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LIAM BAILEY

Liam Bailey

Zero Grace

    Big Crown Records is proud to present Zero Grace, Liam Bailey’s sophomore album on the label. Following the success of 2020’s Ekundayo album, the tried and true chemistry of Bailey and producer Leon Michels (El Michels Affair) is on full display again as they take the sound they established and push it further. On Zero Grace they lean more into the bleeding heart singer-songwriter side of Liam. The result, much like Bailey himself, is impulsively honest without reserve.

    Born and raised in Nottingham, England, the son of an English mother and 2nd generation Jamaican English father, Liam will admit his early childhood was fairly chaotic and fi­lled with "all the cliche racism that happens when people started mixing up in the '80s in England." Liam got his early influences from his mom’s record collection. Bob Marley and Dillinger, Stevie Wonder and The Supremes, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix would eventually shape the singer/songwriter we know today. Fast-forward to 2005, Liam is in London performing at every open mic and acoustic night he could, hustling with hopes of landing a record deal. It was through this time that Liam fi­rst teamed up with Michels, musician/producer luminary, and the co-founder of Brooklyn's own Big Crown Records.

    Liam flew out to New York and those fi­rst sessions together produced the now classic tunes “When Will They Learn” and “I’m Gonna Miss You” which still gets spins at Reggae spots around the globe and were co-signed by heavy hitters like David Rodigan & Don Letts.That first trip to NYC brought a lot of industry attention to Liam, including being noticed by a just-famous Amy Winehouse who heard one of Liam's apartment-made, lo-­ recordings, and liked what she heard. Regardless of the audio quality, Liam's particular sound shone through—all guitar, warm-rough and genuine soul.

    Eventually Liam signed to Polydor and wound up bumping against the typical major label industry obstacles. They already had an idea of the Liam they wanted to make, promote, and push. With the typical large advance enticement, Liam did his best to trust that path. "Maybe I can make it work,' that's what you're thinking," Liam remembers, "but, you quickly fi­nd out that you can't."

    Zero Grace is full of freedom and love, in fact, working with Leon Michels and Big Crown Records has encouraged Liam to be himself. On album opener “Holding On '' Bailey speaks to his observations & fears when looking out at the world in front of him and also to the dedication it has taken to get on the other side of his personal trials & tribulations. “Dance With Me" is an instantly infectious two-stepper that nods to those incredible soul records that were coming out of Jamaica during the early Reggae days.

    Bailey steps into the dance with hopes of finding a new love and pulls us all out on the dance floor with him. “Disorder Starts At Home” is another close to the chest tune that addresses the dif­culties he struggles with from his early chaotic childhood and his progress in getting past them. "Mercy Tree" is a powerhouse of Reggae Rebel Music. Bailey addresses the racial tensions that plague humanity and encourages everyone to step up and do their part to help foster equality. What starts out as a declaration of injustice turns into a call for action and an inspiration for hope.

    TRACK LISTING

    SIDE A
    1 Holding On
    2 Dumb
    3 Sekkle Down
    4 Boy
    5 Dance With Me
    6 Disorder Starts At Home
    SIDE B
    7 Mercy Tree
    8 Sour Wine
    9 Canary In The Coal Mine
    10 Winter Is Within Thee
    11 I Got No Answers
    12 Light Up The Darkness

    There has always been a Reggae in­uence in the music of El Michels Affair. From their cover of “Hung Up On My Baby” done in a Reggae style, to the general sound and approach that permeates Leon’s production style. While recording Bailey’s 2020 Ekundayo album, they did some straight forward reggae tunes inspired by different eras alongside some modern R&B tracks that would sit more comfortably next to Frank Ocean than Jacob Miller. It is this same notion that old and new can live so comfortably together that birthed the idea of Ekundayo Inversions.

    Traditional dub came out of reggae in the late 60s and early 70s when pioneers like King Tubby and Lee Perry started taking the multi track recordings of songs and running them back through the board adding effects and additional instrumentation. These recordings are called “dubs” or “versions” and are typically instrumentals with ­ourishes of vocals from the original tracks.

    El Michels decided to use the blueprints left behind and make something using the in­uences of today. He wound up straying so far from the traditional format that it didn’t seem right to use the word ‘Dub’, hence Ekundayo Inversions. All the songs are tied together by WhatsApp messages between Leon and Liam that perfectly narrate the story of this record and their working relationship.

    One of the highlights on Ekundayo Inversions is a guest appearance from the legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry on the “Ugly Truth” version. L$P switches between singing and talking, proclaiming his powers one minute and playing with the track’s title the next. On “Awkward take. 2” Leon takes one of the most experimental songs from Ekundayo and actually straightens it out. A track that once seemed to be ­oating in space has now been anchored by the addition of drums and bass. “Faded”, a version of “Paper Tiger”, is given the full EMA treatment with the addition of emotive horns over an uncomfortably sparse rhythm track peppered with Liam’s voice drenched in delay and echo.

    “Champions” features a verse from Black Thought of The Roots and halfway through, El Michels sends the rhythm section 50 years back. At the end of the day, Ekundayo Inversions is a testament to how strong the original songs are. Whether they’re in a R&B style, reggae style, stripped down to their bare bones, or loaded with production, the songs will move you.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: What a truly stunning set of songs this is, swimming in dubby atmospherics while still retaining the groove and soul of the originals. Some of the pieces are a little bit more in the downbeat realm, before we get the smooth as silk R&B and dubby cuts that bring things back to the (decidedly relaxed) dancefloor. A superb selection of versions, perfectly at home with the orignals, while remaining resolutely distinct from them.

