“So we, like, sent [Floyd backing singer Claire Torry] a T-shirt, and she sent us a photo of her wearing the T-shirt. It’s on our Web site.”
— Michael “Michael G.” Goldwasser
The Easy Star All-Stars’ reggae tribute to Dark Side of the Moon synchs up with The Wizard of Oz — as, allegedly, does Pink Floyd’s own deathless album.
Countless very-hungry, very-red-eyed undergrads still swear that Dark Side is Wizard’s alternative soundtrack. (Cue the house being sucked into the tornado during the wailing vocals on “The Great Gig in the Sky”; see Dorothy opening the door to a colorful Oz exactly as “Money” starts.)
And Easy Star’s Dub Side of the Moon (Easy Star Records, 2003) hardly tries to escape the murky-dorm-room ambience that haunts the real Dark Side — in fact, ESAS substitutes lighter clicks, bong bubbles and coughing for those “Money” sampled-cash-register sounds.
Still, Dub Side — a tightly aligned companion piece — comes off much sturdier than the novelty album you might expect.
Speaking to Xpress from “a crowded street in Manhattan,” Easy Star guitarist Michael G. (Michael Goldwasser in production credits) recalls how Dub came to be.
He credits Lem Oppenheimer, vice president of Easy Star Records, and a “big fan” of Dark Side of the Moon, with the initial idea.
“I wasn’t actually overly familiar with the Pink Floyd version,” Goldwasser admits. “But once I listened to it a few times, I thought, yeah, I could do this.”
And so he did, with help from, among others, Gary “Nesta” Pine of reggae titans The Wailers, and blues new-traditionalist/provocateur (and Asheville Downtown After 5 vet) Corey Harris.
Dub is a solid album, boasting high-quality production, skilled musicianship and obvious attention to the vaunted atmosphere of the millions-selling original.
So how does one go about “borrowing” a classic-rock landmark?
“We consulted with Pink Floyd and their management and their publishers, and, you know, they were very cool,” offers Goldwasser. “With a big band like that, there’s, you know, several layers of people [to go through].”
Still, when the Dub hit the streets, the band received a fax from no less than Dark Side architect Roger Waters himself.
“[He said] he received it, but he didn’t say whether he liked it or not,” Goldwasser confesses.
However, he continues, “Claire Torry, who sang on the original ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ — she somehow got a copy of it. We didn’t send it to her, but she called us and thanked us, and said she really loved it. So we, like, sent her a T-shirt, and she sent us a photo of her wearing the T-shirt. It’s on our Web site.
“So that’s kind of cool, to have someone who was involved in creating the original album really recognize what we did … “
In the context of this classic (Dark Side turned 30 this year), it seems inevitable that everyday fans would feel inclined to give input on Dub Side, as well.
Which they do — literally.
“We’ve played to crowds where you have 500 people singing every word along with you,” Goldwasser reports.
Still, he adds, “We try to mix it up — we don’t do it exactly like the album. We throw a few things in there to keep people on their toes, which makes it more fun for everybody.”
Most ESAS shows are split into two distinct sets.
“We’ll play one set of our original material, that various band members have written,” Goldwasser explains. “Then, the second set is Dub Side of the Moon straight through.”
The Easy Star All-Stars — essentially just a duo featuring Goldwasser and Victor “Ticklah” Axelrod — is touring now as a nine-piece. (Though there’s a chance — and Goldwasser stresses chance — that Corey Harris may also put in an appearance when ESAS hits Asheville.)
“That’s a small version of the [live] band,” Goldwasser reveals. “In order to do the album justice, really, I’d like to have two guitars, two keyboardists, a percussionist …
“But we can’t carry all that, you know?”
They’re too busy carrying the weight of The Wall.
Got free “Time”? Here’s more Floyd …
Many, many Pink Floyd cover albums and compilation tributes are afloat in the musical ether out there, ranging from 1991’s Orchestral Maneuvers With the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to 2001’s Pickin’ on Pink Floyd: A Bluegrass Tribute. (Roger Waters’ 1990 The Wall Live in Berlin — featuring, among other unlikely performers, The Scorpions, Joni Mitchell, Cyndi Lauper and Bryan Adams — should really qualify, too.)
And while I don’t know how much Floyd they still do, Canadian honky-tonkers Luther Wright & The Wrongs — who gained a bevy of attention last year with their excellent Rebuild The Wall — will also hit Asheville this week (playing Jack of the Wood on Thursday, Nov. 13; see this issue’s Smart Bets section for more info).
The Easy Star All-Stars will perform Dub Side of the Moon at Stella Blue (31 Patton Ave.; 236-2424) on Friday, Nov. 14. Showtime is 10 p.m.; tickets cost $12 ($10/advance).