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Little Roy - Battle For Seattle (Album Review)

Wednesday, 14 September 2011 Written by Rob Sleigh
Little Roy ‘Battle for Seattle’ (Album Review)

Just in time for the 20th anniversary and subsequent re-issue of Nirvana’s grunge classic and breakthrough album ‘Nevermind’, Jamaican reggae legend Little Roy has done for the Seattle alt-rock trio what the Easy Star All-Stars did for Pink Floyd, Radiohead and The Beatles. That is, he’s taken a bunch of their most celebrated and well-loved music and added his own loving reggae touch.

ImageFans of the aforementioned Easy Star albums, 2003’s ‘Dub Side of the Moon’, 2009’s ‘Lonely Hearts Dub Band’ and 2006’s ‘Radiodread’ – a wonderful reimagining of the Oxford quintet’s ‘OK Computer’ – will be able to confirm that the reggae covers band achieved a marvellous take on classic albums, whose music lent itself perfectly to the Jamaican treatment. But how easy is a classic heavy rock album to translate in this manner, you may ask? Well fortunately, or so it seems, surprisingly well.

In a manner somewhat dissimilar to the aforementioned Easy Star All-Stars, rather than picking one classic album to reshape into an all-new format, Little Roy – along with his collaborator, the British reggae producer Prince Fatty – has chosen a selection of Nirvana’s most memorable tracks that he has deemed appropriate for translation into his own style.

‘Battle for Seattle’ kicks off with album opener ‘Dive’ – a slightly odd choice, bearing in mind that it was not included on any of Nirvana’s three album, but from their 1992 rarities compilation ‘Incesticide’. However, this doesn’t make it a bad choice and, as the distinctive reggae drum roll introduces the song, it is instantly clear that it is the perfect way to begin the album. The manner in which the brass section provides a highly suitable alternative to the original’s main guitar riff is probably one of the highlights of the record and really helps to set the scene.

Similarly, the Marleyesque backing vocals on ‘Heart Shaped Box’ provide another great example of how Little Roy and Prince Fatty have managed to really do justice to the original, while also adding their own touch to perfection. The organ intro to ‘Come As You Are’, on the other hand, does begin to lean towards sounding like a bit of a comedy cover version compared with the previous examples. Fortunately, as the song continues, the cover itself becomes an interesting take on another of Nirvana’s classic singles.

One or two of the other tracks on the album do occasionally sound a bit too close to the originals being sung over a reggae backing track. Luckily, they easily make up for this with some outstanding reggae alternatives to songs like ‘About A Girl’ and the fantastic ska rendition of album closer and Nirvana fan favourite ‘Lithium’. This rounds off the album nicely and completes an extremely fun record, which will surely be enjoyed by reggae and grunge fans alike.





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Lithium is the latest Nirvana song to be taken from the album Battle for Seattle, Little Roy's 10 track reggae tribute to grunge legends, Nirvana. I'm not sure what Kurt Cobain would think about reggae covers of his songs, or indeed anybody making records made up entirely of his music, but as far as being a tribute to a legend, this could have been a hell of a lot worse.
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