Ex-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.
Clinton 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.
Ex-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.
Jah Cure’s sixth album World Cry was slated for release more than a year ago, and for some reason it was postponed several times. Now however it’s finally here, and it shows Jah Cure in a different light compared to his previous albums. Where The Universal Cure – his fifth album – was reggae influenced by contemporary R&B, it’s the other way around with World Cry. This set is mostly contemporary R&B and electronic dance music spiced with dancehall and reggae.
Those who wanted Jah Cure to go back to his early hard roots reggae sound will be disappointed, but I guess no one really thought World Cry would be full of commitment to Rastafarian ideals set to dread and eerie beats.
Jah Cure mostly sings passionate love songs and his voice is as usual intimate and heartfelt, but also a bit whiny and tiresome. The electric beats are bombastic and the arrangements are lush and the producers have gone all in on several tracks, for example the title track which has gentle strings, a melancholic piano and an army-styled snare drum. It could have been recorded by Coldplay and suits any football stadium around the world.
The reggae tracks include a version of The Gladiators Mix Up and a cut of House of Riddim’s brilliant up-tempo riddim The Sensimillionaire. Best is however the heavyweight hip-hop and dubstep-tinged Like I See It with Mavado (the non-album version also features U.S. rapper Rick Ross). The mariachi trumpets in the chorus seem a little out of place though.
There was a time when Jah Cure was seen as one of the leading lights in roots reggae. But that was then, and this is now, and now he has travelled down the same path as Sean Paul. Hopefully this direction will be successful in the mainstream charts.
World Cry is now available on digital platforms. A CD version will be available in January.
VP Records follow-up on their Channel One 7” box set released earlier this year with a set dedicated to another legendary Jamaican studio and label – Randy’s, probably the most important studio of the early 70’s. It was for example here Augustus Pablo recorded several of his early masterpieces.
Roots Rock Randy’s collects seven rootsy 7” from the Randy’s catalogue produced by Clive Chin with engineering wizard Errol “ET” Thompson – later of the Mighty Two with Joe Gibbs – at the controls in Randy’s Recording Studio, located above Randy’s Record Mart on 17 North Parade in Kingston.
The music included is classic roots – vocals, instrumentals and dubs. Some of the tracks have previously been reissued on 7”, whereas others haven’t been on wax since their original released almost 40 years ago. A bunch of the tracks are also available on compilations such as 17 North Parade on Pressure Sounds, including The Gladiators’ The Race, The African Brothers’ Hold Tight and Broadway’s funky harmonica-lead Guns in the Ghetto, on the 7″ it’s the flipside to Hortense Ellis’ version of Marlena Shaw’s Woman of the Ghetto.
The most worthwhile 7”s are probably Ansel Collins’ haunting instrumental Spanish Town Road with its sparse dub version S-Corner Dub and Augustus Pablo’s Java Passion, his next cut to the original Java. Its flipside Woodpecker is just as tasty.
If the 7” format and quality roots music is your thing, then this rockin’ box set is well-worth investigating further.
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.