Katsjam Roots Gospel 1 / Various
ALBUM DESCRIPTION For over two decades Producer Paul Barclay has been a mainstay in the reggae industry. He has served as band Leader for Papa San, The Grace Thrillers and Carlene Davis. He has also produced secular artists such as Luciano, Freddie McGregor and Turbulence. For years, Paul's focus has been writing and producing conscious roots reggae. Now with 'Roots Gospel,' this producer releases his first definitive gospel roots collection--an album that should not be overlooked. It is rare in these dancehall days that you find a quality roots reggae compilation. You are even less likely to receive such a unique project from Jamaica. For those of you that think that authentic roots reggae (with live instrumentation) migrated from Jamaica in the mid eighties, think again and get ready to be blown away! Roots galore reign as this Kingston producer opens us up to a whole new level of Jamaican gospel reggae. Forgotten are the cliche beats, poor programming, and cheesy keyboard sounds of yesteryear. Back are the days of a live band, real instruments, live horns, great songs and vocalists that actually sing on key! So let's pop in the CD and take a listen. For some of you it has been over 15 years since you have heard from the first queen of dancehall, Miss Shelly Thunder. After a life-changing conversion to Christ, this original 'Small Horse Woman,' (best known for her Man fi get 'Kuff' song and 'Fresh Out of The Pack' release, 1989), is still as fresh and relevant as ever. Shelly kicks this spectacular album off with the laidback 'The Race,' replete with a memorable melody and sweet background vocals. Following is the contagious ska ditty 'Let Go, Let God' sung by Radic of the Katalys Crew--a big tune! After this is Clifford Henry doing what so many gospel reggae artists have done before; cover a Marley song with Christianese lyrics. But this time it works! The strong vocals and powerful live instrumentation successfully capture Bob's original feel. Inspired by 'Rat Race', Henry sings 'God extended grace' This is a spiritually AND musically uplifting tune. Speaking of Marley, track four features the lovely Judy Mowatt (formerly of the I-threes), telling us that she will 'Love Him (Jesus) Always.' 'I Refuse' is one of those songs that will have you pressing rewind over and over again. There are two things that I keep asking myself when I hear this tune; 'Who is this Adena?' and 'When is she coming out with her own solo album? This soulful song-stress has some serious talent. After this comes the gruff vocals and unlikely new style from Prodigal Son on 'These Words for Mama.' For his second song on this album, Clifford Henry gives us some more 'Love' over a bubbly tune that is graced with succulent saxophone licks. Track eight is one of my favorite songs on the album. This isn't just because it's performed by my good friend Andrew Lawrence, (the former lead vocalist of 'Change'). The apocalyptic 'Prophecy', is a re-interpretation of my favorite song from lovers-rock legend, Freddie McGregor. But this time it has Christian lyrics and a live band. Andrew gives this tune the justice it deserves with his smooth delivery. In fact, this version even surpasses the quality, musicianship and outdated digital sounds of the original! Next up is the dub-worthy 'Father Alone' by Courtney Sappleton, followed by 'Jehovah' from Bernard Shroeter. If you recognize his voice, you may have heard Bernard as a guest vocalist on Christafari's 'WordSound&Power' (he sang 'give thanks and praise' on 'Blood & Fire'). After this is another sweet song from Courtney Sappleton before we hear the last track by Clifford Henry titled 'Thank You Lord.' As I am listening I keep asking myself the same questions over and over again. 'Who are these guys' and 'Where have they been hiding for all these years?' Beyond this, I can't believe that we have gotten to track 13 without hearing a bad song yet! The next four tracks seem to wind-down the album a bit, moving more in the direction of traditional gospel. But then we are blindsided with a groundbreaking song by Patrick Dakaz. He may not be on the level of Mutubaruka or LKJ, but 'Come Breda' may very well be the first Christian song recorded (and released on a major album) in a Dub Poetry' dub poetry style. For this reason alone, this unique song is a standout track. Pastor Vincent Smith's 'You Can't Fool People' is undoubtedly the biggest tune at the bottom of the album before the Portmore Vision Choir takes us home with 'We Have A Vision,' a lackluster conclusion to an otherwise remarkable album. For those of you that have listened to the onslaught of digital tunes coming from 'Yard' and have always harped how you wish that these artists would only record with a live band--your wish has finally come true! The Motto of KatsJam Records is 'To nurture the roots and enhance the culture.' If you are looking for great roots reggae music sung by talented Christian singers and deejays alike, then look no further. Unlike so many other compilations from Jamaica and the Bahamas where the 'riddims' are recycled, every song on 'Roots Gospel' has it's own unique musical bed. Surrounded by some of the most talented gospel artists in Jamaica (4 veterans and 12 newcomers), Paul delivers one of the best compilations of the year. This ageless effort is packed with melodic and infectious choruses declaring the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Given it's crisp production and live instrumentation, it is also a pivotal release for contemporary reggae and a must-have for your gospel reggae CD collection. If you enjoyed Lion of Zion's 'Reggae Redemption Songs,' then you will be delighted with this collaboration. The production is excellent, the talented singers are on key and in tune with the word of God. Brimming over with 18 tracks, this compilation delivers both quality and quantity. Get ready to be blown away by some familiar names and floored by some powerful newcomers. In the tradition of KatsJam recordings, 'Roots Gospel' is sure to satisfy any reggae enthusiast. Throw this quality disc in your shopping cart today. You'll be listening to this one for years to come! Review by Mark Mohr Other Albums featuring this Artist Various Artists Strictly Street Gospel Vol.1 Various Artists Reggae For Christ, Volume 1 Katalys Crew Christmas Inna Jamdown Katalys Crew Open Your Eyes Various Artiste Peace Love Unity Ans Justice 2.