Tuesday, September 17, 2019 at 8:00 p.m.
with special guest NEAL FRANCIS
Tickets: $30.00 Advance/$35.00 Day Of Show
IT’S A GENERAL ADMISSION DANCE PARTY Y’ALL!
JAMERICA MEAL DEAL AVAILABLE IN THE LOBBY!
Bearing witness to the accelerating negativity of global affairs, Steel Pulse emerges with musical vengeance to halt the disarray of humanity. The bands twelfth studio production, titled Mass Manipulation, reflects four decades committed to bettering mankind through music. Steel Pulse continues to be revolutionary in engaging controversial topics of racial injustice and human rights on a global scale. Their musical stance and conceptualizations are as potent and relevant today as they were at the beginning of their career. The album’s uniquely thematic approach provokes thought as it presses forward, toward humanities unification. A manipulation of our minds has been influenced by a New World Order currently dominating humankind. Steel Pulse reappears at a fated moment, armed with compassion, encouraging all people to reject false ideals, set higher goals, and demand more from themselves to further this unification.
Lead singer and guitarist, David Hinds’ creativity, human persona, and visionary views are revealed through inspiring compositions that capture the effects of the African Diaspora. These songs weave and interlock with each other, enticing all to stand together and unite.
The album begins with a continuation of past struggles in attaining freedom. From the opening song, “Rize,“ one can hear, feel, and be uplifted through urgency established in its cadence. This urgency compels participation in the Windrush generation’s cause to rise against evil and controlling forces. Ancient melodies paired with catchy lyrics in “Stop You Coming and Come” transport the mind to a period of time where secrets of an African dynasty are unmasked. “Thank The Rebels“ follows as a classic Steel Pulse anthem with powerful messages of awareness and inspiration. From the opening trumpet call, Hinds picks up the torch of wisdom, rallying humanity toward great aspirations. In “Justice in Jena,” rolling drums and repeated chorus structure highlight the hatred and racial intolerance that persists, despite the notion that society has progressed into a post-racial world. Haunting organs and eerie guitar interplay in “Human Trafficking” emulate the atrocities of this underground world, while desperate drumming and frantic horns bolster an emotional plea to admonish this horror.
Mass Manipulation evolves and sets to navigate the political transformation of changing social and economic environments. Impassioned vocals convey the pain and suffering experienced throughout “Cry Cry Blood.” This song features blistering horns to help settle the nerves and uneasiness felt. “No Satan Side” follows with its intoxicating tempo, rhythmic chanting, and riveting lyrics, defining the African Diaspora with redemption cries for, “Rastafari and live.” “N.A.T.T.Y (Natural And True To Yourself)“ explodes with syncopated drumming and purposeful bass to unburden the soul. It is here where we find Hinds at his most personal and reflective state. The album’s title track, “Mass Manipulation,” positions exploding horns to drive home its warning, bursting the corporate glass which would serve to protect the deceitful and corrupt. In “World Gone Mad,” a jolting rap broadcasts the horrifying consequences of madness. Ensnaring drums and seducing bass encapture those evil and controlling powers embodied in “Black and White Oppressors,” while defiant lyrics, weaponized with energetic horns, serve to penetrate Babylon’s evil and systematic ways.
The album comes full circle as Steel Pulse’s legendary musical abilities aim to achieve a greater community for all. The promise of mankind’s salvation is prominently positioned with vocals offered to still calm in “The Final Call.“ Stunning harmonica jousts invoke inward reflection and set free courage to conquer. “Higher Love (Rasta Love),” a beautiful Hinds reggae reinterpretation of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love,” exudes charisma and energy hailing for love across humanity. The album crowns with “Nations of the World.” Stabilizing lyrics, enforced by a commanding rhythm, beg freedom fighters, leaders, and citizens from all nations to come together in peace.
In the midst of today’s strife and turmoil, Mass Manipulation is Steel Pulse’s indispensable musical gift, as their forty year legacy continues to define the magnificent power and beauty of reggae music. As reggae revolutionaries, Steel Pulse is revered by the younger generation of artists and remains a powerhouse on stages around the globe. Through the example of Mass Manipulation, Steel Pulse demonstrates the endless possibilities that come from breaking down the walls of systemic greed and nurturing the fellowship of mankind.
