With such ’80s Dischord bands as Beefeater and Fidelity Jones, Tomas Jones (aka Tomas Squip) underpinned political punk with funk and reggae. Now a member of the African Hebrew Israelites, Jones recorded a solo album, My Happiness, before spending several months at the sect’s commune in Israel, a sojourn from which he recently returned. The disc retains the politics, plays up the funk and reggae, and largely leaves the punk behind. (The latter can be still heard on the part of “245” that comes before the sax break.) Despite the presence of such longtime collaborators as bassist Dug E. Burd, guitarist Andy Charneco, and backup singer Amy Pickering—as well as many more recent musical acquaintances—the shift seems a miscalculation. Though the singer/songwriter’s interest in both musical and social integration is no doubt genuine, Jones is not all that convincing as a soul man.
Happiness‘ mix of God, Marx, Marley, and (George) Clinton works best when the tempos are lively and the message is strong: “America” expresses the singer’s disgust at the Gulf War victory celebrations—“Somewhere I read this was a Christian nation/In God we trust, I trust it isn’t true,” he opines—while “Bus No Come” deplores the plight of the homeless. Sometimes, the intent is as worthy as the sentiments are silly: “Love Canal” defends Gaia from “scientists and men with ties,” and “Bloodstone Burn” offers AIDS as proof that the Earth is at a spiritual “aphelion” (the point in a planet’s orbit that’s farthest from the sun). The strangest selection, though, is Jones’ six-minute crooning of Phil Lynott’s “Still in Love With You,” which suggests a previously unknown kinship with Daryl Hall. At least “Long Sexy Showers” quickly segues from “hey baby take off all your clothes” to “music is the tongue of the Most High God.” Happiness is available at Smash or from Changing Tones, 874 Broadway, New York, NY 10003-1222.