Most people know Inner Circle via “Bad Boys,” the ubiquitous “Cops” theme song that typified Inner Circle as one of reggae’s most successful crossover groups ever. On the legendary band’s latest CD State Of Da World (Shanachie Entertainment), the two-time Grammy winners create one of the hardest-hitting, most lyrically serious albums to be heard in recent years. Joined by an all-star group of guests, including the likes of Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, Jr., Reid, Morgan Heritage, Luciano, Steel Pulse’s David Hinds, Mutabaruka, Lutan Fiyah and the American rock/reggae group Slightly Stoopid, Inner Circle draws on classic roots reggae to deliver a timely, moving, thought-provoking set of songs dealing with violence, poverty, hypocrisy, racial profiling, and religion. State Of Da World re-asserts the depth and power of classic reggae at a time when the reggae scene has become dominated by hyped-up computer-generated recordings too often highlighting sex and violence. It all makes perfect sense when you realize that Inner Circle are survivors, one of a handful of pioneering reggae artists still around with the credentials and artistry to do it, with a rich history–especially their classic reggae hits with lead singer Jacob Miller–too often overshadowed by their pop success. July 21st, Inner Circle will join forces with Beres Hammond for a North American tour that will run through August 29th.
State Of Da World opens with a portentous declaration by dub-poet Mutabaruka that ends with
The depth and seriousness of State Of Da World makes sense given the history of one of Jamaica’s longest-lived musical institutions; the truth is that Inner Circle have been a part of many seminal moments in reggae history. “It is the right time to do it,” asserts founding Inner Circle member Roger Lewis. “We started it a couple years ago as a kind of 30th Anniversary of Jacob (Miller) being with the band. So it is a special vibe in that sense. Then too, the world is going in a new direction and changing, kind of throwing away half-way stances, so we come hard this time. Also, our kind of band is kind of dying out and to a certain degree our band is one of the few bands people can remember who play a certain style of reggae.”
Inner Circle is reggae Royalty. As teenagers, they backed Bob Marley on a tour of Jamaica organized by Michael Manley’s PNP party. In the early Seventies, they were a rarity on the Jamaican scene, a self contained band founded by bassist Ian Lewis and guitarist Roger Lewis. Soon keyboardist Touter Harvey, an in-demand session player, joined the group and future members of the band Third World also were part of the early line-ups.
The precocious vocalist Jacob Miller joined Inner Circle in 1977 and the band quickly became one of the most popular artists in Jamaica, rivaling-some say surpassing-the popularity of Bob Marley there as they scored such hits as “Tenement Yard”, “Please Mr. Officer,” “Suzie Wong,” “Forward Jah Jah Children” and many others. Thus it made perfect sense that Inner Circle was selected to join Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Dennis Brown on the historic One Love Peace Concert in 1978. They were involved in starting the festival that evolved into Reggae Sunsplash.
They were also featured in the film Rockers in 1979 and were the first Jamaican band to sign with an American major label. Tragedy struck, though, in 1980 when Jacob Miller was killed in an auto accident, shattering the group.
Three years later they re-grouped in Miami and gradually began to record again with new lead singer Carlton Coffie. In 1986 they recorded the hit “Bad Boys,” which was later used as the theme for the popular television show “Cops,” which made “Bad Boys” a mega hit worldwide. They followed it up with another international hit, “Sweat,” in 1989, winning the first of two Grammy awards and becoming one of the most popular reggae bands worldwide (the band has always been far bigger outside the United States, regularly appearing on festivals with major pop artists such as U2). Carlton Coffie was replaced by singer/guitarist Junior Jazz; drummer Lancelot Hall has been with the band for more than twenty years while Touter Harvey, Roger Lewis and Ian Lewis remain. Meanwhile, they had established Circle House, a recording studio, in Miami which eventually became a go-to studio for the likes of Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, P Diddy, Lauryn Hill, PitBull and others. Their album releases became more sporadic due to their busy schedules but they continued to perform concerts around the world on all continents. State Of The World is the fruit of all their experiences as well as renewed creative inspiration.
“Inner Circle has always been kind of flexible,” notes Roger Lewis. “Chris Blackwell put us in that crossover direction when we signed with Island but when Jacob Miller came with us first we co-wrote all those hits with him…things like “Tenement Yard,” “Please Officer,” “Tired Fe Lick Weed Ina Bush.” With the big labels you have to go pop to a certain degree and that’s ok, we made a lot of money with “Sweat”, for instance, but the root and feel of what we are has always been there. You see UB40 and Dave Matthews and Eric Clapton play reggae and have success but if you’re a Jamaican artist it is hard for you to be a radio group. If you do, you get labeled as “soft” or “light,” like Shaggy has been. When you get serious like on this album they won’t give you airplay but that’s alright. The message has to come through!”
Don’t Miss Inner Circle in a City Near You!
July 21, 20010 Captain Hiram’s Resort- Sebastian, Florida
July 23, 2010 Hard Rock Live – Fort Lauderdale, Florida
July 24, 2010 Hard Rock Live -Orlando, FL
July 25, 2010 Fox Theater-Tampa, FL
July 28, 2010 House of Blues-New Orleans,
July 30, 2010 Atlantic Civic Center, Atlanta, GA
July 31, 2010 ODU Convocation Center, Nova-Norfolk, VA
August 1, 2010 Wolf Trap-Washington, DC
August 4, 2010 Hippodrome-Springfield, MA
August 5, 2010 Roxy, Boston, MA
August 6 & 7, 2010 BAM-Brooklyn, NY
August 8, 2010- Lehman College-Bronx, New York , US
August 11, 2010- Lupos-Providene, RI
August 12, 2010- Toads Place-New Haven, CT
August 13, 2010- EB Lounge-Montreal, CA
August 14, 2010- Metro Convention Center- Toronto, CA
August 15, 2010- River Front Festival Plaza-Windsor Ontario
August 18, 2010- Burton Cummings Theatre-Winnipeg, CA
August 21, 2010- Calgary Reggae Festival-Calgary, CA
August 26, 2010- Calgary, CA
August 26, 2010- Crest Theater-Sacramento, California, US
August 29, 2010- Queen Mary Los Angeles, California, US