The Rhythm Express is a reggae/ska band hailing from Toronto, Ontario Canada. Their musical influences range includes everyone from the Skatalites, Jimmy Cliff and the Specials to the Temptations and the Grass Roots. With “Soul Explosion ‘69” the Rhythm Express pays tribute with 14 songs covering those artists and more.
Taking into account that all fourteen songs on “Soul Explosion ‘69” are cover songs…that can be a big turnoff for a lot of people…the Rhythm Express manage to take each and every song and, with a lot of love and attention, molds those songs into their own. Whether it’s a slightly more modern yet faithful rendition of “My Boy Lollipop” or whether it’s taking the 60’s pop sound of “Midnight Confessions” and overlaying a soulful reggae flavor to it, these songs sound fresh and original.
While most of these tracks are some fairly deep cut material such as Baby Huey’s soul number “Hard Times” or “Black Woman” by Judy Mowatt of Wailers fame, there are a handful of songs that most ska and reggae fans will pick up on. There’s an amazing multi-vocal version of the Specials take on “You’re Wondering Now”, the aforementioned cover of “My Boy Lollipop” but not “My Girl Lollipop” by Bad Manners and a very upbeat and horn-heavy take on the seminal Jimmy Cliff hit “The Harder They Come”.
“Soul Explosion ‘69” is both a great gateway album into classic songs from the 60s and 70s as well as it is a strong showing by an extremely talented band that can capture the essence of any genre that you can throw your way. I would compare the Rhythm Express to a band like the Easy Star All Stars, but without sticking strictly to reggae. There’s a lot more than meets the eye with these guys and gals.
Bottom Line: Unless you’re familiar with the source material, you could listen to the songs on “Soul Explosion ‘69” and never even realize that they’re all cover songs. The Rhythm Express takes ownership of the songs on this album.
Notable Tracks: My Boy Lollipop, The Harder They Come, You’re Wondering Now, Midnight Confessions, Hard Times, Papa Was A Rolling Stone