Album Review: “A Miracle” by Groundation

A Miracle Groundation

In the opening lines of “Riddim Hold Dem,” the first track of Groundation‘s 11th studio album A Miracle, frontman Harrison Stafford sings:

“Without woman, what would man be?”

This question marks the beginning of an album centered around exploring and cherishing the role of women in life. Something I always loved about Groundation, a jazzy roots reggae band hailing from Northern California, is their inclusion of female vocalists in their recorded and live productions. Over the years, vocalists Kim Pommell and Sherida Sharpe have emerged as powerful forces in the band, and they play a strong part in this album. “They’re not backup singers by any stretch of the imagination,” said Harrison in a recent interview we had on my radio show. “Groundation is about a balance of sound—everybody really taking part, sharing the spotlight…this is a part of our one-ness.”

Joining forces with Groundation on this album are two mighty, mighty queens of reggae: Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt. Marcia and Judy, along with Rita Marley, were the I Threes—the original backing trio of Bob Marley & the Wailers in their heyday. Marcia’s gorgeous, etheral voice is considered one of the best in reggae music, and she is featured on track two, “Defender of Beauty.” Judy is featured on track six—the title track—”A Miracle,” sounding enticingly bluesy and soulful, combining perfectly with the jazzy piano and brass which set Groundation apart from other roots reggae bands.

A Miracle is a solid continuation of Groundation’s other recorded works. You can expect the previously-mentioned jazzy keys and saxophone, and the heavy, heavy basslines that make you want to fall to the floor. Their live show is a must-see. It’s good for your soul!

Along with the woman-centric theme, Groundation covers familiar ground with their lyrics—the state of the world, a call for liberation, trust in Jah, and the power of music. Within the woman-centric theme itself lies the curveball—because very rarely, if at all, had Groundation sung about romantic love. But in this case, as you will hear on the last track “Cupid’s Arrow,” it’s far from wishy-washy. It’s about real respect and equality. “Respect me, do the right….oh love me absolutely, and you and I shall prosper.”

Track four, “Gone A Cemetery,” has made the list of my favorite Groundation songs. It’s about a freedom fighter who met a cruel end. I don’t know if it’s about a specific person—if it is, I’m curious to know. Besides the lyrics, the melody is great.

Groundation is an internationally-acclaimed band, and their message is spiritual and universal. I strongly recommend picking up this album, plus more from the Groundation discography, and anything created or produced by Harrison Stafford—someone who works tirelessly to preserve reggae history and spread positive music to the masses.

From the inner liner notes of A Miracle: “This album is livicated to the beautiful female spirit: The powerful empress who manifests creation.”

Big up Groundation!



Kayla Liederbach
@djkaylakush

Kayla manages social media and customer support at Murfie. You can hear her on the radio hosting U DUB, the reggae show, Wednesdays on WSUM. She enjoys hosting the Murfie podcast, cooking, traveling, going to concerts, and snuggling with kittycats.


Spooky Tunes!

When it comes to your Halloween playlist, we’ve got you covered. Plus, we have an Alpha version of our upcoming Web Player to try out, with a playlist feature and more! (Just sign in, click “Player,” and look in the lower right corner.)

This year, the Murfie staff recommends some albums that range from dark and scary to corny and fun. Here they are!

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Eternal Youth
Future Bible Heroes
(Liz’s pick)

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Walk Among Us
Misfits
(Jason’s pick)

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Featuring: Dr. Gruesome…
Snow White’s Poison Bite
(Jason’s pick)

Monster Mash

Monster Mash
Peter Pan Records
(Kayla’s pick)

Great Hitchcock Movie Thrillers
Bernard Herrmann
(John’s pick)

Jaws Soundtrack

Jaws Soundtrack
John Williams
(Matt’s pick)

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Rocky Horror Picture Show
Richard O’Brien
(Brandon’s pick)

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Pre-Millennium Tension
Tricky
(Marc’s pick)

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Nearly God
Nearly God
(Marc’s pick)

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Twin Peaks
Angelo Badalamenti
(Marc’s pick)

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Soused
Scott Walker + Sunn O)))
(Marc’s pick)

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The X Files: The Album
Various Artists
(Andrew’s pick)

Happy Halloweeeeen! :-)

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Ownership Matters: Redbox Instant has shut down

On October 7th 2014, Redbox Instant officially shut down and discontinued their movie streaming service which only existed for 19 months.

With Redbox Instant, customers could pay a monthly fee to stream movies at home or on their mobile devices. Customers could also purchase electronic versions of movies, which were made available to them in their account for on-demand viewing anytime.

Since the company is no more, they offered refunds for the remainder of any unused monthly subscriptions. But the lingering question that customers are asking is: What happened to the digital movies I purchased?

Redbox posted an FAQ about this very question:

What happens to the movies I bought and stored in my digital locker? We’re exploring options for customers who purchased electronic versions of on-demand movies and will be providing that information to you soon. We appreciate your patience.

Do you know what that really means? “Be very, very worried, because you never really owned anything.” The FAQ was posted almost three weeks ago with no update to follow.

As we gain more convenient access to music and movies in the cloud, our ownership and control of this content is under assault. As the Redbox example points out, it doesn’t matter that you paid real money for a cloud copy of a movie—your access to that copy is controlled by a gatekeeper. And that gatekeeper can change the rules or even cease to exist at any point. Redbox Instant is not the first DRM service to shut down and leave customers high and dry after purchasing digital content. Within the last decade, Walmart, MSN, and Yahoo Music ended up announcing that customers would no longer have access to the digital content they paid for.

