Tag Archives: Clinton Fearon

Uplifting and positive new album from Clinton Fearon

005719986_500Ex-Gladiator Clinton Fearon is one of few Jamaican roots reggae artists from the 60s and 70s that have maintained releasing killer material for more than 40 years.

In the 70s and early 80s he was bass man and vocalist in The Gladiators, a band led by lead singer Albert Griffiths with popular tracks like Hello Carol. Clinton Fearon left the band and relocated to the U.S. in the late 80s and in 1995 he released his first solo album Disturb the Devil.

That set was recorded with the Boogie Brown Band and together with them Clinton Fearon has recently released a brand new effort, an album that was preceded by the excellent single No Justice and the equally excellent EP Waiting.

This Morning is quintessential Clinton Fearon. Sweetly skanking riddims, unpretentious arrangements and infectious melodies complete with emotional singing and personal reflections on life and current events, including police brutality and an unjust judicial system.

Clinton Fearon has stayed true to his roots and musical recipe for a long, long time and it works every time.

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Clinton Fearon’s short and sweet new EP

36ffc41085Reggae veteran Clinton Fearon – former bass man and singer in The Gladiators – has had a stunning career since he left The Gladiators and moved from Jamaica to the U.S. He’s one of the most consistent reggae artists and he hasn’t dropped a poor production yet.

And his brand new EP is no exception. The only bad thing about Waiting is that it’s too short. Way too short. It only collects four songs – two vocal cuts and their dub versions. But it’s greatness without a doubt.

The standout song is the title track with its lingering guitar and Clinton Fearon’s emotional and playful singing on top of a sweet riddim underpinned by a pulsating organ.

Let’s hope this EP is just a taste of a new album.

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Greatness from Clinton Fearon

disc-3148-clinton-fearon-goodnessClinton Fearon has managed to accomplish something that few other roots reggae heroes from the 60s and 70s have – to continue to release consistent and excellent albums in the 21st century. This ex-Gladiator’s solo output is just as great as the music he released together with Albert Griffiths and Gallimore Sutherland.

And his brand new album Goodness is no exception. Far from it. This 13 track album is just as great as his two previous sets Heart & Soul and Mi Deh Yah.

It was recorded in Seattle – where Clinton Fearon has lived since he relocated from Jamaica in the late 80s – and produced by himself. It’s a vibrant and earthy album that only collects freshly skanking originals packed with affecting harmonies, electrifying arrangements and unexpected instruments such as flute and strings.

Clinton Fearon rustic and unpolished tone is a joy listening to. And it suits the pulsating riddims and uplifting and joyous spirit of the album very, very well.

Clinton Fearon’s music has always been rooted in the classic sounds of the 70s with real instrumentation and live drums, horns and bass. Goodness – or should I say Greatness – is yet another fine example of how Clinton Fearon and his Boogie Brown Band takes the reggae legacy to the present day.

Goodness was released on March 24 in Europe and hits the U.S. on May 17.

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New album from Clinton Fearon

776eab060a5c63c5221698dfd4a137f1_largeEx-Gladiator Clinton Fearon and his Boogie Brown band will be releasing their new album Goodness on March 24 on the Chapter Two label (Europe) and on May 17 on the Kool Yu Foot label (U.S.)

The band will also tour to support the album and they wish to hit the road with a full line-up. However, touring with top notch musicians is not a bargain and that’s why Clinton Fearon and the Boogie Brown band need funding. If you want you can contribute and help to finance their tour by visiting their Kickstarter campaign for Goodness Tour 2014.

Check the campaign here. The site also features exclusive previews and a video where Clinton Fearon and the musicians present the project.

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Richie Spice passed his own test

The acoustic trend has taken reggae by storm and this year both Clinton Fearon and Tarrus Riley have each put out an acclaimed set. Now it’s Richie Spice’s turn. His Soothing Sounds: Acoustic collects re-recordings of old material coupled with new tracks. Reggaemani had a chat with Richie Spice about why he has stripped himself and why the album is already a classic.

