It was approximately 16 years ago when Sonoma State University’s Jazz program attendees Harrison Stafford (lead vocals), Marcus Unani (keyboards), and Ryan Newman (bass) formed what is now known today as Groundation. The late ‘90’s lead up to be very significant years for these young and budding group of individuals. During his time at the university, Harrison interestingly enough taught the first course on the History and Culture of Reggae Music. If you’re even slightly familiar with Groundation’s music, you’ve probably noticed the very intelligent and spiritually intense lyrics spread throughout each composition.
There are very few modern bands today that display such fullness in their sound
On their latest album titled A Miracle, the audaciously voiced Harrison uses jazz inspired and rootsy reggae elements alongside simple metronomic beats to construct a beautiful and extravagant sounding album. What is exceedingly impressive with this album is the overall fullness and depth heard in all of its compositions, touching on every point of the frequency spectrum. This also applies to earlier recordings as well, but with A Miracle, it is painfully apparent. There are very few modern bands today that display such fullness in their sound and brilliantly utilizing instruments such as the B3 organ, a large array of brass horns, and rich backup vocals. John Brown’s Body comes to mind as the other great example of such great, full sounding tracks.
Further diving into the album, A Miracle is a full 55 minutes of alluring ear candy that showcases a sense of cohesiveness that isn’t designed to be broken down into iTunes playlists or ‘Best of’ compilations. Similar to the likes of a Pink Floyd album, A Miracle is best enjoyed from start to finish, with the shuffle feature of your favorite player turned off.
Judy Mowatt, a Jamaican vocalist most famous for her role as backup vocals for Bob Marley & The Wailers makes a guest appearance on the title track “A Miracle”. Another guest appearance on the album who worked closely alongside Judy Mowatt is Marcia Griffiths, AKA the “Queen of Reggae.” The guest appearances alone is a solid indicator that compromise is not to be had here on this album.
A Miracle is the refreshing sound from Groundation addressing familiar musical aesthetics with renewed energy.
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A Miracle track listing
- Riddim Hold Dem
- Defender of Beauty (feat. Marcia Griffiths)
- Free Rider
- Gone a Cemetery
- Liberation Call
- A Miracle (feat. Judy Mowatt)
- Hold Your Head Up
- Jah Defend the Music
- Born Again
- Cupid’s Arrow
Groundation – Defender Of Beauty ft Marcia Griffiths
Released October 21, 2014 • Young Tree Records
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.