New Dawn is the first all-new Osibisa studio album since their 2009 Osee Yee album of original studio tunes, not forgetting Abele recently released on the well-received The Boyhood Sessions album
Putting the CD into my player, you can only imagine my consternation as song after unmemorable song of bland funk and insipid soul tracks poured out of my speakers. Which amazed me given the rich Afro-Rock heritage of this legendary Afro-Caribbean band. In fact, I had to check the cover to make sure it said Osibisa on it; the spine, too.
Sadly, there’s a complete lack of any genuine African vibe throughout; apart from a few faint musical nods to the original fertile roots of this band of African and Caribbean brothers. Where I was expecting criss-cross rhythms bursting with happiness, I only found shallow and cliched songs. I couldn’t get my head around the baby-talk titles to some of the songs: Paper Dey Burn, No Fit 4 Street, and Yo Love Is Better which also have lyrics as bad as their titles suggest.
I’ve replayed this album several times trying to find something good that I might have missed. However, buried deep in the sequencing, Boni Wo Yu A, the penultimate track on this new album, is one of the few that shows a faint glimpse to former glories with its high-life rhythms. Appositely, the final track Big Problems says it all with a mash-up of bad vocals and directionless music.
The musicianship is adequate and safe but with no standout performances. Plus, there is a distinct lack of the full-on percussion backing for which Osibisa were noted. Instead, this iteration seems to have relied on the cheap percussive studio trickery which seems to be prevalent in much of today’s popular soul/r’n’b recordings. Put simply, the vibe isn’t there which is something Osibisa were once masters at. I also noticed that the only original member on board is Robert Bailey who played on Osibisa’s first four albums in the 1970s. A renowned arranger, his contributions seem to be buried so quizzically deep on this album of incongruous sub-standard songs which, unfortunately at times, falls into the elephant trap of cabaret.
I was further surprised not to see Dell Richardson involved on this album. Maybe he could see the writing on the wall on this misshapen and, seemingly, thrown together project?
I would recommend any true Osibisa fan to approach this release with caution and investigate the seminal albums from the ‘70s; also the recent The Boyhood Sessions release which has garnered much praise.