Shangoband, Keep It Real

Shangoband, Keep It Real

Shangoband is a reggae group from Washington, DC. You’d think that being in Washington would give them no end of inspiration for songs, but unfortunately, inspiration can only take you so far. There are a few inspired moments on the record, but overall, it’s lacking. Shangoband contains 19 relatively short (by reggae standards, anyway) tracks — there isn’t much pure grooving on the record. But since both their groove and their songs are somewhat shaky, they’re probably doing us a favor. The vocal quality also varies depending on the song — mostly it’s fine, but there’s one guy who sounds like Roy Orbison who’s particularly bad (the singer, not Roy Orbison).

Lyrics seem to be their prime failing. There are a few decent melodies, but their exhortations are mostly tedious, which is the last thing exhortations should be. “Eyes Are On The Window” tries to expand on the old proverb, but the lyrics are so banal that it makes the melody less interesting — and the melody itself isn’t particularly strong, certainly not strong enough to support such trite lyrics.

Another problem the band has is the keyboard effects or samples or whatever that they’re using. These get really irritating at times — “Ban-Ga-Rang” has a decent melody (aided by the fact that you don’t know what the guy’s singing about), but they use this sample or keyboard accent periodically that gets irritating really fast. If this were indie-rock, the cheesy tinny keyboard sounds and samples would be de rigueur, but here it just sounds cheap. When they do it to the weak songs, it’s punishing. “Sine” is already weak, but it’s hurt by the effects they add (and finished off by the singing).

Their reggae is weak but not very bad. So you wouldn’t expect that it could get as bad as it does on “My Party,” an odd attempt at a lite-R&B song. The Roy Orbison guy sings on this one, and it’s embarrassing from start to end. The song is about the singer being turned on by a woman’s dancing, but the way he sings makes him sound like he’s looking at his watch, not the woman. The melody is boring, the arrangement is predictable, and the lyrics are irritating. If you’re going to sing a song about having fun, the rule is you’ve got to sound like you’re having fun yourself. They don’t. So whatever party he’s talking about, I’m staying home.

There are a few songs like “Day and Night” and “Jah is On Your Side,” where they get the balance right, but there just aren’t enough of them. Hopefully they’ll get better, or at least fire that one guy.

(Mighty Roots Inc. -- 911 Emerson St. NW, Washington, DC. 20011; Shangoband -- http://www.englishman-shangoband.com/)
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Review by . Review posted Saturday, October 13th, 2007. Filed under Reviews.

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