This is a great new album from TGU, the UK world-ethno-dance ensemble that has been around since the early '90s. It's not as good as their now classic masterpiece of 1995, INTERNATIONAL TIMES, but it may be their best since then. On the strength of that album I checked out the next couple of TGU releases (Psychic Karaoke and Rejoice, Rejoice), but found them lame by comparison, and so I had given up on the band until now. I haven't heard the intervening albums beyond sound clips -- this is their 7th since I.T. -- so I'm not 100% sure it's their best since then, but THE STONE TURNTABLE is definitely worth hearing for anyone who has ever enjoyed the band's music.
The two core members of the group are Tim Whelan and Hamilton Lee, but they often go by pseudonyms in album credits. Here, Lee retains his usual name of "Mantu," while Whelan uses his given name. The great Natacha Atlas, who sang "Temple Head" on I.T., no doubt their best-known song, is no longer with them, but great female vocals are still part of the sound. TGU's sound is the relentless advance of the multinational working class, with the Caribbean and South Asian contingents most strongly represented.
I find that THE STONE TURNTABLE gets off to a weak start, hence the 4 stars. The opener, "Be As One," is a nice spiritual introduction, a chant with instrumental backing. But the next four tracks don't do much for me. Things really take off with Track 6, "Tribe Organiser," a great propulsive number, and are then maintained at a high level through to the end, Track 15, "Mazboori." A standout along the way is "The Future People," which would sound great blasting on the dance floor or on the radio, with the driving sitar of Sheema Mukherjee. "We Come to Tear Your Wall Down" is a lyrical highlight, clearly referring to the wall enclosing the Palestinians in the West Bank, but more generally applicable to walls of exclusion everywhere that keep the working class from enjoying the fruits of its labor.
Fantastic music for our times, when working people are occupying the centers of power around the world!