“Motion is freedom of expression, motion is a real vibration on conventional rhythms, Motion is George Oban.”
Though we’re music lovers constantly searching for the next new sound, there are albums that remain locked in our psyche, sounds we just can’t help coming back to. Desert island discs, as some like to call them. George Oban’s 1981 jazz reggae, lovers rock fusion solo debut Motion is one of those albums.
The Aswad co-founder and On-U Sound legend passed away just over a year ago, but his musical legacy remains locked in the many classic albums he played on with New Age Steppers, Dub Syndicate, African Head Charge, Burning Spear, Janet Kay, and others. The bass legend’s final recording credit arrived April of last year on the Adrian Sherwood-produced double-album Midnight Rockers & Scorchers by Horace Andy.
From On-U Sound’s dedication thread: “George Oban started out with Aswad, who emerged from London’s Ladbroke Grove area in the mid-1970s. Oban was initially credited under the nickname ‘Ras’, and his skillful deployment of subtle melodic basslines made a significant contribution to their early records.”
After leaving Aswad in 1979, Oban formed Motion, a one-off project created to explore his own unique musical ideas. Given Aswad’s rising popularity, his departure may have seemed strange at the time. But listening to Motion’s self-titled debut, it’s clear that Oban had a distinct artistic vision and voice that needed to be heard outside of the confines of Aswad’s more straightforward roots reggae sound.
Motion is a perfect fusion of Oban’s reggae, rock, jazz, funk, and Latin influences and pulls off something of a musical magic trick by very clearly incorporating elements and grooves from those genres––while still retaining complete originality. The tracks are wildly varied and all enjoyable––whether the mellow lovers rock of “Rainbow” and “Walk on By”, the soulful jazz fusion of “You Love me Only,” or the more upbeat dance numbers “Basshoven” and “Crazy Beat.” It’s a complete, perfectly executed musical vision. Sadly, it was also the only album ever released by the group.
The liner notes are as follows:
“Motion is freedom of expression, motion is a real vibration on conventional rhythms, Motion is George Oban. George was bass player and founding member of ASWAD. But after two albums with them he wanted to explore new musical avenues, and left to pursue his own ideas with Motion. After a year of rehearsals and writing the end result is this debut album, the influences are obvious, Reggae, Rock, Jazz, Funk, Latin, and yet still managing to retain complete originality that owes nothing to anyone. George Oban’s fusions with Motion work like magic.”
Below, a selection of more favorites featuring George Oban’s bass magic:
Aswad – Back to Africa (1976)
A perfectly laid-back bass groove here on this soulful roots tune from Aswad’s debut album. Oban plays slightly behind the beat at times to create that special bounce.
Creation Rebel / New Age Steppers – Threat to Creation (1981)
It’s tough to be sure if it’s Oban on this track, as there are three bass players credited on this album. This one does have that melodic flair that Oban is known for though… Either way, amazing tune / album!
New Age Steppers – Fade Away (1981)
A post-punk-meets-reggae cover of Junior Byles’ reggae standard on Channel One featuring Ari Up’s playful, relaxed vocals soaring over a deep rhythm set by George Oban and “Style” Scott.
Viviene Goldman – Launderette (1981)
Music journalist / musician Viviene Goldman recalls writing her classic “Launderette” with Oban. As usual, Oban’s melodic sensibility is unmatched!
Raw Sex, Pure Energy – Give Sheep A Chance (1982)
Absolutely killer oddball disco-dub by Raw Sex, Pure Energy, a one-off project by Oban, Joe Blocker, and Neneh Cherry (stepdaughter of Don Cherry)
Judy Nylon – Room Without a View (1982)
Moody, electronic lounge pop produced by Adrian Sherwood. I’m pretty sure Oban is playing fretless bass here; that little slide he throws in really makes the groove.
Playgroup – Going Overdrawn (1983)
Mutant highlife dub from the experimental On-U Sound project Playgroup. While the sound is quite different, Oban’s genre-fusion approach from his Motion album is present here: instrumentation includes steel drum, violin, french horn, and slap bass.
Capricorn – Hold My Hand (1985)
An obscure digi-lovers 7″ single from the one-off group Capricorn. This has a bit of that UK street soul sound with the big drum machine beat.
For Monday’s dedicated listening session, we’re going deep on the trumpeter’s expansive creative output. “Repetitious boredom.” “An insult to the intellect of the people.” “Nameless, faceless go-go music.” […]