Groundation Meets Brain Damage: Dreaming from an Iron Gate

Has it really been more than 20 years since Groundation's landmark album "Hebron Gate“ appeared? I still remember that the famous, but no longer active Ixtulluh distributor gave me the album. It wasn't love at first sight by any means; it took me a while to think about the release back then: do you still need an unknown band when - in contrast to today - there are tons of other new releases vying for attention? In retrospect, my hesitation was a mistake, because the first time I listened, my jaw dropped. This was reggae the way I had wanted it for years: down-to-earth roots with appealing lyrics and various jazz and blues sprinkles that made the whole thing really interesting: here there were obviously accomplished musicians at work, with influences from other genres made. The fact that the album was recorded under the aegis of Jim Fox and has the appropriate (sound) qualities increased interest - obviously not just mine, as the feedback from the reggae community has shown (although there were also some reservations about Harrison Stafford's voice, which took some getting used to). ). A comparison with the two previous albums reveals the quantum leap in the development of Groundation - and so "Hebron Gate" ultimately became the (not yet so elaborate) blueprint for all subsequent albums by the band; at least as long as this line-up - including Marcus Urani and David Cachere on Hammond organ and trumpet - existed. What followed was a steep career in the reggae universe - especially in Europe, where Groundation, as a successful live act, played almost everything that deserved the name stage; the big festivals anyway. 

After "Hebron Gate" the EP "dragon war' or the album 'Dub Wars", the Dub-versions of some album tracks - very tasteful work thanks to Jim Fox, who brought the simple beauty of the instrumentals to the fore and gave them an unexcited Dub- Underwent treatment.

Fast forward to 2023; Groundation is still there (albeit with an almost completely different line-up) and still has it, like last year's release "One Rock“ impressively demonstrated. The veteran Harrison Ford – who obviously managed to secure the rights to the Groundation catalog – is taking the “Hebron Gate” anniversary as an opportunity to revisit the album. This could very well have been a remastered deluxe edition - with unreleased tracks that were already too bad for release at the time, or with bumpy studio outtakes that nobody really needs. Instead, he had the idea of ​​leaving the original tapes to Martin Nathan aka Brain Damage, who unraveled the soundtracks, polished the sound to a high gloss, then put the whole thing back together (sometimes in a highly idiosyncratic way) and provided it with a few additional instrumental tracks or sound effects. It is probably no coincidence that the title “Dreaming from an Iron Gate” (Baco Records) the word “Dub“ can’t find it again; that would also be short-sighted. Rather, the new album is an in-depth, at times psychedelic journey into the bowels of Hebron Gate. 

There's a lot to discover here that was lost in the original mix and is only now being revealed by the sound, which has been adapted to today's listening habits - such as the finely chiseled drum and cymbal work by Paul Spina or some background vocals that apparently made the mix 20 years ago. fell victim to scissors. This often gives the impression of being in the middle of an acoustic documentation of the old recordings, in which special features that have never been heard before are repeatedly pointed out. However, one can certainly question whether the newly recorded, additional soundtracks were necessary: ​​they are often helpful in condensing the atmosphere; sometimes, on the other hand, they seem to be asking themselves the question of meaning. Also debatable are the excursions into… well, into the psychedelic. In and of itself not an uncharming idea, but it slows down the natural flow of the riddims: It grooves along very nicely and all of a sudden, without any warning, (newly recorded) synths roar and sway along... a bit in the direction of Pink Floyd, one might think . You can see that as an enrichment or as sacrilege, it always takes getting used to.

Which says a lot, if not everything, about this release. As always, use the comment tool below for additional opinions and discussions. That leaves the assessment of the reviewer, who sees himself torn: first the album amazes and inspires, then it bores, then again one discovers something new and unheard; sometimes the excursion into the psychedelic is good, sometimes it's just annoying. Does the star award even depend on the daily constitution? So I play it safe with the rating and at the same time rely on the independent judgment of the local people Dubologists: What do you think of "Dreaming from an Iron Gate"?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

6 replies to “Groundation Meets Brain Damage: Dreaming from an Iron Gate”

It is often the album with which I got to know a band that was new to me, which in retrospect turns out to be the best. When I was allowed to add "Hebron Gate" to my reggae treasures "back then", it was also the case for me that I had unconsciously been waiting for it for a long time. I found that really FAT! Except for the singing again. I think I know by now that we DubFans already have a certain "problem" with Gesinge "from birth". There's also a lot of blaring in reggae, especially in dancehall style, and I often get goosebumps directed inward from the lover men who adore the lover girls. Yes, and Harrison Stafford's vocals also take some getting used to. To this day I still need a top day form. But if this is true, then it's great. Because "Hebron Gate" worked so well for me, I naturally bought a few more and then until the release of "Here I Am", I was a fan of Groundation almost uncritically. Including a live concert in Berlin, which I will never forget because of the outstanding percussionist. Unfortunately, Groundation could never reach this concert again when I was there. With "Here I Am" I suddenly didn't get along so well anymore. The riddims couldn't distract me so well from Harrison's singing and somehow they or I just lost the groove. I even got myself "Building An Ark" but in the end the relationship between me and Groundation was already in serious trouble. And after "Miracle" no marriage counselor helped anymore. Groundation and I went our separate ways. Only the collaboration between Harrison and Brain Damage "Liberation Time" made me sit up and take notice again and to this day I like the disc very much.
All in all, I would say that the combinations with the Congos and Don Carlos appeal to me most of all, and these tunes have remained unrivaled to this day. Was anything else?
Oh yes, this is actually about "Dreaming from an iron gate". I'm inclined to say, "yes fine, dream on".
But that comes across as too bad. After reading Philipp's comment and of course enjoying the review attentively and with anticipation of the album, I was of course very excited. And it starts really well and to my liking. An intro, which is really exciting and full of mystical energy with fantastic drum improvisations and even better brass and trumpet fragments, introducing an album of superlatives. I thought ! But already in the first tune I felt reminded of Philipp's words in the commentary. Stafford didn't want a "naked" DubAlbum. Yes, I thought to myself, just keep on dreaming or singing. Overall, I like the album, even every single one DubTune too mixed. Very magical moments alternate with cerebral and – for my taste – complicated phases with a strong jazzy touch within one DubDo it. Sometimes that works out well, but unfortunately it often goes too far beyond my own nose. It's probably the case again that you have to listen to the album a lot more often to know it enough to be able to form a well-founded opinion at all. But as is so often the case here, I've already formed an opinion and it's very mixed. That often means that that's it for me. Nevertheless, there is a lot to discover here and if you like archeology and don't mind digging in the earth, the album should definitely give you pleasure.

