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.
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.