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Steel Pulse 

With I-Tal. Thursday, February 17, at the House of Blues.

Steel Pulse erupted onto the international reggae scene in 1978 with the poignantly anti-racist anthem "Ku Klux Klan" and the militant Handsworth Revolution LP, which featured stark and bleak songs woven around seriously rootsy arrangements and subtle pop harmonies. Led by lead singer/songwriter/guitarist David Hinds, the Birmingham, Alabama group has always focused on the well-crafted song, finding its early audience playing with the likes of punk stalwarts the Clash and the Police.

From the onset, it wasn't hard to discern Steel Pulse's unique sound; while most Jamaican talent consisted of either vocal trios or singers, Steel Pulse was a self-contained unit, allowing the necessary time together to ferment, both as singers and as musicians. Furthermore, it enabled the band to manipulate intricate song patterns when the Jamaican standard was (and still is) to record one's own lyrics over some other producer's preexisting rhythm track. By '82, Steel Pulse had perfected its reggae hybrid, releasing the essential True Democracy -- a masterpiece by all standards.

Although Steel Pulse remained creative, the group's '90s output witnessed an unfortunate pop sugarcoating. Yet to this day, they've remained impeccably powerful live. Unfortunately, Hinds and keyboardist/singer Selwyn "Bumbo" Brown are all that remain from the original lineup, but late last year Steel Pulse dropped African Holocaust, indisputably its best release since the early '80s.

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