THE TIMES MAY 5TH 2010  ****

On the day that their eighth album, Revolver Soul, was released, Alabama 3 began a British tour amid the faded grandeur of a beachfront club on the south coast. Still best known for their song Woke Up This Morning, the theme for the TV series The Sopranos, the band from Brixton remain one of the cultural wonders of the rock’n’roll world — a nine-piece British ensemble with fake identities and American accents who set out during the heyday of 1990s Britpop on an unlikely mission to combine techno and country and western music with comedy and radical-left politics.

Thirteen years down the road they have entered a military phase. All dressed in army fatigues and shades, they looked like a cartoon infantry unit as they powered into the opening number. “I’m a soldier in the army of love,” sang the charismatic mainman Larry Love in a voice of deep authority, as he waved an arm with a bloodstained bandage wrapped around the wrist.

To his right stood Rev D. Wayne Love, his face swathed in a PLO keffiyeh. He rapped and sang, talking to the crowd as though he were a cantankerous general addressing a bunch of recruits on their first day at boot camp. Completing the vocal frontline was the sleek figure of Aurora Dawn, a woman with a super-charged Jamaican-soul singing voice and a magnetic stage presence to match.

The band’s trick was to marry traditional influences — blues, country, funk, a touch of rockabilly — to a modern, powerhouse techno beat. To this end, the drummer, one L. B. Dope, used a kit that combined conventional acoustic drums with an electronic bass-drum pad amplified to a volume that trumped everything else in the sound mix. The result on numbers such as Hostage, All God’s Children and a superb version of Hypo Full Of Love (12 Step Plan) , was a deep-groove collision of rock and rave. Cranking up the volume to overload for an encore of their anti-war song Vietnamistan, guitars, keyboards, percussion and voices joined in a cheerful chorus saluting the impending Armageddon. A great way to get rid of the blues.

By David Sinclair *