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Anthem

Not to be confused with the Japanese heavy metal unit that went by the name Anthem back in the '80s, the Anthem profiled in this bio is a reggae band from Bridgeport, CT. The members of Anthem, which was formed in 1996, are not hardcore purists when it comes to reggae; they prefer a crossover approach to reggae that is comparable to, among others, Caribbean Pulse, Third World, and Steel Pulse. The Connecticut outfit has been greatly influenced by urban contemporary, pop, and adult contemporary, and some of their recordings don't have a reggae beat at all -- at times, Anthem is really providing R&B/pop with a Jamaican vocal style. But some type of Caribbean influence usually asserts itself, and even though Anthem doesn't have a firm all-reggae-all-the-time policy, it's safe to say that reggae (albeit crossover reggae) is their primary focus.

Connecticut, of course, isn't the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of reggae; most of the major reggae stars have come from Jamaica and, to a lesser degree, England (home of Aswad, Linton Kwesi Johnson, and Steel Pulse). Nonetheless, the United States does have its share of reggae activity, especially in areas that have attracted a lot of Caribbean immigrants over the years. Anthem, in fact, includes some Jamaican immigrants as well as some musicians who were born and raised in the U.S.; Rob Williams (lead vocals), Donald Rose (keyboards, background vocals), and Courtney "Coozie" Mellers (guitar, background vocals) are among the members who were born in Jamaica. Anthem includes more than one member of the Mellers family; Carey Mellers (keyboards, background vocals) and Jermaine Mellers (bass, background vocals) are nephews of Courtney Mellers (whose non-Anthem activities have included producing material for Sugar Minott, Max Romeo, Lee "Scratch" Perry, and other well-known reggae artists).

One of Anthem's U.S.-born members is East Coast drummer Leslie Ming (b. November 17, 1951, Brooklyn, NY), a veteran session player who has backed Evelyn "Champagne" King, Freddie Jackson, Melba Moore, the O'Jays, Randy Crawford, Gladys Knight, and quite a few other major R&B singers. Ming is also a former member of the Brooklyn-based B.T. Express, a '70s/'80s disco-funk band along the lines of Brass Construction, Mass Production, and the Crown Heights Affair; B.T. Express enjoyed several major hits when they were together, including "Do It 'Till You're Satisfied," "Express," "Shout It Out," "Give It What You Got," and "Can't Stop Groovin' Now, Wanna Do It Some More."

In 2003, Anthem signed with Mack Avenue Records (which is best known for jazz but has had some non-jazz artists as well) and recorded Are You Ready? Produced by the flexible Eric Schilling -- whose credits range from Frank Sinatra to Barry Manilow to rock en Español/Latin pop star Shakira -- Are You Ready? was released in February 2004. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi
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