Unity is one of the hardest-working bands in the Fox Valley and the strongest positive force in that area of the state. They work ceaselessly to promote local music and their boundless energy is a significant, unifying factor for the bands, fans and the venues. In the Beginning is the reggae band’s second full-length release, following up 2004’s Liberation.
Unity plays what they call “original roots rock reggae,” blending traditional island sounds with rock, soul and blues. They are fronted by Fiji Islands-born vocalist Pita Katabalavu, a powerful singer and showman whose soulful voice permeates In the Beginning. Unity has several other factors working in their favor to make their sound unique, however. The most notable of these is the presence of Christine Vosters, whose keyboards and vocals bring add dimension to the reggae sound. Guitarist Joseph Hass also sings and Unity frequently employ pleasing multiple harmonies. They also invited Mark (Fila Banton) Stephens to record vocals on several tracks, bringing a dancehall element to the proceedings. Steve Johnson plays sax and flute, providing even further contrast. Jeremy (Chunk) Schroetter adds additional percussion to preserve the island flavor and the rhythm section of drummer Curtis (Steve) Scott and bassist Tyler Terrell is a reliable foundation for the music.
“Blue Lights” is the standout track, a familiar reggae groove with a memorable vocal melody. “Come On and Dance” is a bouncy dance track with Stephens bringing the dancehall. “It’s Raining” is more accessible pop, sounding like a Bob Marley single. “Dark Kisses” is heavier and puts the emphasis on the guitars, sax and standard rock beat. The title track brings forth Johnson’s flute and his sax gets featured heavily on “Let the Children Rise.”
Marc Golde of Rock Garden Studios in Appleton did an excellent job of casting the band in the best possible light. The sound is clear and full with the vocals riding along nicely at the top of the mix. The instrumentation is never overbearing, always serving the song.
In the Beginning is a solid album from start to finish and should bring Unity many new fans in addition to doing the Fox Valley proud.