Soothing Sounds presents Richie Spice unplugged for the first time.

Ask any music fan about his or her favorite acoustic reggae track and the answer will probably be Bob Marley’s heartfelt Redemption Song, included on his last album Uprising released in 1980. Bob Marley was not the first to record reggae with sparse arrangements, and one of my personal favorites is Joe Higgs’ – coincidentally Bob Marley’s mentor – unplugged version of There’s a Reward.

Over the last years the acoustic reggae catalogue has grown, partly thanks to guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith and his nyabinghi-influenced project Inna de Yard All Stars.

In 2012 the catalogue has broadened even more since two world-known singers have dropped acoustic sets – Tarrus Riley’s Mecoustic and Clinton Fearon’s Heart and Soul.

Being a positive force
A third artist drops his acoustic project tomorrow. Richie Spice is his name, and you will know him by a trail of strong albums and equally strong singles, including Earth a Run Red, Youth Dem Cold, Marijuana and Di Plane Land. You might also recognize his rugged crooning and his railing against injustices and the plight of the oppressed.

“I want to educate the youths and make uplifting music,” explains Richie Spice over the phone from Kingston, Jamaica, and continues:

“Doing positive things and being a positive force is an important role to me.”

A family affair
Richie Spice was born Richell Bonner in the Kingston suburb of St. Andrew in 1971, and hails from a musical family that includes his older brother Pliers, from the deejay/singer duo Chaka Demus & Pliers, middle brother and singer Spanner Banner as well as his younger brother Snatcha Lion. The latter two team up with Richie Spice on the family affair More Love.

It was Spanner Banner who initially brought Richie Spice to the recording studio, although he didn’t get the opportunity to record that time it opened his eyes to the proficiency required to succeed in the reggae industry.

“It was a strong learning experience. At that time I tried to record but I was never really ready so I couldn’t manage it. But it showed me that there is a lot of work to be done. So just do the necessary things until you reach that space where you are supposed to be,” recalls Richie Spice.

Gave himself a test
His biggest hit to date is Youth Dem Cold, which peaked at 59 on Billboard’s Top 100 Singles Chart and was featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV.

Richie Spice is a man of few words and it seems he likes his music to do much of the talking, but it’s apparent that he has high hopes on his new album.

“It has been on my mind for a long time and now it’s manifested to reality. It’s a new path in my career and it’s very exciting,” he says.

The recording process has taken some time – approximately nine months – and the album is produced by himself with a little help from co-producer Mitchum “Khan” Chin.

“The process was different [compared to an ordinary album]. I played it at home, I played it in the studio, adding things, making improvements,” he explains, and continues:

“There are things in life you’d like to do if you’d get the opportunity, and I wanted to give myself a test. Can I do this,” he asks, and adds:

“The album has a good vibration and I was feeling it from a long time. It’s an inspired album with songs I really loved and other people loved them also. I wanted to break it down and add a new level to them,” he explains referring to the re-recorded tracks on the set.

“The songs are classic”
An unplugged environment is naked and personal, which puts Richie Spice’s passionate vocals very much in the front. He sings every word and every syllable like he means them, something that put a lot of weight on his socially-conscious anthems about righteousness, unity and love.

Soothing Sounds presents Richie Spice unplugged for the first time, even though the albums boasts a myriad of influences and musical influences – contemporary acoustic rock, Spanish guitar, jazz and African drum beats to 80’s soul in the bonus track Agony, with a bass line invented by Robbie Shakespeare right there in the studio.

“It carries a variety of songs. Like Free, to be free within yourself, and My Heart, about searching,” he says, and continues:

“I fulfilled it and to me it’s a masterpiece. The songs are classic and it’s special to me and my fans. It’s deep in the soul of the people.”

