Carlton Coffie - lead vocals, percussion,; Michael Sterling - lead guitar, vocals; Roger Lewis- rhythm guitar; Touter Harvey - keyboards; Ian Lewis -bass; Lancelot Hall - drums; Endel Irie - vocals
With a central aim of celebrating the world's many forms of music, arts and dance, WOMAD has held festival events the world over since its first UK event in 1982. Both educational and entertaining, WOMAD Festivals are diverse, interactive events, where audiences are given the opportunity to experience a global range of international artists, musicians and dancers with a goal of creating awareness of the value and potential of a multicultural society. With Peter Gabriel (one of WOMAD's directors) headlining the diverse rosters, the organization presented a series of high profile events in August and September of 1993, with stops in Turkey, Portugal, Canada and concluding with a two-week tour presenting nine festivals for the first time in The United States. The second to last stop on the 1993 WOMAD tour of America occurred on September 18th at California State University Dominguez Hills in Los Angeles, where musicians, artists, speakers, dancers and chefs from around the world converged on a converted football field for a ten-hour marathon featuring musicians from every continent except South America and Antarctica. In addition to Gabriel and his guest Sinead O'Connor, participating musicians at this WOMAD event included Australian pop-rockers Crowded House, South Indian singer Sheila Chandra, Russia's classical/folk outfit Terem Quartet, Africa's Drummers Of Burundi, American rappers PM Dawn, England's James, Jah Wobble and Stereo MC's, plus representing Jamaica, reggae band's Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers and Inner Circle (presented here).
Formed in Jamaica in 1968 by brothers Ian and Roger Lewis and featuring keyboardist Ibo Cooper, guitarist Stephen Cat Coore and lead singer Jacob Miller, Inner Circle initially focused on soul and R&B covers and was one of the earliest Jamaican exports to actively tour the United States. In 1973 Cooper and Coore departed to form their own band, Third World. With new recruits on board, a new configuration of Inner Circle released their debut album in 1974 on the independent Trojan Records label. Signed to Capitol/EMI the following year, the band issued two additional albums, before signing with Island Records near the end of the decade, which helped the band attain modest success with the album Everything Is Great, which spawned a pair of Top 50 singles in the UK. Just as things were looking most promising for the group, lead singer Jacob Miller was tragically killed in an automobile accident in March of 1980. It would be another six years before the Lewis brothers would reform the band, recruiting new lead singer Carlton Coffie and drummer Lancelot Hall. In 1986, Inner Circle released their comeback album, Black Roses, the first featuring Coffie as front man. This album updated the band's roots reggae style with elements of contemporary dance music, R&B, rock, pop and soul. Almost every reggae band of the era, including Bob Marley and The Wailers, were actively blending similar elements, but few attained such wide-ranging accessibility as Inner Circle and this album created a resurgence of interest in the band. The follow-up, One Way, released in 1987, utilized a similar formula and contained the song "Bad Boys," which would later be responsible for the band's international success. A field producer for the Fox Network police reality show "Cops" was a fan of the group and when the show premiered in 1989, "Bad Boys" became the program's opening theme song. When this program became a hit and was then syndicated worldwide, Inner Circle's song received massive exposure and the song became a hit single all over Europe. Subsequently issued in 1993 by Atlantic Records as a single in America, "Bad Boys" shot into the Top Ten. Capitalizing on this success, an album was quickly assembled from existing material, much of it sourced from the group's 1992 album Bad To The Bone, which also featured the follow-up hit "Sweat (A La La La La Long)." The Bad Boys single would eventually sell over seven million copies worldwide and the album would take the 1993 Grammy for best reggae album.
It was during this same year that Inner Circle joined the WOMAD tour, with sound reinforcement pioneer Dinky Dawson mixing their sets. This soundboard direct recording, made by Dawson, captures Inner Circle performing before an appreciative Los Angeles audience estimated at 20,000. Performing an early afternoon set on the main stage that emphasized material from the Bad Boys album, and with two choice older numbers also featured, this high quality recording captures the most popular lineup of the group near the peak of their powers.
Appropriately enough, Inner Circle's set begins with a Rastafarian call for unity, with "Looking For A Better Way," featured on the Bad Boys album. "Hold On To The Riddim," a soulful and highly danceable number from the group's 1992 reggae party album, Bad To The Bone follows. Expanded to include an excerpt of Bob Marley's "Keep On Movin'" and a call and response sequence to directly engage the audience, "Hold On To The Riddim" is a fine example of Coffie's soulful vocal style and the band incorporating contemporary dance music elements into the mix. Returning to the Bad Boys album, Inner Circle next serves up the celebratory "Rock With You" before digging deeper into their back catalogue for the title track to 1986's "Black Roses." Coffie prefaces the song with a heartfelt monologue dedicating the song to all the children suffering from civil wars in Bosnia, Nicaragua and Somalia and under the apartheid regimes in South Africa. This is a touching and emotional performance that serves as a prelude to the band delivering expanded renditions of their two biggest hits.
The first of these, "Sweat (A La La La La Long)," a sexy come on song with an irresistibly danceable rhythm, would had become a massive hit in Europe and reach #16 on the Billboard Hot 100, providing the band with their second (and last) hit in America. Here the song is expanded to incorporate a dub sequence that develops into another call and response between the band and the audience. Then Touter Harvey's synthesizer signals the beginning of "Bad Boys," which elicits immediate response, but Coffie signals the band to "ease it up" so they can tease the audience for a few moments before launching into the song proper. Expanded to well over ten minutes this live performance of "Bad Boys" contains several rap sections featuring Endel Irie as MC. Coffie and Irie develop a sing-a-long with the audience before the song concludes with a brief jam that allows Sterling to cut loose on lead guitar. With Harvey's electric piano as the primary instrumentation, Coffie leads a final call for love, unity and harmony with a sparsely arranged excerpt of Bob Marley's "One Love," before turning the main stage over to Jah Wobble's Invaders Of The Heart.