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.

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.