Aswad: Don’t Stop The Carnival

16th July 2019

Title: Live and Direct

Label: Music on Vinyl

Aswad largely considered to be Britain’s greatest ever reggae band, this West London outfit began with Brinsley “Dan” Forde on guitar and vocals Angus “Drummie Zeb” Gaye on vocals and drums, bassist George “Ras Levi” Oban, guitarist Donald “Benjamin” Griffiths and Courtney Hemmings on keyboards. The band’s early repertoire was actually more than the reggae tag I gave them above. It was an amalgam of reggae, yes, but also soul, dub, jazz, funk and a few other fiddly bits thrown in for good measure. 

Major label contracts followed as did major line-up changes until this LP was released in 1983 as the band moved to Island and that label’s subsidiary, Mango. It was recorded live at the Meanwhile Gardens, Notting Hill Gate Carnival in that very year.

Apparently, this album was mixed onto a Sony Music digital sound system so I was intrigued at how this vinyl album would sound on that basis but also how the live recording would be balanced. All live albums suffer, in some way, because of tonal balance and screwy dynamics of one sort or another.

Aswad: Don't Stop The Carnival

Listening to this Aswad LP there are issues, yes. The bass is hiding behind that burger stand on the left and the midrange insight is blocked by the guy selling floaty balloons on the right while the treble is as pinched as that dodgy bloke will be, lurking in the shadows, before the day is over.

In short, it doesn’t really matter. A great live album is not really about audiophile finesse. As long as the music is there and the core dynamics are moving and the atmosphere of the event is present then don’t worry about it. There is a slight midrange highlight, shall we say, but nothing too nasty. Crucially, you’ve got the important elements here. The essentials and the flavour of the event. A top quality live release, then.

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