REVIEW: 12 The Band – Streets And Avenues

by Michele Morris, MusicDish

Unjustness, the struggle for equality, the journey between two lovers searching for something real, the deceitfulness of those in power, and the unwillingness of those who are not in power to continue to be oppressed…

Every now and then, you come across a song that is completely in touch with what’s going on in the world. Today, I found not just one song, but a CD full of songs addressing these issues in such a deep and profound way that it touched my very soul.

Streets and Avenues, the debut album from 12 The Band, is one of the most powerful, refreshing, inspiring, and uplifting CD’s that I’ve heard in a very long time. The 14 songs on this album take reggae to a whole new level, incorporating jazz, blues, rock, R&B, and just about any other genre you can think of with old school reggae/calypso. About half of the cuts are love songs, while the others tell of the challenges that we as human beings face trying to make it in this world. I don’t say this lightly, so hear me well — this album is SERIOUS and DEEP. No matter what your musical preferences are, there is something on Streets and Avenues for everyone.

Although I liked all of the cuts, I couldn’t possibly detail them all here. But among my favorites were Togetherness, Prosper, Wrong Chord, Smile, Streets and Avenues, Consumed, Lady of the Night, and Las Lap – Prosper.

Togetherness is a wakeup call to us, and the message in this song reminds one of Bob Marley and his revolutionary sound and message of unity with more of a calypso flavor than heartbeat reggae. It’s ire, reaching higher heights.

“The house was surrounded by police.

They say they mobilized their force and they come to suppress the peace.

He wore a brilliant disguise and the truth was a lie to design. They say that when the people hear this voice they will open up their eyes and realize it’s revolution time.

Where there is peace, there is silence. Where there is hunger, there is violence;

But where there is love, there is togetherness.

This is a new world war and the plantation is closed and it’s time for the slavery to cease.

Put love in your heart and the music will give you release…

He wore a brilliant disguise and the truth was a lie to design.

They say when the people hear this voice they will open up their eyes and realize it’s revolution time.”

Prosper exudes universal love between two souls as they move through their journey in love together. The arrangement is big with string, and French (or English) horns that add to this intimate and intricate piece.

“In sickness and health ’til death bring us together;

I shudder to think that it would ever sever.

The truth be the bond that adheres and links us together.

Cause a lie is a dagger set to put us asunder, forever asunder.

Prosper our way as move along our way.”

Wrong Chord is a beautiful blend with excellent guitar and percussion. It’s a nice groove with small dance hall breaks, but the message is not for the faint of heart.

“You Mr. Big shot, you have and we have not.

But we see through your disguise and we see through all your lies.

And we know mankind has but one destination

Which is to soar high above the trees and be a king of all he surveys and he sees.

You, Mr. Big Score, you have and you want more, never thinking about the poor.

Every day you say we will have a brighter tomorrow, but we need to live today.”

Smile is a song for lovers. It is a fantastic and intimate blend of reggae with R&B. The quiet jazz trumpet in the background enhances the up close and personal mood of the piece. “Woman you capture me, you rapture me.” And it gets better and better throughout the ride it takes you on.

The rock, reggae, jazz fusion Streets and Avenues has some of the strongest lyrics on the album. It starts off like a rock anthem and indeed would be at home in any rock group’s repertoire. The song searches for an answer to an interesting question that we all ask ourselves – what is it all about, why are we here?

“Want to feel a real connection on a stronger foundation, not a brain washed salvation…

So I’m looking to the streets trying to find the avenues in the scriptures from a street prophet point of view.”

12 The Band slows it down a bit on Consumed, which showcases jazz and blues sounds on a beautiful and romantic Ballad. It has a blues feel with a hard edge guitar solo.

“I see across a smoke filled room lady, and I’m consumed.

I have one question to ask of you lady. What you want to do?

I look in your eyes and I see the reflections, the mirror of your soul.

And lady, I long to make that long connection and put things on a roll.”

Lady of the Night is almost entirely guitar with an occasional trumpet accent.

“Lady of the night, I smell your perfume. You’re a flower in bloom.

It could never be right for you to make your money the way that you do.

And she said I know ’bout that, the mind of man I know. I know what men just do.

You see, my mommy, she turned a blind eye and daddy, he do… what he never should have do.”

Las Lap – Prosper is a richly orchestrated, upscale version of Prosper, and is a great way to end the album. You can really feel the strings, the horns are clean, and there’s a lot of guitar, but it works and works well.

Look, what more can I say? This is one CD that you need to run (not walk) and buy – quick, fast, and in a hurry. It has religion, revolution, and love, all combined in a basket of musical treats to satisfy the delight of any music lover with a zest for something foreign, and yet not. Streets and Avenues gets 5 out of 5 stars from this critic!