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Half-year report – five favorite albums

A few months ago I wrote on Twitter and Facebook that the reggae year has been musically blessed so far with a huge number of very worthwhile album releases.

And I’m happy to say I feel the same way today. The first six months of 2012 have presented strong efforts from veterans and upcoming newcomers and dancehall and one drop alike. There have also been two sublime acoustic sets.

The album output so far also shows a healthy roots scene in Jamaica with an acclaimed set from the nowadays incarcerated dancehall deejay Busy Signal leading the way. He will hopefully have a good influence on Jamaican youths, and increase their interest in more old-fashioned reggae.

But the album output also shows that reggae is global. You don’t have to be in Kingston to record a great album. Just listen to the excellent sets from Bambú Station, Nazarenes, Winston Reedy, Lymie Murray and Skarra Mucci. These albums were mostly recorded in Europe or the U.S.

Below I have selected five of my most played albums so far this year. The competition for these five spots has been fierce between the many combatants. Compilations and reissues were ruled out at the very beginning, and I truly hope the coming six months will be as solid as the past ones.

Artist – album title (label)

Da Professor – The Laboratory (Don Corleon)

Lymie Murray – Deeper Roots (I Dwell)

Busy Signal – Reggae Music Again (VP)

Nazarenes – Meditation (I Grade)

Clinton Fearon – Heart and Soul (Chapter Two)

Curious on the albums? Check this Spotify playlist with all of them.

Later this week I’ll publish a half-year report with 15 favorite tunes. Stay tuned. More to come.

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Clinton Fearon’s big heart and deep soul

I don’t know if Jamaican singer and bass player Clinton Fearon’s decision to leave The Gladiator’s and settle in the U.S. was a tough one or not. But in retrospect it was the right thing to do. Because Clinton Fearon has on his own got to showcase his soulful voice and great song writing skills more than he was able to in his former group, which was lead by Albert Griffiths.

The Gladiator’s first four records are all essential in any record collection, whether you’re a reggae fan or not. And some of the strongest moments on these albums are credited to Clinton Fearon.

On his own he has together with the Boogie Brown Band released several strong albums, with Mi Deh Yah from 2010 being the best up until now.

Because his latest album Heart and Soul is a sturdy contender to Mi Deh Yah.

On this brand new set Clinton Fearon has re-recorded material he was responsible for in The Gladiators. The album is based on acoustic guitar, percussion and electric bass, and thus quite different from his Mi an’ Mi Guitar set, which had Clinton Fearon singing to just an acoustic guitar.

Heart and Soul is a joy listening to from start to finish. Clinton Fearon sounds inspired, playful and carefree. I mean, just look at the album cover, this man makes you want to smile all day and all night.

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A delightful surprise from I-Taweh

I usually believe that I’ve a pretty good idea of roots reggae albums being put out around the world, especially if they come from a Jamaican artist and has been something of a success.

But this is of course not always the case, as is clearly shown by I-Taweh’s debut album Overload, an album that has climbed the Jamaican album chart.

Even though Overload is I-Taweh’s debut album he is far from a novice. He has spent 17 years on the road with several different bands and musicians, including Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, Everton Blender and the late Sugar Minott. He has also recorded with artists such as Capleton, Sade and Luciano playing bass and guitar.

And now it’s time for I-Taweh to leave the shadows and be a star in his own right. Because he is a sublime song writer and warm vocalist. His raspy tone is reminiscent of Burning Spear, Joe Higgs and Clinton Fearon.

Overload collects twelve tunes plus a nyabinghi version of the title track. Musicians include drummers Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace and Sly Dunbar, saxophonist Dean Fraser and percussionist Bongo Herman and a number of others.

There are hardly any disappointing moments, and the several highlights include the moving Braveheart, the harmonious Jah Bless and the soulful Runaway with some memorable guitar playing.

Overload is a strong debut album and according to a recent interview with I-Taweh he is already working on his next album. I’ll be waiting patiently.

