The Aggrolites Rugged Road

Their fifth album sees these road warriors doing a minor gearshift, dropping tempos and putting more emphasis on their instrumentals. Recorded as a band, in a room, to tape, Rugged Road has the same gorgeous warmth of reggae revivalists 10 Ft. Ganja Plant and most tunes, while all original, could have easily come off any Trojan record, circa 1968 to 1971. Tracks like "Camel Rock," "Out Of Sight" and "In The Cut" are clear nods to Ansel Collins and Jackie Mittoo, and "Enemy Dub" could have Augustus Pablo himself behind the board. If this were any other band, that would be enough to satisfy. But this is the Aggrolites, the best soul reggae band in the business, and something is missing, namely more of Jesse Wagner's L.A. soul. We get his wispy falsetto on the dub-y "Trial And Error" and a retro rude boy vocal group treatment on "Complicated Girl," but gone are simple skinhead-style anthems like "Mr. Misery," "Faster Bullet" and "Work It," and the reggae-funk of "Firecracker" and "Reggae Hit L.A." The only song that represents ― "The Aggro Band Plays On" ― comes off as a wordy self-tribute best left to the live show. The Aggrolites are a head above the fray because they do many things well, but Rugged Road only puts some of those strengths on display. (Stomp)