Contrast that with the ownership experience of physical media—your CDs and DVDs. Physical media puts you in total control. Ownership rights are well established. The formats are well documented. The only real downside to physical media is that it takes up real physical space. It’s less convenient than streaming.

And that’s why we built Murfie. We wanted to make real ownership of content in the cloud a reality. We’ve realized that vision for music. Our platform makes it ultra-convenient to really own CDs in the cloud. Check back soon about movies!

Album Review: “Become Ocean” by John Luther Adams

Become Ocean is a moving work, to say the least. My first listen left me reeling in such a way that I immediately started over from the beginning. Mississippi-born and Alaska-based John Luther Adams won the 2014 Pulitzer for this piece, and it’s imminently clear he deserved the award.

John Luther Adams - Become OceanJohn Luther Adams (not to be confused with California’s John Adams, also nominated for a Pulitzer this year) has the heart of an ambient musician, the hands of a skilled composer and the spirit of the wild. If enjoyed without distraction, you can in fact, “become ocean.”

I first learned of Become Ocean (as many of my friends did) via this excellent episode of Radiolab, excerpting the equally impressive podcast Meet the Composer. Snippets featured in these shows drew me in, but none of that prepared me for how truly impressive as a whole Become Ocean is.

Alex Ross, a contributor to The New Yorker, shared this rough illustration of Adam’s form in an addendum to his review of the piece. The power behind Become Ocean emanates from the overlapping swells of an orchestra distinctly segmented. The result is an ever changing tide, the full ensemble hitting simultaneous crescendos thrice. Become Ocean strikes its most intense moments around the half-way mark; after that point, the piece is performed in reverse. Among many things, Become Ocean is a palindrome.

Alex Ross' diagram of Become Ocean.

Alex Ross’ rough diagram of Become Ocean.

In all honesty, Become Ocean feels like it shouldn’t be possible. At the very least, it’s hard to believe that it was not assembled in post production. Rather, John Luther Adams has created a solid 42-minute composition recorded with a real-life orchestra in full surround sound. Harps in the left ear swell into similar arpeggios on piano dead center, then strings in the right ear. At times, it’s easy to forget that the lulls in each wave are produced by real people, and not computer-built improvisations.

I can only imagine what it felt like to be John Luther Adams, experiencing his work in the flesh for the first time. After a year in composition, Adams did not hear Become Ocean until its third presentation: a packed house at Carnegie Hall. Become Ocean is a must-listen, if only to experience the subtlety and power a master of modern composition such as John Luther Adams can create.

In Adams’ own words:

Life on this earth first emerged from the sea. As the polar ice melts and sea level rises, we humans find ourselves facing the prospect that once again we may quite literally become ocean.

Check out Become Ocean for yourself on Murfie. While you’re at it, make sure to hear the full story via Radiolab.


John Kruse
@mamtweet

John Praw Kruse is an Operations Manager, and Product Manager for the Murfie Vinyl Service. In his free time, John makes music, including scores for indie films and various shorts. He is the founder of Mine All Mine Records and the Lost City Music Festival. John devours new music.


Favorite New Releases of the Week!

Oh man, such great new music we’ve been listening to! Here’s what some of our staffers recommend for you…


Flying Lotus You're DeadFlying Lotus
You’re Dead!

(John’s Pick)

You’re Dead is the long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s Until the Quiet Comes by Flying Lotus. While the tracks often feel too short, FlyLo’s signature production style is in full force throughout the album’s 38-minute run time. Perhaps it’s best to view You’re Dead as one large piece, since many of the tracks bleed from one to another. In that case, it was maybe a mistake to separate them. The biggest departure for Flying Lotus on this album is the inclusion of several featured verses, including FlyLo’s alter ego, Captain Murphy. But it works out well. Overall, a great addition to the Flying Lotus discography.

Going Back Home Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey
Going Back Home

(Marc’s Pick)

Roger Daltrey sang with The Who that he hoped he’d die before he got old. At the age of 65, Wilko Johnson demonstrated he’d do just that. After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2012 Johnson, the original guitarist for British R&B/pub rock band Dr. Feelgood, but better known on this side of the pond as the mute executioner on Game of Thrones, opted to go down with his axe in hand. As part of his continual touring he cut this album in late 2013, planned with Daltrey a couple years prior. The pair roll through classic cuts from throughout Johnson’s career, with a Dylan number thrown in for good measure. For what may be Johnson’s final run, this is an excellent introduction and encapsulation of his career and influence. For bonus points, check out this video from his early days with Dr. Feelgood and see him float jaggedly around stage with the gaze that got him on Game of Thrones. And also check out the 4 disc set encapsulating his time with that band, which was released a couple years back. Finally, he announced just a few days back that after undergoing extension surgery to remove 3 kilograms of tumor he appears to be cancer free. Now if I can just convince him to make a victory lap through Madison, perhaps with Richard Hawley in tow…

77 Jefferson Let Me Know EP77 Jefferson
Let Me Know EP

(Kayla’s Pick)

Midwest reggae! These guys are from Missouri. I’d closely compare them to the rootsy lovers-rock-reggae singer Josh Heinrichs, who is also from the same state, and runs the record label they’re affiliated with. This EP came out in July of 2014, and it fits well on a summer playlist since their mood is super positive. I especially love the first song, “Rocksteady.”

More new releases are on the way! Go to murfie.com/preorder to see what’s coming, and pre-order your favorites.

Which albums are you excited to see? Tell us in the comments!