Maverick A Strike has been on my playlist for already a number of years and it never seems to disappoint no matter the mood I’m in. I encountered this album when I was scavenging the outskirts of the Reggae genre, in search of something new and exciting. One of the websites I used to visit regularly was Roots Archives, an active community boasting countless threads with dedicated Reggae fans. I deliberately used the past tense here, since the website states it is coming back online soon for years now. A big loss for a lot of Reggae fans around the world. Through Roots Archives I even managed to score the e-mail address of producer Rory “Stone Love” Gilligan, through which I ordered Samory-I’s debut album. This was very hard to get by at the time and Black Gold is now being offered on Discogs for a ridiculous 400 euros. For more on that story check-out; record labels worth following. Someone on Roots Archives suggested to give Maverick A Strike a chance, especially if you were open for something totally different. And indeed, you cannot consider Maverick A Strike a Reggae album at all. What is does offer in terms of Reggae are style elements throughout the album whether in the drums, the rhythm, or the way Finley Quaye delivers the lyrics. It doesn’t stop there as Finley combines loads of other genres in his own creative way.
“Ultra Stimulation” opens the album and is exemplary for the way Finley is able to mix different genres into something new and exciting. Accentuated by a bluesy guitar and a screaming keyboard towards the end with only the rhythm guitar betraying a hint of Reggae. The overall style however borders closer to trip-hop. Finley’s eccentric character shines through in his lyrics and unconventional approach of delivery. The album moves a bit slower on “It’s Great When We Are Together” ditching the sound effects for a lush string arrangement. The rhythm is kept to a minimum giving Finley more room for his spoken word delivery. It is difficult to pin-point the mood he expresses but it makes you feel relaxed and uneasy at the same time, never to remain in one place. A perfect song for joyful memories on a rainy day looking outside your window recollecting your thoughts.
With the words “sun is shining”, Finley heralds the words of Bob Marley’s original refashioned as “Sunday Shining”. It is nothing like the original, turning the song into a garage rock tune complete with horn section. Finley is able to make a straightforward melody sound exceptional and intrigue its listeners into a state where in this case, you just want to get into a car and drive on for miles and miles. The stirring “Even After All” is another dreamer but never goes too dark whereas one can’t come back from. The melody of the guitar is able to bring you back when you were about to drift away in sorrow and see the positive side of things. Your sonic satellite’s next broadcast is the upbeat “Ride On And Turn The People On”. Like the title suggests, this will get your engine running especially after the easy nature of the previous track. Complete with a choir and lyrics and that go from serious to silly in a heartbeat but never leaves you bored.
On “The Way Of The Explosive” someone has definitely been using the Big Finger! The muddy bassline has a mesmerizing effect and keeps you in one place so that Finley can move freely to fire his lyrics at the opportune moments. With “Your Love Gets Sweeter” he is only guided by acoustic guitar to bring about a simple and happy message on love. Not necessarily a highly complicated composition but a very catchy one to hum along with. With an imminent presence “Supreme I Preme” blasts through your speakers pushed by a fat hip-hop beat and some seductive Latin flavor.
“Sweet and Loving Man” sounds like a Studio One rhythm catapulted into the late 90’s. Just listen to the accents of the sax and the guitar riff during the chorus and you know what I mean. A nice and easy song to rock and sway the night away. The fully instrumental “Red Rolled and Seen” takes you to the orient as you cut your way through a thick jungle closing in on this addictive beat that gets louder the closer you get. After listening to the album for the first couple of times, Finley’s style of singing reminded me of another artist but I couldn’t wrap my head around who. “Falling” ended the brainteaser and made it abundantly clear. Not only in his is vocal delivery but also in his timing, Finley sounds exactly like the Dark Prince Of Reggae better know as Keith Hudson. The resemblance is almost scary since Keith Hudson didn’t sounded like anyone else at the time and nobody sounded like Keith. Just listen to Playing It Cool to see what I mean.
“I Need A Lover“ is a bit less inspiring than the earlier material, leaning mostly on an electronic backdrop. Finley isn’t able to muster his talent on this one to save it from undoubtedly being the weakest song on the album. Fortunately this is followed by the title song “Maverick A Strike“ which is another strong contender. The Manu Chao-esque song structure relies on percussion as the rhythmic drive complemented with bells, gongs and playing side stick (playing the outside of the drum kit). Once again Finley sounds assure as ever, driving away any dark clouds looming over.
With such a distinctive style in delivery and musicality you bound to have people who either love it or hate it. You can already guess which side I’m on!
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