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Bad Brains: Rock For Light 12"

Bad Brains: Rock For Light 12"


Tags: · 80s · hardcore · hcpmf · reggae · reissues · USHC
Vendor
Org Music
Regular price
$24.00
Sale price
$24.00

Rock for Light is the second full-length album by Bad Brains, released in 1983. It was produced by Ric Ocasek of The Cars. We're proud to present the original mix of the album, for the first time in decades, as the band originally intended. Most fans will be more familiar with the 1991 reissue, which was remixed by Ocasek and bass player Darryl Jenifer. In addition to new mixes, that version used an altered track order. This reissue marks the fourth release in the remaster campaign, re-launching the Bad Brains Records label imprint. In coordination with the band, Org Music has overseen the restoration and remastering of the iconic Bad Brains' recordings. The audio was mastered by Dave Gardner at Infrasonic Mastering and pressed at Furnace Record Pressing.


Our take: The ongoing Bad Brains official reissue campaign has arrived at their second album, 1983’s Rock for Light, and I have a lot to say about it. I’ve always felt like Rock for Light was obscured by the lengthy shadows of the two monumental albums that stand on either side of it in the Bad Brains’ discography: their self-titled cassette on ROIR and 1986’s I Against I. You’ll find plenty of people who name one of those two records as their favorite Bad Brains release, but it’s rare to find someone who rides hard for Rock for Light. This is understandable, because the album has some flaws. The most egregious is the recording, which doesn’t suit the band at all. The Bad Brains were one of the most powerful bands ever to pick up instruments, and a great producer would have just thrown up some microphones and gotten the fuck out of the way. Rock for Light, however, throws a ton of very dated-sounding reverb on the drums and mixes the bass so low as to be nearly inaudible. It sounds so much worse than the more primitive and lower-budget recordings on the ROIR tape and the great, underrated Omega Sessions, and listening to it makes me wonder how anyone, at any point, listened back to it and thought to themselves, “this sounds really good.” But you know how you can make a thin, uneven recording sound even worse? By speeding up the tapes and pitching everything up half a step, which is what happened when Rick Ocasek and Daryl Jennifer remixed the recording for Caroline Records in 1990. That recording sounds odd, inhuman, and significantly worse than the original mix, and of course that was the version that was pressed throughout the 90s and 00s, and that’s still the version of the album on streaming services. (For good measure, they also shuffled around the track listing, butchering the original sequence’s flow.) Now that I’ve gotten all of my shit-talking and complaining out of the way, I want to insist that Rock for Light is still a great album that every Bad Brains fan should love. Despite the flaws in the production and recording, Rock for Light is a recording of the Bad Brains, who were still one of the greatest bands ever to walk the earth, and that shines through these flaws. The band is fucking blistering, at the top of their game, and Rock for Light captures them at an incredible moment. They were clearly headed toward the intricate, metallic I Against I material, but they were still playing that complex material at warp speeds. When I think of Rock for Light, I think of tracks like “Coptic Times” and “Joshua’s Song,” intricate mazes of music dense with tempo and rhythmic changes, most of it delivered with inhuman speed and precision. Interestingly, Bad Brains choose to contrast these more intricate songs (which I assume they must have written later), with a handful of bangers re-recorded from the ROIR tape (which, to be fair, hadn’t come out on vinyl when they recorded Rock for Light) and new recordings of some of their earliest songs like “Attitude.” The reggae tracks on Rock for Light are also some of the band’s best, with “Rally Around Jah Throne” and “The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth” sounding much more distinctive and memorable than earlier reggae songs like “I Luv I Jah.” While the track listing might look like a hodgepodge from our 2021 perspective, the result is an album that is intense but brimming with variety and expression. If it weren’t for the production missteps, I think most people would regard Rock for Light as the Bad Brains’ crowning achievement. While the remixed / sped up version is a crime against hardcore, when you listen to the original version (which is what you get with this new pressing), it’s easy to listen past those flaws and appreciate the greatness captured here. And since many of these tracks don’t appear anywhere else, it remains an essential piece of the Bad Brains puzzle.