Take the legendary Jamaican reggae singer Little Roy, British freelance producer Prince Fatty and the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s iconic ‘Nevermind’ album and what do you get? Young Academic’s School of Music investigates.
Reggae covers of songs and albums from unlikely genres are nothing new. The results tend to vary and at times the reggae covers can appear forced and unnatural. That is not the case with Little Roy’s Nirvana tribute ‘Battle For Seattle’.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Kurt Cobain doesn’t seem like an obvious choice for the reggae fraternity to cover but alas, they did. And it works. ‘Battle For Seattle’ is not your archetypical cover album. A wide array of reggae and dub musicians line up on this album to rework some of Nirvana’s most famous, hard hitting songs. Daringly awesome, it is a shame this album hasn’t been gaining more attention from the mainstream music press.
The chilled out dubby version of ‘Come As You Are’ is a highlight and people who have never heard of Nirvana would easily fall into its effortless groove without realising it was a cover. ‘About A Girl’ gets the head nodding, not only to the rhythm but in approval also. The rest of the album flows nicely, with an enticing mix of dub, reggae and ska putting this collection of covers over to the listener in a smooth and natural fashion as you’d expect from any original album of this genre.
The only track that doesn’t sit comfortably with Little Roy’s spiritual vocal style is ‘Polly’. Perhaps it is the savage nature of the song’s lyrics that don’t quite sit right with the reggae veteran. Maybe it is just a song that doesn’t work on an album of successes. Either way ‘Polly’ as 60’s style reggae number just doesn’t quite flow and is a rare blemish on the album.
An up tempo and lifting ska version of ‘Lithium’ is a joy to behold and is the perfect end to the album. It is surprising it works in such a format given the depressing underlying story of the song in which a man fights his urge to kill himself. That however, is the beauty of this album. The feeling that it probably shouldn’t work makes it all the more satisfying when it does.
Anniversaries of classic albums have a tendency to lead to a number covers being released as a result. This may well happen with ‘Nevermind’ as well but any covers that are released will have to be very impressive to sit alongside ‘Battle For Seattle’.
Young Academic Star Rating: 4/5