Saturday, January 5, 2008

New Classics #1: The Adjusters - Otis Redding Will Save America

A new monthly feature for MIOO in 2008, we’ll be taking a look back at some overlooked albums from ska’s past. Rather than beating an obvious classic to death, or solely focusing on new releases, our goal is to revisit some underappreciated albums and give them their due respect. We’ll be focusing on the years between 1993 and 2003, the height of popularity for the “third wave”, give or take a few years. This period definitely has a reputation, but for better or for worse, it got us to where we are today. Among some of the better known albums of this time period were a number of hidden gems that have become New Classics in our opinion. Maybe it was for personal or sentimental reasons, maybe it was a groundbreaking sound, or maybe it simply stands the test of time. Whatever reasons we choose, we hope these selections will inspire you to dig into your collections and replay these albums, or possibly turn you on to a new band or disc you might have missed along the way.

The first album in our series is The Adjusters 2003 effort on Grover Records: Otis Redding Will Save America. The Adjusters rose out of Chicago in the mid-late 90’s, and had two previous albums on Jump Up Records before this one: Politics of Style and Before the Revolution. While these albums were excellent in their own right, seamlessly mixing soul and ska, their third album took on a much broader life in terms of both recording and style. Recording for Otis spanned the US with tracks recorded in NYC, Chicago, and LA, and their style built upon their prior foundation, adding elements of hip-hop and dub. A number of songs have a trip-hop influence, with more emphasis on the ska and reggae. Fans of the Thievery Corporation or even The Gorillaz might find this album a pleasant surprise. With this framework in mind you can easily see the progressive approach The Adjusters were taking on this album.

Otis hits hard right out of the gate with driving bass and groovin’ rhythm on the instrumental WTF Ska, DJ scratching on Gun, and Dr. Ring-Ding’s guest chatting on Can’t See the Light. These three tracks alone give the listener an idea of the extremes the album goes to, flawlessly jumping from reggae to soul to hip-hop without a second thought. Daraka Kenric’s vocals take a soulful edge on his lead tracks – sometimes angry, sometimes urgent, always heartfelt and genuine. A deep roots rocker comes next, the brilliant Master Blaster with lead vocals by Jessica Basta. Jessica carried a number of songs on her own in The Adjusters, and also acted as a great compliment to Daraka, creating some excellent harmonies. Some other standout tracks are If You, Monkey Hate Reggae, Supergoodlookin (one of the catchiest beats on the album, and some great guitar work by Jason Packer), and my personal favorite, Loose Version. Loose Version is a wicked dub of Loose Roots taken from Before the Revolution. Great lyrics, and almost haunting backing vocals. Musically, it reminds me of The Specials’ Ghost Town.

Without taking anything away from the musicians in the band, the production is what really shines. Rench drops some heavy beats and samples throughout the album, and let’s face it, anything Victor Rice touches turns to gold. Also notable, Brian Dixon of The Aggrolites had a hand in the recording process too!

It’s amazing how you can hear a 5 year old album in a new light when you really sit down and pay attention to it. As the musical spectrum changes and your personal tastes change, you can always find something great in the past. Progression is important in any scene, and Otis Redding Will Save America is a prime example of what can happen when musicians exercise their artistic freedom and aren’t afraid to push boundaries. Listening to this album led me to research the members’ current whereabouts. Daraka has a political blog at , Jessica has several projects at , and Matt Parker is involved in the new Jandisc Records label. Probably the most intriguing is Rench’s hip-hop/country/bluegrass project at , something I’m really looking forward to checking out. I hope this wasn’t the last we’ll ever hear from The Adjusters, but if it is, there’s no doubt it will stand the test of time as their final masterpiece.


  1. I haven't heard that album in ages. I think i lost i somewhere along the way.
    But now that I put it on again, it reminds me of a number of things I 've heard over the years. For one, Dr.Ring and The Senior All stars' Diggin Up Dirt. Or WTFSka's beat brings to mind Skinnerbox's cover of the Clash's Straight To Hell. Mumia In Tibet makes me think of thsoe Bad Manners remixes, or some the stuff they did on their album Fat Sound.
    Overall, it has that same experimental diversity that Fishbone captured.
    Now I'm gonna go listen to some their older stuff.

  2. Nice review, but Before The Revolution was on Moon Ska! I think JumpUp re-packaged and re-released it or something later on...


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