Since 2003, every three years or so has heralded the release of the latest album by American reggae-covers outfit, Easy Star All-Stars, but rather than knock out a few safe renditions of easy targets like Bob Marley or Jimmy Cliff, co-founder Lem Oppenheimer and his skanking cohorts prefer to tackle the 'greats' such as Radiohead ('Radiodread'), The Beatles ('Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Dub Band') and the ground-breaking and really bloody excellent debut, Pink Floyd's 'Dub Side of the Moon'. It shouldn't have worked, but it did. I can remember, whilst working for Virgin, playing that album in-store on a hot summer's day and selling five straight 'off the deck'.
Aside from the puns, the band are a crack batch of musicians and are dedicated to the art of 'tributes' rather than just 'covers'. They're not like the blokes down the pub playing a lame-assed blues number, pretending that 'life is hard in the delta' and then popping home for a plate of Doritos and a can of Skol. Easy Star All-Stars pay gentle homage to the big names, so those mullet-heads don't dare try. Huzzah! And for their next tribute album, they have dared to tackle possibly one of the albums that most really wouldn't touch - Michael Jackson's million, sorry, trillion-selling '80s classic, 'Thriller'. Or 'Thrillah', as it has now been coined.
Oppenheimer explains, "We've always tackled the greats, but while we wanted to take on another huge album, we also wanted to blaze new trails". Evidence of this is plain to hear on the free download currently available (until 19th June) on their website - a tribute to 'Billie Jean', featuring previous collaborator, Luciano on vocals. Peppered with horns and rubbed up with dub, it almost heralds the start of the summer (if it wasn't raining) - head here to grab a free download of 'Billie Jean' before 19th June [that's the video for it, just above - Ed].
You should then head back to us on Thursday morning to get your mitts on their tickets because at 9am, we will have their upcoming autumn tour dates on sale. New album 'Thrillah' will feature to a large degree, though whether all of the guest vocalists from Luciano to Michael Rose will represent is unclear. The tour will call at Reading (1st November), then Manchester, Bristol, London, Falmouth etc until Norwich on 18th November. Prices start at £16 - Nottingham and Wolves are on sale NOW with other shows due to be added in due course.