The second New Age Steppers' album is far less textured and multi-layered than both the first and the third of their releases.
Here they sound much more like a conventional roots outfit; except, as a band they were always a good few steps ahead of anyone else working in the genre at the time.
And this maybe an album of covers, but with Ari Up singing on the majority of the tracks, and with Adrian Sherwood (the 1980's alternative music version of Mark Ronson) twiddling the knobs, you just know it's going to be good.
The album kicks off with what is probably the best known of the Steppers' tracks: 'My Whole World'; a gorgeous eco-conscious song that allows Ari to really show off her vocal dexterity.
She achieves real sonic proportions on this album; makes my dogs go berserk.
Probably the best example of Ari's sonic capabilities can be 'heard' on the only dub track on the album, the amazing, and a little scary, 'Nuclear Zulu'; a track that features one of the most far-out dub mixes ever heard.
Sounds seem to come from everywhere, and sounds are introduced through reverberation as much as they, in the conventional manner, decay. The guitar seems to emanate from inside your head.
It's very freaky. Good for spinning round and round to.
Often referred to as psychedelic dub, Sherwood's production and mixing style grew from what he'd learned from the likes of Scientist and King Tubby, mixed up with a healthy dose of punk rock; and being blessed with those ever so important magic ears that all innovative producers have, and voila! the very distinctive sound that became so indicative of On-U Sounds.
O yeah, and dedication and pragmatism. They're pretty important features for a producer to have, too.
Apart from 'Nuclear Zulu' Ari sings all the songs except 'My Love', where Neneh Cherry takes the vocal helm, strongly supported by Bim Sherman's lush backing vocals.
As well as her voice moving outside of the range of normal human perception, we also hear Ari sing in her native German on the wunderbar track: 'Problems', that extends itself into a classic dub workout.
The album finishes with a haunting version of the Heptones' song 'Guiding Star'. Ari showing that she has a soulful side, and when she has to sing in key, straight, she's as good as anyone.
Check out her website - she's still a very busy person
Despite the variation in line-up for 'My Love', this does sound much more like a band's album than a collective effort.
And despite the high quality of material on this album, it did make their next album, Foundation Steppers, sound years ahead; but that was the nature of the times, I guess, technology in the early eighties, probably more than any other time, was allowing new sounds and new ways of generating and manipulating sounds to be added to the producer's palette.
New Age Steppers heard here:
New Age Steppers - Action Battlefield (1982)
My Whole World
Got to Get Away
Excellent quality cassette rip @256kbs
Keep on stepping here