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City Runnings by Cornerstone

City Runnings by Cornerstone

City Runnings by Cornerstone

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Welcome reissue of Cornerstone’s reggae chronicle of urban life in 1990s Britain

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City Runnings by Cornerstone

This newly re-mastered release of the original 1994 album from Cornerstone documents an interesting period in British reggae, with its accent on strong melody, recurring urban themes in the lyrics, and sharp digital instrumentation.

Cornerstone is essentially the band name for Neville Brown, who put together and performs this album and enjoys most of the writing credits. The production in this uplifting set of tracks is crystal clear, with the vocals mixed up front for maximum effect. The album opens with the strong title track, establishing the inner-city theme present throughout. This is the sound of Handsworth, Birmingham, and of British society of the time - reflected in the overall atmosphere of the album. The pace varies from the lovers’ rock musical style of Tell Me How It Matters (with its contrasting lyrics about politics and religion) to the emerging ragga sound of Inner City Reggae. There is an old-style melodic feel in Move Off Satan, while Fact or Fiction captures Neville Brown’s trademark vocal harmonies. Fighting to be Free is a great one-chord reggae workout in the best tradition. Although the songs vary, the instrumental programming is fairly uniform throughout and the album would have gained strength from more light and shade in the arrangements, whether slowing it down for an acoustic treatment or providing a greater variety in the mix.

The album is very much of its time and place, the digital sounds and crisp instrumentation ironically dating the overall production more than some releases from earlier decades. But the strength of the album is in Neville Brown’s songs, in his vocals, and in its resolute spirit. The reappearance of this music from 1990s Birmingham is a welcome reminder of the strength of authentic reggae writing during a time of transition.

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