Uwe Banton: The People Need To Be Free Single Review by Mr Topple for Pauzeradio.com.
German Roots legend Uwe Banton is back with a fresh track for 2022 – and as is always the case with this consummate artist, he blends musical ingenuity with lyrical power to create something magical.
The People Need To Be Free, released via Ancient Mountain Records, see Banton’s song and lyric writing skills combine with Markus Dassmann and Martin Musch – the latter also producing the track. It’s currently available as a limited edition 7” press in the Pauzeradio shop, here.
It’s firmly a Roots affair, much like Banton’s 2021 album Free Your Mind (available on CD here). Grounded in the best traditions of the genre, the track has numerous rudimentary elements in place to focus the vibe on Roots. After an opening melodic line, keys settle into a choppy bubble rhythm focusing on staccato chords in the mid-range of their register with occasional riffing thrown in. The bass is deep, rich and resonant – running a drop-beat rhythm which skips the four across a melodic line that avoids the pre-Rocksteady style of arpeggio chords – instead opting for its own melody.
Drums and percussion also take centre stage. Banton and the team have taken a traditional one drop and embellished it: seeing the standard pattern of the kick hitting the two and four, while hi-hats fill in the spaces in between. But the snare is slightly more syncopated than would usually be seen, plus the kick has pleasing distortion running across it. This one drop coupled with the bass’s dropping of the four makes for a long musical intake of breath at the end and start of each bar. Meanwhile, the use of a tin drum nods to the Motherland; a cow bell cements this and a slide whistle adds further interest.
Then, additional instrumentation makes for some pleasing finishing touches. An electric organ strays in and out, offering up heavily vibrato’d chord plus some funky riffs at points, too – bringing some Soul to proceedings. What sounds like a heavily wah-wah’d electric guitar line (but it could actually be a clavichord low-down its register) runs a melody similar to the bass’s. A second electric guitar line struts around the track, breaking out into a glorious solo towards the end.
But as is often the case with Banton, it’s the overall arrangement which also shines. The chorus’s main melody is infinitely infectious and anthemic while the backing vocal are particularly well-arranged – veering between straight harmonised accompaniment and call and response duties. Some verses are scored differently, with some stripping-back of the instrumentation to create something starker and almost Dub. Plus, there are no basic chord progressions here – instead the track mixes between a major key on the chorus, and then verses in a minor one. This juxtaposition is well-constructed, with varying progressions in each part also. And it also marries perfectly with Banton’s lyrical content.
He’s constructed a pleasing and affecting narrative around the theme of emancipation. Throughout, Banton describes the various mechanisms the system uses to keep us all enslaved. The track’s chorus is simple yet effective – moving from the melancholy verses (in the minor key) to a major one with the central uplifting sentiment: “people need to be free”. Then, side B of the 7” vinyl is a Dub version: intricate, detailed and haunting which makes for an infinitely listenable experience.
Overall, The People Need To Be Free is a joy from Banton. The track is a very pleasing and detailed composition; lyrically it provides a rallying-cry for all of us and it would be a superb addition to anyone’s collection. Strong works.
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Uwe Banton The People Need To Be Free Review by Mr Topple / Pauzeradio PR Services (24th April 2022).