With Michael Jackson’s birthday coming up on August 29th, Easy Star All-Stars have put together a fitting tribute to Michael’s legacy with their own reggae version of Thriller. Their aptly titled Thrillah comes out August 28th on Easy Star Records. The band, marshaled by multi-instrumentalist Michael Goldwasser, has gained a lot of attention for their original and infectious cover albums. Starting with 2003’s Pink Floyd tribute, Dub Side of the Moon, the band has since released cover versions of The Beatles on Lonely Hearts Dub Band and Radiohead’s OK Computer on Radiodread. By picking the best-selling album of all time to cover, Goldwasser was presented with a unique opportunity to arrange music he shares an intense personal connection with.
“Writing the arrangements for this album was a cool challenge. I didn’t have to try to make non-dance music into dance music as on our previous albums because the original Thriller is so danceable already, but I needed to find ways to make each song groove in a different way from the original version. I didn’t want any of the arrangements to be obvious in that regard.” – Michael Goldwasser
The Easy Star All-Stars ability to twist the arrangements of well-known songs into reggae is uncanny. Goldwasser’s work with a rotating, celebrated cast of musicians is top notch and right on the mark. With an album so beloved, it can be difficult to meet the expectations of the original work’s loyal fans. The Easy Star All-Stars rise to the task and shine on Thrillah, revealing the many themes going on beneath the surface on Thriller. You can hear where the band is coming from on their version of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (featuring JoWil and Ruff Scott), an 8 minute Afrobeat workout that tweaks the timing of the original to great effect. The original version gives a nod to Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa” and this version explores those African roots even further. Due to Michael Jackson’s impressive vocal abilities, a number of singers were drafted into the studio for this record, including Michael Rose (Black Uhuru), Steel Pulse and Luciano. Also featured on Thrillah are the vocal stylings of Mojo Morgan (Morgan Heritage), Kirsty Rock, The Green, Cas Haley and Christopher Martin. Cas Haley’s excellent voice drives the band on “Human Nature,” one of the standout slow grooves on the album. Amazingly, this song was the last selected for Thriller, ousting “Carousel” from the final track listing.
The band has played in over 30 countries on 6 continents and they will take Thrillah on the road across North America this fall. Splitting their time with Passafire and The Aggrolites, the band will hit Irving Plaza with both bands on October 4th. Take a look at the tour dates to see when they are coming to a city near you. Check out Easy Star All-Stars’ version of “Human Nature” below and “Billie Jean” on youtube.