If you were around Northeast Ohio in the 70s or 80s you may have encountered the popular Cleveland reggae band I-Tal. David Smeltz was a co-founder of the group, he and several band members continue to play to this day. However, Smeltz has had a different journey as well, dealing with addiction and the long road to recovery. In the meantime, he has formed a nonprofit organization, Clean House, to help others with alcohol and substance abuse, written a book, Clean: From Reggae to Recovery (2014), and formed two other musical groups, the Smeltztones, and the Dave Smeltz Project. A bit older now, he sports a bald look rather than dreadlocks, does martial arts for body and spirit, and is more careful about his eating habits. He’s a busy fellow.
All that is background to the present album, which is by Smeltz as David Smeltz rather than any of the three above-mentioned groups. He gives us nine songs, all in reggae style, accompanied by a rhythm section of I-Tal drummer Chris Dunmore and bassist Adam Rich. The recording was done live at Rich’s Love Muffin Studios, with some additional work at Mann Wolf Studios. The album has a crisp, clean sound (appropriate), and is pretty much what you might expect musically--a fine set of songs that are both easy to listen to and powerful in their statement.
One can think of reggae as political music, spiritual music, party music, or all three simultaneously, which is what we have here. While one might try to separate these three aspects of the music, I’m not sure why one would bother. Case in point, the song “The Four Absolutes,” which suggests that honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love are pillars of a good life, is clearly a song that emphasizes the spiritual, while giving us some remarkable electric guitar licks and a great beat. “Rise & Fall” and "Disorder" offer the advice that the political currents we are wrapped up in are part of a larger picture and all will change. The vibes throughout are positive and encouraging, despite the struggles we encounter. All the songs are of a single tapestry, with only one song from elsewhere, “Before the Beginning” (Peter Green), and the lyrics on “Corinthians,” taken from the Bible. and the musicians do an excellent job of putting them across. Smeltz’s voice provides a clear, strong tenor, with various other vocals assisting on occasion. Of course, without a rhythm section it wouldn’t be reggae, and Chris and Adam do exactly what is needed to anchor the melodies with a solid beat.