Earlier this year the fruitful relationship between label JahSolidRock and production crew Not Easy At All gave us the acclaimed Judgment Time by Chezidek.
Now they’re at it once again. And this time they’ve laid their hands on veteran Apple Gabriel from legendary trio Israel Vibration, probably best known for their dread 78’ debut The Same Song.
Teach Them Right is Apple Gabriel’s follow-up to his solo debut Another Moses released in 1999. During the past eleven years Apple Gabriel has been living a tough life in the streets of Atlanta, USA.
His struggling is reflected in both the music and the lyrics on Teach Them Right – “To all those homeless people, I know your cry” he sings in the album opener Mr. Conman, a great introduction to this phenomenal and occasionally autobiographical album.
Teach Them Right is produced according to the 12” principle. This is a great Jamaican tradition that offers the listener a dub version to the original tune and makes the music experience very enjoyable.
The arrangements are bluesy and jazzy without ever losing their reggae roots. Apple Gabriel sounds like he did back in the 70’s – hissing, nasal and with a clear vibrato. Sometimes it sounds like his is whispering rather than singing and his delicate voice may seem a bit shaky at times. But that’s all part of his narrative. Don’t be fooled, Apple Gabriel’s voice is very distinct and may take some time to appreciate. But when you come to understand it, you will love it.
In Gifted Ones he pays tribute to great soul singers and plays effectively with melodies to a wicked jazzy backdrop with some major percussion work. In Give Them Love, Apple Gabriel gets political and corrects fellow rasta singers that show intolerance. This tune is based on Chezidek’s Live and Learn, the best tune on his Judgment Time album.
Teach Them Right is quality roots reggae produced in a very careful way. It’s vintage without sounding outdated or dull. And Apple Gabriel’s devotional singing stands in bright opposition to all the auto-tuned crap released these days.
The album is released in Europe and the U.S. on the Heartbeat label on November 15th. Hopefully their wide distribution will give this release the recognition it needs.
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.
In the past couple of months two well-known reggae veterans have released albums – Horace Andy with Serious Times and Clinton Fearon with Mi Deh Ya. But in the shadows one of the more unsung heroes of reggae music has released a showcase album with classic 70s roots.
In late March came the release of Earl Zero’s And God Said to Man album. A piece of heavenly roots music with a sound reminiscent of the mid and late 70s.
The album consists of twelve tunes – six vocal cuts and six dub versions – signed Spanish producer, label owner and musician Roberto Sánchez, who has previously worked with artists such as Rod Taylor, Kenny Knotts and Glen Washington.
Roberto Sánchez’ work aims to keep the style and sound of the 70s roots reggae music alive in terms of recording techniques, instruments used and artists to record. And he really succeeds with his vision. This album sounds like it could’ve been recorded in Jamaica 35 years ago.
And God Said to Man is as much deep conscious roots as the material Earl Zero recorded with, among others, Bertram Brown and Earl “Chinna” Smith in the 70s. Listen to You Are Gonna Fall with its intense drums or the mighty version of the classic None Shall Escape the Judgement. It’s close to Earl Zero’s own 70s version and the sound is more 70s steppers than flying cymbals and the version that made Johnny Clarke known.
The dub versions lie close to King Tubby and have few sound effects. Instead they’re stripped down and intimate.
Earl Zero and Roberto Sánchez began collaborating in 2007 with the tune Root of David. Hopefully they will continue to make music together. And God Said to Man shows that Earl Zero has a lot more to give and Roberto Sánchez has interesting ideas that I want to hear more about. Much more in fact.
Lutan Fyahs African be Proud är en temaplatta som vill vara mer än en reggaeskiva.
Temat för African be Proud är svarta talföra män som kämpade för medborgerliga rättigheter. Skivans första del inleds av jamaicanske profeten Marcus Garvey, medan den andra delen inleds av amerikanske medborgarrättskämpen Malcolm X.
Plattans första sex låtar, som följer talet av Marcus Garvey, är roots reggae. De fem sista, som följer talet av Malcolm X, är kraftigt hip hop-influerade. De två talen symboliserar naturligtvis låtarnas karaktär, men Lutan Fyah hade gärna fått skippa Malcolm X till förmån för exempelvis Haile Selassie. Att blanda hip hop med reggae blir nämligen sällan en särskild lyckad kombination. Många har försökt, få har lyckats.
Många, däribland jag, har sett fram emot en ny platta från Lutan Fyah. Sedan uppskattade Phantom of War från 2006 har han släppt en stor mängd singlar av varierande kvalitet (flera utgivna på förra årets singelsamling Africa). Själv hade jag hoppats på några nya Save the Juvenile eller Rasta Still de Bout, men erbjuds istället ordinär roots, som dessutom lider av en kraftig överanvändning av rockgitarriff. Av reggaelåtarna imponerar endast Long Road och tidigare utgivna Fall Hard på grymma Rastar riddim.
De fem hip hop-inspirerade låtarna blir varken hackat eller malet, och endast gräshyllningen High Grade tillsammans med Spectacular fungerar.
Jag hade höga förväntningar på den här plattan och blir lite bekymrad över att Lutan Fyah inte nådde ända vägen fram. Lite experimentlusta skadar aldrig, men det behöver vara mer inspirerat än så här.