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| Music Review: The Process ''Blood and Bones''
|In the face of a probable war with Iraq, it's fitting to come across a CD with a political point of view that dissents from American realpolitik. "Blood & Bones" by The Process (their eighth full length release since '91's "Mystery Babylon") is thought-provoking in it's politics, reverent in it's spiritualilty and contagious in it's Jah-makin' back-beat. Editor Mitch Phillips goes off on a political bent in another one of his long reviews. Three song samples included. Click "Read More" below. |
Band: The Process
CD: Blood & Bones
Produced by: The Process & Gee Pierce
Recorded at: U be U Production House, Saginaw, MI.
Engineered by: Gee Pierce
Musicians: Davide Asher - vocals; Garrick Owen - guitars; Bill Heffelfinger - bass, keyboards; Sam Metropoulos - drums.
"Blood & Bones" by The Process sounds like a mix between 80's hit-makers Eddie Grant ("Electric Avenue") and UB40 ("Red Red Wine) but with a harder edge due to the Guitar Player endorsed wailing of Garrick Owen . The keyboard-laden backwash and electronic drums provided by programmer/bassist/stickest Bill Hefflefinger (Go ahead, say it again. Hef-fle-finger) gives the music a decidedly retro-eighties vibe, but vocalist David Asher includes an occassional rap to keep things feeling contemporary. The musical performances are first-rate, the songs are pop-friendly (i.e. not strictly reggae) and this disc contains at least two bonafide original reggae gems: "Run Them Down" (track 3) and "Rapdown" (track 6) (samples included in track by track analysis at end of article).
The Process members (David Asher, Garrick Owen, Bill Heffelfinger, and Sam Metropolous) look to be some genuine freaks if the back cover photo is any indication. Heffelfinger appears with a pile of faux-dreads, black fingernails and a Chapman Stick (which, unfortunately, barely makes an appearance on this CD). Add to that the band's stated goal, "...to fight ignorance, apathy and social retardation," and you've got some talented freaks, a funky reggae beat, and a heady social conscience. What more can you ask of a band?
Pot Smoke & Politics
What's more important than what I think about the music is the fact that this local disc is the only one currently in my possession with such a strong political point of view. That might not be saying much for a band who made HIGH TIMES magazine's 25 Greatest Pot Song's hit-list with, "Jah Made The Herb" (off 1996's "Craven Dog"). Ganja-smokin' Rastafarians preach politics in equal doses with religion, sometimes, I think, to distract us from the fact they smoke so much dope.
But at least once in recent history, Rastas used the power of popular music to make political changes at the top, as in the '72 Peoples National Party (PNP) victory in Jamaica that rode on a wave of Bob Marley's populist jammin'. Appropriately, The Process have included on "Blood & Bones" a lively version of Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up" (track 7)- which is the theme song of political empowerment (Of course, Marley, his wife and his band members received gunshot wounds for all their trouble. You haven't really "made It" until someone wants to kill you for playing your music). Can reggae music save American politics in the same way? Not a chance, unfortunately. We're still too conservative in this country to take advice from someone who wears a ganja-leaf like a badge of honor; "religious ritual" isn't any more credible than "medicinal marijuana" to such a cynical race of old Puritans.
So, The Process make no bones about where they stand on the political spectrum, espousing nothing less than the re-distribution of wealth in "Spread The Money" (track5). Asher sings, 'Got to spread that money all around / Give it up to the poor right now / No, you can't take it with you when you go / Give it up rich man It's a crime...' There was a time when I would have dismissed this argument as simplistic, knee-jerk liberalism. But since our president plans to give yet another tax windfall to the ultra-rich while the states go bankrupt, school and social programs get cut to the bone and your grandma has secretly resigned herself to an early death because she can't afford her medication, I'd have to agree with Asher; it is a crime. Don't even get me started about Enron. Eat the rich with a sharp fork and plenty of salt. That is, unless you're still hoping they'll bank-roll your music or writing career.
Life, Liberty and The Bad Karma Bitch-Slap
Although I was horrified by the terrorist acts of September 11th, I wasn't totally surprised that it happened. Neither was the Federal government; national security agencies had warned for years that it was only a matter of time before we got hit with terrorism - we just never thought it would be so hard.
The universe has an unnerving way of serving up a bad karma bitch-slap when you're least expecting it. Not that we Americans are uniquely evil or deserve to suffer such tragedies more than others, but our freedom and liberties come at a very high price to the rest of the world in terms of natural resources and military chicanery. If you believe everything happens for a reason, it's not hard to come up with a few reasons why, collectively, we had it coming.
