Yet the sizeable crowd reac-
ted to this music, once labeled weird
and disorienting 'by most American
ears, as if they were raised on it. The
crowdwas vocal in their praise, and the
dance floor and aisles were filled all
night.
Though such enthusiasm was
somewhat surprising, it is at least par-
tially explained by the musicianship of
Brown's band. Covering ground from
raeggified soul to calypso jazz, they
redefined the word "tight." More im-
portant, thley had an honest love, and a
genuine feel for reggae; they were
never distanced, like so many
American reggae imitators. But great
musicians are only as good as their
material, and consequently their per-
formance level varied; .
WHEN THE BAND was reworking
soul classics like "My Girl" or "Twist
and Shout," or reitorating reggae hits
like "Tenament Yard" or "Get up
Stand up," they were tons of fun. Even
some of the originals like "Prisoners in
Paradise" (the title song of their forth-

om

Members of the Tony Brown Reggae Band after their performance Tuesday night at Rick's: (left to right), Bob Kot-
temann (sound), Arno Gonzalez (drums), Gary Geisler (guitar), Tony Brown (guitar), and Ted Wingfield (bass).

coming album) were fine. Several of
the jazz-influenced originals were
almost unforgivable, however, most
notably "Girl of the Island," which not
only featured a grueling five-minute
percussion solo but was also played
twice (once in the first set and once as
an encore).
The overall professionalism of the
band made up for such transgressions,
however. Brown is a great singer, and
he, and bassist Ted Wingfield har-
monized wonderfully. Drummer Arno
Gonzalez walked the line between
exotically and obnoxiously flashy
drumming perfectly. Credit is also due
Bob Kottemann, who handled the echo
effects and sound; he did a fine job of
duplicating the dub effects that are
usually associated with the studio.

But the reaction of the audience
could not simply be explainedj by the
overall quality of Brown's band. Bands
much better than his (Toots and the
Maytals, for instance) have drawn
yawns from the average American
listener for years. To me, the audience
at Rick's Tuesday seemed genuinely
more open-minded than those in the
past.

Perhaps the mass acceptance of
reggae-rock (like the Police) has
opened things up for more purist
Jamacian sounds. Or perhaps the ran-
tings of writers and fans has finally in-
spired people to listen to reggae with
open mind. It's hard to pinpoint exactly
what produced this change. I just hope
Tuesday night wasn't a fluke.

Eclipse benefit Sunday

This Sunday, May 31, Rick's
American Cafe will be the setting for an
Eclipse benefit concert featuring local
bands Dick Siegel and the Ministers of
Melody, The Flexibles, and Footloose.
The benefit has been created to help
fund the series of free summer park
concerts that Eclipse has staged each
year since 1978 to showcase local
musicians. In the past these events
were partially funded by grants from
the Michigan Council of the Arts; this
year, however, the grant was not
available, so Eclipse is trying to fund
the events on its own with thisbenefit.
DICK SIEGEL and his band have
long won a large local following with
their quirky; wry, 4 ,* -B-influenced

mixture of bluesy monologues and
sleek, danceable backdrops. Swingier T
than Tom Waits but with a similar ur- f
ban-clownboy view, Siegel himself is P
definitely one of the most enjoyable
"local" performers to be found 64
anywhere. V
The Flexibles are another almost-too-
big-to-be-local act, offering jazz-fusion-
dance music that crosses a lot of
musical borders but keeps feet moving
steadily. Footloose, we're informed,
specializes in "country swing," once SI
again with a heavy dance emphasis.
The benefit show begins at 9:00; 2'
tickets, available only at the door, are PE
$3.00.

EE PEACE CORPS REPS AT CAMPUS INN /b-
200) ON MAY 27TH, 28TH & 29TH, OR CALL
EACE CORPS DETROIT OFFICE, COLLECT.
(313) 226-7928

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