SEAN TAYLOR – Lockdown (own label STCD115)

Recorded, as the title suggests, during lockdown in London with overdubs by Mark Hallman done remotely in Austin, this is, for seven of the ten tracks, molten invective against corrupt government and organisations balanced with calls to support and defend the rights of minorities against establishment oppression.

It’s hard not to reference Linton Kwesi Johnson as the template, and, while Taylor doesn’t have the same lyrical potency, being rather more blunt, or musical depth, he most certainly has the fire and the passion.

Lockdown opens with the first of two lengthy tracks titled ‘Herd Immunity’, both firmly targeting Boris Johnson, ‘Part 1’, driven by percussive snaps and rumbling keys, addresses the handling of the pandemic (“chose Brexit over breathing”) with a refrain of “Stay Alert, Die Quietly, Don’t Complain”, the final verse featuring such jaw-dropping quotes as his describing Muslim women as “letterbox bank robbers”, concluding “Do you feel proud? When Boris steals the racist thunder. From Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson”.

“Part 2”, this time with added sax from Joe Morales, continues the twin Brexit/pandemic assault with a wider state of the nation commentary that adds ‘Keep walking Captain Tom” to the refrain, the lyrics ranging from releasing the infected back into care homes and how the establishment looks for someone else, anyone else, to blame rather than themselves, envisioning the future as a “grubby little Wetherspoons” with Farage and Cummings swapping racist jokes at the bar.

Set to a steady walking beat and Hammond organ with a whisperingly sung refrain, ‘The March Is On’ turns attention to environmental issues and the lack of governments’ action on climate change while, Taylor on piano and Hallman adding pedal steel,  as you’d expect,  with its hushed sung “Beauty in diversity/Beauty in who we are” refrain, the quietly spoken ‘No Borders’ concerns migration and refugees.

Things get funky (and the closest to a  LKJ vibe) for the seven-minute ‘Black Lives Matter’ which extends the album’s targets to the white privilege of America where “The Ku Klux Klan became modern day white militias/Slave masters became police offers” and where “one in three black men are imprisoned”, quoting Angela Brown’s famous  line “if they come for me in the morning they will come for you in the night”, citing infamous cases of racist violence and a roll call of some of those blacks who have died at police hands. Backed by organ, bluesy piano notes and bluesy guitar, it ends enumerating what he can do as a white person, like walk away from a corner store without risking being shot.

From America, again with a bluesy, heady backdrop, it turns the spotlight on ‘Palestine’, the founding of the state of Israel, the occupied territories and decades of persecution and oppression of the Palestinian people, part sung in the voice of a particularly articulate five-year-old.

There are three numbers that don’t involve socio-political lyrics, but only because they’re instrumentals, one of which is the title brooding title track, co-written with Bare Beats, with its piano trills, steady beats and keyboard burbles, the other two involving Taylor showing off his newly acquired piano skills by tinkling the ivories on Beethoven evergreens ‘Moonlight Sonata’ and ‘Fur Elise’. He does well, but probably shouldn’t hold his breath waiting for Deutsche Grammophon to call.

Again featuring sax, Lockdown ends with another seven-minute work out, the late night urban jazz cellar groove of ‘Free To Do’ and a lyrics focused on being slaves to social media, the “tech emperors of tyranny” in a click-bait world where “data is the new oil” and the minorities and the poor are the scapegoats in our “staged democracy”, signing off with the sobering observation that “we do not own our data, our data owns us”.

Lockdown may be an album preaching to the converted perhaps, but, hypnotic, provocative, angry, articulate and thoughtful, certainly one for which you should not keep your social distance.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘Herd Immunity (Part 1)’ – official video:

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