Now it feels like the the party's over, the tab is on the table and the bar-lights have come on, revealing all our glaring imperfections in the stark light of the United Nations Security Council. I don't know about you, but I get the feeling our empire may be on the decline if the rest of the world has anything to say about it.
On "Blood & Bones", The Process tap into this sense of impending doom with prophetic songs like "Mist of Time" and "Rapdown" whose lyrics warn of divine retribution from "Jah" (God).
From "Mist of Time" 2002 © David Asher and Garrick Owen
Who are they to take a chance on time
And take the money and run,
And laugh and have their fun
What could they be thinking,
Making more war plans,
Taking money, building weapons,
To kill out man
Chem-weapons, germ-warfare, bio-tech Death
They won't be happy 'til we breathe our last breath
And give up the world, to a blackened Earth
'Cause they never figured out what life was worth
Riding on desert winds,
Freedom calls your name
Across the sands of time
In these last days
From "Rapdown" ©2002 David Asher and Garrick Owen
Over the hills and across the sea
Devil governments have their way
Here at home, across the sea
Jah say, "Devil governments have to pay"
Blood, Bones, Balls and Body-Bags
I have to hand it to The Process; It takes real balls to sing lyrics like these in a political climate like this. In the early seventies, you might have been put on the FBI's secret enemies list. But today, you could be whisked away in the middle of the night, "processed" in a foreign country, "detained" indefinitely without ever being charged, and all because you happen to have been born in the Middle East and are critical of the United States government. Lucky for The Process, I think white guys masquerading as Jamaicans are still considered federally protected wildlife.
I find it refreshing that "Blood & Bones" has a reason to exist beyond pure sense-gratification for us consumers who are, to steal a phrase from social critic Neil Postman, 'amusing ourselves to death.' This is a timely and important record full of historical mysticism and socio-political self-examination. But it's also fun reggae music with a great beat - which is what makes it so dangerous; "Blood & Bones" could make political dissent even more popular than a pre-emptive foreign policy did. There's never been a better time to promote the non-violence and anti-materialism of Rastafarianism than right now - when an Ivy League business brat threatens to jam a silver spoon into the delicate gears of world politics and destablize the whole machine until it comes crashing down on our heads.
In the meantime, smoke a big spliff for old time's sake and dance naked to The Process in constitutionally protected privacy while you still can. Eventually, you'll have to be a good citizen and get out your duct tape and plastic sheeting, just like the man told ya. True, they won't be much good for protecting your from chemical or bilogical warfare, but they'll make handy do-it-yourself body bags when the shit really hits the fan.
Track By Track
1. Rising Up - Rising up from ignorance with the flame of passion, and ultimately to the light of knowledge. , 'This train's bound for glory/ and it's riding through the night / to the bright daylight'.
2. Mist of Time - Prophesy, revelations and the end of days song that makes you wanna walk like an Egyptian and rap like Noam Chomsky in the zone.
3. Run Them Down - Bonafide reggae gem. They don't get any better than this call out to the warriors of Babylon (i.e. Jamaica, not Iraq). Excellent production by Gee Pierce and a curtain of back-ups provided by the very talented Michelle Shaw.
4. Blood & Bones - Rastafarian history lesson that hints everything old is new again - including slavery. Thought we were rid of dat, did you? Silly mon, don't you know federal prisoners are used as cheap labor for corporate America? They not only for license plate makin' anymore. Ok, so they don't really mention that in the song, but it's true nonetheless. Look it up. Go ahead.
5. Spread The Money - Infectious reggae gem whose lryics are tantamount to capitalist blasphemy - but it's a hoot for us poor folk to sing while we're reggae-dancing on the beach.
6. Rapdown - If this gem don't get your head-a-bobbin', mon, nothing will. Asher and Jah hold-off the evil doers with a hypnotic rap while Garrick Owen wails in reverence to the king. Jah! Jah! Jah! I must experience this song live.
7. Get Up Stand Up - I think a Bob Marley cover should come standard on every reggae album. This is the song of political empowerment from the father of Reggae music. The synthetically enhanced, dare I say, Processed version.
8. Rasta Callin' - Another Rasafarian history lesson set to music, this time sounding like the Jamaican version of eighties supergroup Asia due to the retro-keyboard patches.
9. Rising Up (club mix) - Mixed by producer Gee Pierce, this version of track one just goes to show you there's more than one interpretation for any given piece of music.
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|Average Score: 4.2