ASWAD – Dont Turn Around
Aswad (“Black” in Arabic) are a long-lasting British reggae group, noted for adding strong R&B and soul influences to the reggae sound. They have been performing since the mid-1970s, having released a total of twenty-one albums.
The members of Aswad are UK descendants of immigrants from the Caribbean. They attended John Kelly/Holland Park School.
The original members of Aswad were Brinsley Forde, Angus “Drummie Zeb” Gaye, Donald Griffiths, George Oban, and Courtney Hemmings. Aswad were the backing band of Burning Spear’s 1977 Live album, recorded at the Rainbow Theatre in London. Other contributors included Vin Gordon, and Karl Pitterson.
They became one of the UK’s top reggae bands in the 1980s, following the departures of Hemmings (in 1976), Oban and Griffiths (both in 1980), and the arrival of Tony “Gad” Robinson (first as a replacement for Hemmings and then for Oban).
They were distinctly different from Jamaican reggae acts, in that they wrote songs that dealt with the issues surrounding the experiences of black youths growing-up in the UK; such as “Three Babylon” and “It’s Not Our Wish”, and the powerful jazz-influenced instrumental “Warrior Charge”.
Aswad gained a wider audience with the New Chapter album (1981). “Love Fire” gained wide recognition when it was used as the backing rhythm for Dennis Brown’s “Promised Land”.
Among Aswad’s catalogue of hits is “Don’t Turn Around”, a UK No. 1 hit in 1988, originally recorded by Tina Turner as a B-side to her “Typical Male” single. They followed this up with UK No. 11 hit “Give A Little Love”, and a reggae flavoured rendition of “Best of My Love”, first popularized and written by The Eagles.
In 1989, they contributed the single, “Set Them Free” to the Greenpeace Rainbow Warriors album. In the same year they performed together with Sir Cliff Richard the song “Share A Dream” recorded the previous year, at Wembley Stadium as part of The Event (16 and 17 June 1989). Their next hit, “Shine”, was released in 1994. Another track was the upbeat 1998 remake of The Police’s “Invisible Sun”, performed with Sting.
The band also hold the distinction of having played with each one of the ex-Wailers.
The band has toured extensively, playing in diverse locations from London’s Royal Albert Hall and Montego Bay’s Reggae Sunsplash, to gigs in West Africa, Israel and Japan.
Brinsley Forde left Aswad in 1996 for spiritual reasons, and rejoined briefly in 2009 for the Island record label’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Since Forde’s departure, the band has consisted of the duo of Gaye and Robinson.
Aswad released their most recent material in 2009, with the album City Lock. They released singles “What Is Love?” and “Do That Thing” in the same year.
1976: Aswad – Mango Records
1978: Hulet – Mango Records
1981: New Chapter – Columbia Records
1981: Showcase – Mango Records
1982: A New Chapter of Dub – Mango Records
1982: Not Satisfied – Columbia Records UK No. 50
1983: Live and Direct – Island Records UK No. 57
1984: Rebel Souls – Island Records UK No. 48
1986: To the Top – Simba UK No. 71
1988: Jah Shaka Meets Aswad in Addis Ababa Studio – Jah Shaka
1988: Distant Thunder – Mango Records UK No. 10
1988: Renaissance – 20 Crucial Tracks – Stylus UK No. 52
1989: Aswad: Crucial Tracks
1990: Next to You – Alex
1990: Too Wicked – Mango Records UK No. 51
1993: Firesticks – Alex
1994: Rise and Shine – Bubblin’ Records UK No. 38
1995: Rise and Shine Again! – Mesa
1995: Dub: The Next Frontier – Mesa
1995: Greatest Hits – Bubblin’ Records UK No. 20
1997: Big Up – Atlantic Records
1997: The BBC Sessions
1997: Roots Rocking: Island Anthology (compilation; incl. “Don’t Get Weary”, prev. unreleased)
1999: Roots Revival – Ark 21
2001: 25 Live: 25th Anniversary
2002: Cool Summer Reggae – Universal Music TV UK No. 54
2009: City Lock – Bubblin’ Records UK No. 63
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