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Reggaemani’s best albums in 2010

So, now it’s time for the best albums in 2010. And I think that it has been a rather good year. Much better than 2009.

This year saw releases from several acclaimed Jamaican artists. Capleton dropped his first album in six years and Junior Kelly put out his first in five years. Both were for me a bit disappointing, especially the Capleton set that was way too soft.

There were some major debut albums though, from the likes of Gappy Ranks, Mighty Howard, Romain Virgo and Toussaint.

The above mentioned albums are mainly roots, and on the dancehall album front it has been very quiet for years, as dancehall still obviously relies on the singles market or one riddim albums.

For me, the best albums in 2010 weren’t produced in Jamaica. They’ve been created in Europe or in the U.S. This shows that the trend continues – artists from Jamaica and music from overseas.

In 2011 I’m hopeful about the new albums from veteran singer Alpheus and debutants Protoje and Mellow Baku. I also believe that Franz Job can produce a great follow-up to his wicked debut Babylon is Dead from last year.

Below are the ten albums that I’ve enjoyed the most this year.

10. Romain Virgo – Romain Virgo
Impressive debut from this 20 year old singing sensation. Watch out Beres Hammond and Sanchez.

9. Nas & Damian Marley – Distant Relatives
Maybe the best attempt to combine hip-hop and reggae ever.

8. Earl Zero – And God Said to Man
Showcase album produced by Roberto Sánchez. Earl Zero certainly still knows how to choose great riddims.

7. Luciano – Write My Name
Impressive second set in 2010.

6. The Tamlins – Re-birth
This harmony trio sounds like it did in its prime. It’s produced by Alborosie and Clifton “Specialist” Dillon. Sounds like Sly & Robbie in the early 80’s.

5. Toussaint – Black Gold
Singer Toussaint shows how to combine reggae and soul.

4. Chezidek – Judgement Time
Showcase album with some wicked tunes. Only one drop riddims played with live instruments.

3. Apple Gabriel – Teach Them Right
Apple Gabriel is back with a blast. A very personal album with some very well crafted riddims. Also in showcase style.

2. Luciano – United States of Africa
Frenchie has produced Luciano’s best album in the 21st century.

1. Clinton Fearon – Mi Deh Ya
Veteran singer that hopefully will continue to produce great music for many years. Not a dull or weak moment.

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Clinton Fearon impresses on Mi Deh Yah

Clinton Fearon is a fascinating man. He has managed to make solid reggae for over five decades. That’s mighty impressive.

He started his long career in roots reggae outfit The Gladiators and remained in the group until 1987, when he relocated to Seattle. He was bass player, percussionist and singer, and I’ve always loved the Gladiators tunes where he takes lead on the microphone. Chatty Chatty Mouth, Rich Man Poor Man and Babylon Street are only a few examples of big tunes where he takes the lead vocal duties.

He has recorded albums under his own name since the 90’s and several of them are great efforts, especially Give & Take and the acoustic Mi An’ Mi Guitar, which include the weeping Who Cares.

His new album Mi Deh Yah – a Jamaican expression meaning I’m here – is in the same vein as his previous solo records. This is roots reggae at its core best. There’s not a single weak track on this album.

Clinton Fearon’s yearning voice is as good as it was back in the 70’s. He’s in the same school as Burning Spear, Stranger Cole and the massively under recorded Sang Hugh. It’s rural. It’s bluesy. It’s an up in the hills type of sound.

And even though Clinton Fearon has been in the music business for ages, he still has fresh ideas. There’s mariachi feel in the ska instrumental Focus and there’s some Burt Bacharach sounding flute in Tell the World.

Several tracks also include string arrangements. Not the orchestral arrangements that were overdubbed onto some tunes released on the legendary Trojan label in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The use of strings here has more in common with the dark Augustus “Gussie” Clarke’s production Black Man Time by I Roy.

Clinton Fearon has not turned 60 yet and hopefully he has much, much more to give. Because I want more. Plenty more.

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