Album review: Gary Dread “Point of View”

Gary Dread’s other band, The Movement (where he plays drums), is a progressive reggae band that blends multiple genres with creative risks. Seemingly, Gary’s solo material plays to his other side, that of strictly roots. While all of Gary’s solo music has played around with rock steady, dancehall, and lover’s rock (three standard reggae sub-genres, for those who don’t know), Point Of View (self-released, 2016) is his most focused yet.

From minute one it’s clear that Gary’s lyricism isn’t anything otherworldly, but classic reggae sounds have always suffered from this, and reggae has always been more about the vibe and groove than it ever has about lyrical ingenuity. Despite that disclaimer, this is some of Gary’s most inspired stuff. For instance, “My heart was made to love,” he begins on the opener, “Protect”. “I am willing to work,” he adds; “I am willing to learn.” This statement precedes a series of songs backing it up. Gary’s flow has improved since Food For Ya Brain (2013), and his delivery has relaxed since Bring Forth Light (2014). His voice might not be soulful or operatic, but his delivery is wholly his own.

But where Gary really shines is his musical precision. The song structures throughout Point of View is consistently delightful. His use of bass and keys is tight, especially on the song “Reggae” (go figure). He does a nice job of integrating dancehall beats and synths in with traditional tones. “Urban Love” characterizes this infusion, even as Gary offers, “You’re the one for me/ I feel this in my heart/ Nothing… breaks us apart.” It’s nothing new, by any means, but it’s a good song overall.

“Be Free”, a marijuana anthem (of which Gary excels), is one of the album’s best. Gary croons, “Want it more than a six-pack.” In this way, Gary brings in a bit of Self, something that Pont of View overall needs more of. Once again, Gary’s going for a classic style here, and if so, he’s hitting the center of the target. What I wish from this respectable and excellent musician is to find his own voice and to explore pushing his own limits. What would it be like to hear tales of Gary Dread? Don’t know, but I’d like to.

That tension makes me torn about Pont of View. Gary’s instrumental layering is tasty. Look no further than the closer, “Elements of Love”. While simple in composition, it grows and peters out, rises and falls, precisely. This is also some of Gary’s nicest lyrics: “I see too many homeless with no food on their plate.” Gary’s position in the reggae world is certainly defining itself, and beyond that, it’s clear Gary’s just having a ton of fun making music, but with a rich passion for song structure, Gary’s wit is overshadowed.

Fans of contemporary spins on traditional reggae riddims will enjoy Gary’s commitment. Fans of that progressive sound will be left wanting, but maybe not- not if, like Gary, you can just vibe and enjoy your presence among the bass n’ drums. If you liked his previous releases, you’ll find this one in the same vein, although maybe more blood is flowing.

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