    TRACK LISTING

    SIDE A:
    1. Conquer & Divide
    Feat. Black Thought
    2. Amazing Woman
    3. Angel Face
    4. Walk With Me
    5. No One Else
    6. King

    SIDE B:
    1. Ugly Truths Feat. Lee Scratch Perry
    2. I Love NY
    3. Superstar
    4. Awkward (Take 2)
    5. Lucky Man
    6. Faded

    Big Crown Records present "Ekundayo", Liam Bailey’s debut record on the label. This album is a long time in the making, and after listening, clearly worth the wait. It didn’t take a long time to record, but it did take years for all the stars to line up. Bailey, born and raised in Nottingham, England, the son of an English mother and Jamaican father got his early influences from his mom’s record collection. Bob Marley and Dillinger, Stevie Wonder and The Supremes, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix would eventually shape the singer/songwriter we know today. Fast-forward to 2005, Liam is in London and doing the whatever-gig-you-can-get musician hustle with hopes of landing a record deal. And it was through this time that Liam first teamed up with Leon Michels, musician / producer luminary, and the co-founder of Brooklyn's own Big Crown Records. Liam flew out to New York and those first sessions together produced the now classic tunes “When Will They Learn” and “I’m Gonna Miss You” which still get spins at reggae spots around the globe. That trip helped kick off what was to follow next for Liam: a slew of record releases, label deals, and working with some wildly-notable mainstream producers.


    Even a just-famous Amy Winehouse heard one of Liam's apartment-made, lo-fi recordings through a friend and liked what she heard. Regardless of the audio quality, Liam's particular sound shone through—all guitar, warm-rough and genuine soul. She signed him to her label shortly after. But, as the story can go with major labels, they already had an idea of the Liam they wanted to make, promote, and push. With the typical pay-day enticement, Liam did his best to fit into whatever shape they put him to. "'Maybe I can make it work,' that's what you're thinking," Liam remembers, "but, you quickly find out that you can't." While Liam’s career went through a bunch of record industry twists and turns he and Michels stayed in touch and would regularly connect and collaborate. Finally, in 2019, the time was right to do a full-length album together. And this time, it would be free of any restricting major label presumptions and opinions.


    "This is the record we always wanted to make," says Michels. Set to release in November 2020, the album is called Ekundayo. And the word's meaning may be all you need to know to get to the essence of this project. It means "sorrow becomes joy" in Yoruba, a language spoken mostly in Western Africa. On the surface, Ekundayo is a weighty Reggae record, full of new and old textured riddims. But listen more in-depth, and you'll find subject matter that's more recognizable from a modern-day R&B record. An example of the former is the first single off the album. Sung to the most beautiful woman at the nightspot, "Champion" is a joyous anthem powered by a silly-thick Juno-bass throb and 808-proof drums. In short, "Champion" is dancehall-ready. But then there's a song like "Don't Blame NY." Moody and sparse with a somber drive, you might have to resist the urge to compare it to a Frank Ocean-ish type vibe. Liam's voice is in a different but fitting element here, showing stripped-back emotion and soulful restraint. Anyone who has lived and tried to thrive in New York won't have a hard time relating to the lyrics but they may join the masses who blame the city, while Liam points the finger at himself and sings praises to The Big Apple.


    Credit to Leon's hand, elements of Jamaican production are everywhere, peppered throughout the record. Like the pitch-perfect organ stabs that push through the authentically positive "White Light," or the muted, percussive guitar strums that chug along in the back of "Fight." In the same vein of any fantastic singer/songwriter album, Ekundayo is a reflection of who Liam Bailey is, taking on topics and approaches he never would think of just a few years ago. Some evidence: "Ugly Truth" is about reconnecting with his biological father, a subject he once thought would be too personal to address. The journey from conforming to major labels to this latest record has been a long one for Liam, and a bit of a struggle. But struggle may be the only way we truly grow and evolve. With a new clarity of purpose, sound, and life, Liam has found joy out of those struggles. And it's called Ekundayo.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Matt says: Ooof! What's this? A new, homegrown and highly inventive hybrid of JA & UK influences; celebrating the cross-pollination of music between the two countries whilst imparting the truly unique identity of the artist onto the listener. Pretty amazing this, no wonder Amy was into it...

    TRACK LISTING

    A1. Awkward
    A2. Champion
    A3. White Light
    A4. Don’t Blame NY
    A5. Cold & Clear
    A6. Angel Dust
    B1. Fight
    B2. Vixit
    B3. Ugly Truth
    B4. Young In Love
    B5. She Hates This Life
    B6. Where Do I Start?
    B7. Paper Tiger

    Liam Bailey

    White Light / Cold & Clear

      "White Light," an instant-classic, dancefloor filler. The rough and tough drum break intro catches you from the first beat before the track gives way to an infectious and uplifting reggae-dis- co number. Liam's instantly recognizable voice showers his muse with praise over deep round bass lines and a four on the floor beat. The combination of Leon Michels' crushing production and Bailey's lyrics like "You love yourself, you're so exciting, like no one else"... is sure to make this a staple in dj sets around the globe. The B side "Cold & Clear" is a proper lighters in the air, slap the wall, top ranking tune. The track struts in the door with a natural and undeniable confidence. Liam weaves a heavy metacognitive story over the one drop drums, perfect basslines, and organ stabs that will have people stepping in rhythm. The lo-fi production weaves elements from the finest early rocksteady era with touches from the late 70s / early 80s digital era and takes the entire vibe into the present with unorthodox arrangements and vocal treatments. Bailey has a tune here that will hold up next to the classics in the dancehalls from the yards of Jamaica to the discotheques in his homeland of England. 

      TRACK LISTING

      A. White Light
      B. Cold & Clear


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