“I just wanted to be honest about everything, from my musical influences to my story,” muses Neal Francis. After years of dishonest living — consumed by drugs, alcohol, and addiction — such sincerity is jarring from the 30-year-old Chicago-based musician. Liberated from a self-destructive past and born anew in sobriety, Francis has captured an inspired collection of songs steeped in New Orleans rhythms, Chicago blues, and early 70s rock n’ roll. His music evokes a bygone era of R&B’s heyday while simultaneously forging a new path on the musical landscape. Ohio-based Karma Chief Records (a subsidiary of rising soul label Colemine Records) released two songs, “These Are The Days” and “Changes, Pt. 1,” in early 2019 and will follow with the full LP Changes on September 20, 2019.
There is a deep connection between Francis’s childhood — his obsession with boogie woogie piano, his father’s gift of a dusty Dr. John LP — and the songs he’s created. The result is an astonishing collection of material without parallel in the contemporary funk and soul scene. The influences are unmistakable: the vocal stylings of Allen Toussaint and Leon Russell; the second line rhythms of The Meters and Dr. John; the barroom rock ‘n’ roll of The Rolling Stones; the gospel soul of Billy Preston; the roots music of The Band. Francis pays tribute to the masters but has his own story to tell: “It’s the life I’ve lived so far.”
And what a life it’s been. Born Neal Francis O’Hara, the piano prodigy found himself touring Europe by the age of 18 with Muddy Waters’ son and backing up other prominent blues artists coast-to-coast. In 2012, Francis joined popular instrumental funk band The Heard. With Francis at the creative helm, The Heard transformed into a national act, touring with boogaloo progenitors The New Mastersounds and chart toppers The Revivalists and appearing at Jazz Fest and Bear Creek. As The Heard’s star rose, however, Francis sunk deeper into addiction. Once a promising sideman, by 2015 he had been fired from his band, evicted from his apartment, and was perilously close to self-destruction. “When you get close to death like that you can feel it,” Francis recalls. An alcohol-induced seizure that year led to a broken femur, dislocated arm, and, finally, the realization that he needed to get clean.
The journey from a hospital bed to launching his solo career was neither predictable nor straightforward. There were musical fits and starts, relapses, and broken relationships. Yet the overwhelming passion driving Francis in this second act has been an abundance of creative energy. “Drinking held my music in a half-cocked slingshot. I was always so consumed by drugs and alcohol that I didn’t have the time, money, or creative energy to do it. Sobriety let it loose.”
Determined to realize the songs swirling in his head, Francis assembled a crack team of musicians, calling on bassist Mike Starr (The Heard) and drummer PJ Howard (The Revivalists, The Heard). He linked up with producer and analog-obsessive Sergio Rios (Orgone, Cee Lo Green, Alicia Keys) and self-funded a trip to Killion Sound in Los Angeles to record the initial batch of material. “I learned to trust my instincts in that room,” says Francis. Buoyed by classic horn arrangements and Rios’ fierce guitar work, the resulting tracks illuminate a lifetime spent studying the masters of rock and soul music.
From the RMI electra-piano riff that kicks off “She’s A Winner” to the screaming organ swells of “This Time,” Francis and company let it all hang out. This is fun music, dance music. Yet verse after verse and chorus after chorus, Francis wrestles with his past in a straightforward manner: “It’s 5 o’clock in the morning, but I’m not home/ I’m surrounded by people, but I’m really alone.” Like Toussaint and Russell before him he’s married the upbeat rhythms of New Orleans R&B with the lyrical approach of a confessional singer/songwriter. The refrain on “This Time” serves as a foxhole prayer for a better future: “Let me get it this time/I won’t let you down/Let me get it this time/I won’t fool around.”
Francis finished recording basic tracks for Changes in Los Angeles in February of 2018 and spent the following months doing overdubs in Chicago with engineer Mike Novak (who also recorded demos for the project). Soon after he was eager to begin his touring career. After signing with Paradigm Talent Agency, Neal played shows across North America supporting Australian band The Cat Empire. He has received praise on several notable radio outlets including KEXP, KCRW’s The Morning Becomes Eclectic, and BBC Radio 6. Francis and his four-piece band recently performed during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, sharing the stage with The Meters and other legends. This summer he performed at Summer Camp and Chicago’s Chi-Soul Festival, and hit the road with Lee Fields & The Expressions, Dumpstaphunk and others. Francis pledges to tour relentlessly to promote his own music. “I’m doing this to fulfill a drive within myself, but also to pay tribute to the gifts I’ve been given. And it comes from a place of immense gratitude.”