Greetings ……………… .. lemmi

It could be that Dubologists have problems with the singing... I can't do the lyrics myself, it's a completely different world than mine. Then I find the roaring at sound system events absolutely unbearable, I don't understand it acoustically either... "LIIIIIIGHTAAAAAA" and such screaming words.

I've also attended a few fine Groundation gigs, but the last one in Vienna stuck in my memory the most: Total aggro mood on stage. “Miracle” (which I consider to be the best Groundation album…perfectly produced, great hooklines) had come out before and the band's breakup was obviously imminent.

Which comment by Philipp do you mean? He quotes the press release...


Yes, you really have to be precise and unequivocal. I'm still not that good at it, but I promise I'm working on it.
I meant the press text quoted by Philipp in the comment, which in turn quotes Harrison Stafford ;-)
"And I don't want just a bare dub album!"
I think we already had that with “Miracle”. If only I were up to putting that thing back on at home. I've got it in a drawer, but there has only been one encounter so far and that was disappointing for me. A bit of nonsense must be :
You know I like to think I have perfect pitch and maybe I'll be able to tell that the band was on the verge of breaking up during the production of "Miracle" and that has had an overall impact on the Chemistry of the music had a negative effect ;-)
Is there a recording of the concert in Vienna on u-tube? I'm only human and I like sensations and scandals.

Oh yes, and I could now blast off over 99% of the SoundsystemFuzzies with passion. I mean especially those who played the best music in the warm-up ;-) But I guess I'll have to save that for later. Also, this wouldn't be the first time I've given my opinion on these art philistines for the best.

So, for now ………………. lemmi

My socialization with Groundation was the album "Dub wars". At the time I was moving into an old farmhouse and while I was painting the walls I kept spinning this CD in the ghetto blaster (Is that why I painted all the walls yellow, the ceiling beams green and door frames and doors red? What a coincidence!)... and everything , what I later listened to from Groundation, I found it to be above average in terms of music, but there was this voice... genetically I probably belong to the same "tribe" as lemmi... well dosed or a few exceptions, which confirm the rule, otherwise voices and songs are rather annoying, annoying and undesirable for me.
Now, in the release radar comment, I have just processed my first listening impression fresh from the liver... I'm currently on the second really concentrated listening session (this time at a good volume) and I find the first two tracks very consistent again (I personally would have Harrison's whining probably used even more sparingly than Martin Nathan, but I like the background vocals).
“Spitfire” starts out psychedelic, with lots of delay and reverb on organ and vocals, and I like the melodica-like organ solo before the trumpet takes over. I also like these jazzy excesses, then a bit abruptly the end, which lingers again briefly (why? would I have left it out)...
The best thing for me is really the organ (Marcus Urani has it down), "Deaf Ears" is also very well done in this version...
"All I've seen today" tended to have too much vocals mixed in again and up to about 2:30 minutes it actually sounds almost like an unedited album song (and yes, I haven't heard the original "Hebron Gate" for a long time). . At the end there is still a synth ending, which actually comes in a bit suddenly and quite irritatingly confused, but for my listening pleasure everything is in the green.
The next track, "A New Star", pretty much goes on as before, at least halfway through the song... after that it gets a little wilder for a moment, until the voice comes back in and the song comes to an almost normal end... that's when it closes pulled through a lot of filters and almost fades out in it.
After a more jazzy “They are wrong” “Dreaming from an Iron Gate” strikes me as very deep and mystical. And I like these fine electronic gimmicks that are sprinkled in, nice and subtle, not too obtrusive, but formative... after that the voice (is this Don & Cedric?) sings over whipping delay rhythms, a wind synth sound whistles by and it gets wilder and wilder, the drums step on the gas and rev up, just before the excess the whole thing calms down again and the singing ends the piece...
Last but not least, a Nyabinghi rhythm in the intro (it's a pity that he doesn't carry it through puristically to the end)...
All in all I have to say: generally too many vocals and singing! In my opinion, less would have been more.
In contrast to gtk, however, the subtle excursions into the psychedelic don't bother me in the least, and I never feel the transitions to be too abrupt or disturbing, but these perceptions may be very individual.
For me it's definitely an album that will be listened to again and again and not, like so many others, flies under the radar after a few listens and is forgotten... will it actually make it into the top ten in December? We will see... that's it!

Thank you for your impressions, Philipp!

I also think "Dreaming from an Iron Gate" is an album to linger on for a long time - especially if you know & love "Hebron Gate" well. You don't necessarily have to understand it... the individual feelings that the work triggers are important.

Whether it's in the top 10 (or top 5 in the dubblog) is coming, you can't say yet - let's see (hear) whether the other 2023 releases are somehow better or worse....


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