Album Review: Gary Dread “Bring Forth Light”

Hey all, 

The following is a review I wrote for a friend of mine, Gary Jackson, for his latest solo record. The review fell by the wayside, but I like it so much that I wanted to get it up, so I’m doing it on my blog. Enjoy. -J.M.

Gary Dread, drummer for reggae rockers The Movement, has a blossoming solo career. While The Movement is a progressive reggae revolution, Gary’s dedication to roots stylings has always been at the forefront of his music. His melodies take on more of a singjay vibe over singing fully, and while his last release, Food For Ya Brain, was a splatter board for overarching experimentation, Bring Forth Light is much more focused. Gary Dread is so close to finding his voice, and it sounds a lot like Matisyahu- to Gary’s benefit. Even the opener, “To The Top”, sounds like a B-side to “Fire of Heaven/Alter of Earth” off the Brooklyn-bred beatboxer’s Youth (Sony/Epic, 2006).

At times throughout Bring Forth Light, Gary goes from organic instrumentation and fluid melodies to the choppy, synth dancehall many modern reggae pop artists toy with, (I’m thinking Collie Buddz and Damien Marley, here). Gary clearly loves all things reggae, and wants to sample all of them. This is the only detriment to Bring Forth Light. Gary would do better sticking to one style, as a way of softening the blow from one track to another. For instance, the synth curls and programmed drum triple-time fills on “Bring Forth Light” is starkly different from the following track, “Leave My Herbs Alone”, the album’s best track, and with instrumentation as organic as the message.

Gary’s love of ganja has no filter. He’ll let you know that he’s all about smoking herb, and “Leave My Herbs Alone” follows his previous album’s “Food For Ya Brain” as the anthem of the era. “My day was going well,” he offers. “I couldn’t hide the smell/ They took away all the herbs that I had/ I did nothing bad.” Meanwhile, behind him, fierce horns, accentuating hand percussion, and a tight, tight rhythm section scores him a solid foundation to skank over. “Something wrong with the laws of today,” Gary adds later on, and you can tell that he’s not a stoner; he’s a praiser, and therein lays the difference.

At some points, Gary allows lover’s rock framework to overcome lyrical originality. On “Can You See” he states, “Never going to leave you/ Always by your side/ Nothing’s going to change us/ JAH JAH is our guide.” He then offers, “I’ll be a king to you/ because you’re royal like a queen.” Okay, whatever. I’ll allow it here and there, but Gary unabashedly sticks to cliché, and he’s capable of sharper images and metaphors, especially with pen pal Joshua Swain (of The Movement) to bounce ideas off of.

Overall, however, Gary’s resilient gloss is refreshing. He just spits it as he feels it. He doesn’t have the most original lyrics. He doesn’t have the best voice, but he takes pride in his work, and even though Bring Forth Light is an independent release, it’s well produced. Take the absolutely excellent “Touch Your Heart”, which is when Gary allows himself to sing his lyrics over pitter-pattering them, and the backline is just so rich and flowering that it’s impossible not to goosh at it.

In fact, Gary, lays it all on the line, a true rocker chanting down Babylon. The album is sold via Bandcamp by donation, it’s self-produced, and includes guest appearances by friends. Gary made this album for the love of music. For all of those believing the reason of reggae music, check out this solid record.

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