Tag Archives: John Legend

John Legend should embrace his reggae curiosity

Last week John Legend dropped his latest album titled Wake Up! The album is a collaboration with hip-hop band The Roots.

Wake Up! is essentially a cover album and features eleven versions of great songs from artists such as Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway. The songs that get the John Legend & The Roots treatment are mostly in the soul and R&B vein, with one notable exception for reggae fans.

Humanity (Love the Way It Should Be) was originally recorded by the late and great Prince Lincoln Thompson. The version included on Wake Up! isn’t nearly as nice as the original, but it certainly shows that the expressive and emotional John Legend should embrace his interest in reggae.

However, John Legend isn’t a rookie when it comes to reggae. Last year his duets with Estelle and Buju Banton hit the streets. And those are actually well worth picking up, especially the remixes provided by Curtis Lynch.

Hopefully John Legend – and other soul singers as well – will pick up on Jamaican tunes and make their own reinterpretations.

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Impressive reggae debut from Toussaint

Soul music has had a tremendous influence on reggae, especially on the melodic rocksteady. Several reggae singers have been inspired by American soul singers. Alton Ellis, Slim Smith and Bob Marley were mainly influenced by names such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield.

Less common are soul artists influenced by reggae. Texas-born Johnny Nash is one such artist who recorded both soul and reggae. A newer star on the soul and reggae sky is U.S. born Toussaint Yeshua, with a background as lead singer of the Stax Records and Blue Note recording group Soulive.

Nowadays he stands on his own feet and has together with the star-studded Zion I Kings production team created an album with a powerful blend of yearning soul and heavy roots reggae.

All 15 tracks on Black Gold are recorded with live instruments along with an all-star cast of musicians including Dean Pond, Tuff Lion and Carlton “Santa” Davis. This makes the sound rich and strong, but also smooth and soft, particularly on the title track Black Gold, which features live strings.

Toussaint’s voice is reminiscent of soul singers Stevie Wonder and John Legend, as well as reggae vocalists Dennis Brown and the new Dutch sensation Maikal X. The overall sound on Black Gold reminds me sometimes of British group Matumbi and their early material.

Black Gold offers pure soul (the sweet Hello My Beautiful), straight reggae (the mighty Roots In A Modern Time), and songs that are something of a mix of both genres (the single Be You). And the mixture works extremely well. In addition, Toussaint appears to be an excellent storyteller. The lyrics are personal and deals with topics such as struggles in life and overcoming addictions.

Laurent “Tippy I” Alfred is the mastermind behind this release and it certainly shows his great versatility as a producer. He has previously introduced and recorded great artists such as Dezarie and NiyoRah. However, I dare to say that this is his and his label I Grade’s best release so far.

Black Gold is released digitally on August 10 and physically on August 24.

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