Dark Side of the Moon’s cover art is possibly the reason that Pink Floyd is so well known. It is printed on hoodies, t-shirts, and your bound to see it if you step into a trendy teen-age store. Dark Side of the moon is one of the most popular albums of all time, there is no doubt about it. It is considered one of the best albums of all time from many music fans and critics. While this is all matter of opinion everyone knows that this album inspired many popular rock bands and Dark Side of the Moon is arguably the best album of the 70's, or for that matter the best album of all time. Dark Side of the Moon is the best selling Pink Floyd album, hell it even perfectly syncs up with The Wizard of Oz. Even if you’re not a Pink Floyd fan you have heard of this album. Dark Side of the Moon is a classic, weather you enjoy it or not.
The Easy Star All Stars have to be out of their mind. I give this band a ton of respect for covering one of the most popular albums of all time, it’s not everyday that you find a reggae band covering a classic album. It takes a lot of guts to release something like this, I mean think about all the elitists and people saying “what the hell is this reggae crap, what a disgrace." If you continue on in reading this review please keep an open mind and don’t say that this is a ridiculous idea if you have never heard the album.
First off how heavy of a reggae influence is there? The reggae influences are big but not big enough so if that you don’t enjoy the genre, you still should enjoy this. The reggae influence varies depending on the song. ‘Time’ completely changed into a heavy reggae jam session, and then shifts into a reggae-rap free for all. The bubbly, dub effects keep things interesting and the vocals shine throughout. ‘Time’ is without a doubt a highlight and features heavy dub, reggae, and hip-hop influences. ‘Brain Damage’ transfers into a spacey, electronic tune. The soft atmosphere is still present but it is altered by the dub effects and the electronic space synths. The upbeat chorus shines and the song is a winner if you enjoy more of a chill out feel. ‘Us and Them’ is another highlight, featuring Frankie Paul on vocals, and the song is very relaxing and it borrows elements from jazz and obviously reggae. Frankie Paul does a brilliant job on the vocals, and makes this song a jazzy delight. ‘Us and Them’ is the only song on the album that I like better than the original.
Now there are some songs that do not transfer very well. ‘Money’ uses the same guitar riff as the original and although the song has some cool vocal parts, the mixture of dub and blues doesn’t really mesh well together. “On the Run" is basically the same as it used to be, the only thing that was altered was the heavy drum beats added in, this is the biggest disappointment on the album because the band could have done so much more to improve it. ‘Eclipse’ is more of a gospel/soul influenced song than anything, the female backing vocals are excellent but the song never excels. The dub effects are at their best but the song doesn’t venture off enough from the original to do anything special. Being a cover album the Easy Star All Stars did a good job, but they failed to experiment with some tracks.
The question still remains, If I enjoyed Dark Side of the Moon but don’t like reggae music than will I like this album? It really depends on how much you despise reggae music. To be honest I’m not the biggest fan of reggae, sure it’s good now and then but I don’t listen to it on a regular basis. The good thing is that the music isn’t just reggae, The Easy Star All Stars incorporate influences of electronica, soul, jazz, and R&B. This album is very soothing, the tracks transfer over smoothly and most of these songs sound similar to the original, but are changed up enough to tell that there is an obvious difference. In result you get a jazzy, soulful, heavy reggae version of Dark Side of the Moon.
The instruments work very well together. Dub effects, keyboards, guitars, drums, and the occasional saxophone. The dub effects are the main instrument, playing smooth bubbly effects into the music. The keyboards create a texture of electronic synth and mix jazz into the mix. The keyboards do an excellent job in converting the songs into well organized remixes. The guitar lines are smooth and fun, nothing amazing but they give the album a heavy influence of reggae. ‘Time’ is a perfect example of how the band keeps the music organized, the bubbly dub effects and atmospheric keyboards effects keep things cool. The instruments do an excellent job in converting the music over to a R&B reggae feel.
The vocals shine and are possibly the highlight of the album. The East Star All Stars Bring in many guest stars such as Frankie Paul, Dr. Israel, and the Meditations. For the most part the vocals are sung in a soft, gentle voice. The vocals have an extremely heavy influence of soul and R&B, the reggae influences make things smooth and soothing. Throughout all the guest there is not one bad vocal track, everything goes smooth and the vocals just melt in your mouth. Being a dub album the vocals obviously have a twist of R&B, and what most people would call just singing in a “reggae" type voice. Female vocals are presented on two tracks, ‘Eclipse’ and of course ‘ The Great Gig in the Sky.’The backing vocals on ‘Eclipse’ are marvelous, they set the tone and completely switch the sound into a soul feel instead of reggae. Kirsty Rock does a decent job on ‘The Great Gig in the sky’ she doesn’t carry the track on her back but she passes as a decent vocalist. The vocals are simply brilliant, they fit the reggae/soul feel and add a twist of R&B to the album.
Sometimes cover albums seem extremely dull and uninspired. It seems like bands chose to cover songs just to cover them and they do a lazy job to produce an official “cover" of the song. That’s not the exactly the case here. The big problem with this is that after multiple listens you feel like you’re listening to the same album as the original. The Easy Star All Stars do an excellent job at adding their own influences of reggae and soul into the music but the problem is that they don’t change the songs up enough to give this album it’s own feel. I realize that you’re not supposed to completely change a song when you cover it, but sometimes these tracks seem a bit lazy and you almost feel like your listening to the original version with some juicy dub effects in the back round. While some tracks strive and you can tell that the band has been putting both time and effort into the song, other songs seem to be more watered down and less interesting. Dub Side of the Moon is very well done and thought out but some times the album feels lazy and sounds to much like the original.
Another small problem with Dub Side of the Moon is that there are four extra tracks added onto the album. At first I didn’t consider these as throw away tracks, but after listening to them multiple times I have to say that they are unneeded. They added on another version of Time, The Great “Dub" in the Sky, and Any “Dub" you like. They also added on an original composition. None of these tracks do much since they are watered down version of the bands cover songs, it just seems pointless. While these four tracks don’t have anything to do with the original album they just hurt the quality of things.
Overall I have mixed thoughts about Dub Side of the Moon. The times that I enjoy the album the most are when I don’t really take things so seriously. The album is very effective if you have an open mind, and of course if you’re a fan of Dark Side of the Moon or reggae music. However this album is not a good listen if you don’t have an open mind, or you think that this project is ridiculous. The vocals are smooth, soulful, and R&B influenced. The music is chill/out type reggae and the East Star All Stars did a great job in remixing a lot of these classic tunes, and on a few tracks they didn’t do such a good job on. If nothing else you will find that this is a very interesting listen, it’s just fun to see how this album would sound if it was altered into reggae music. All in all Dub Side of the Moon is an interesting, fun, and smooth listen. Although the album has a few more flaws than I had hoped for, it is still a good cover album for what is arguably the most popular album of all time.