A Whole Heap
Albert Griffiths & The Gladiators
August 16, 2011

Track list
  1. Give It Up Willing
  2. New York
  3. Make It Work
  4. Vitamin A & C
  5. Clean Hands
  6. Careless Gun
  7. On TV
  8. Merciless Pay
  9. The Holy Hill
  10. In Store For You
  11. Country Living
  12. Rise And Shine
  13. Guide And Protect
  14. Take Your Time
  15. See And Blind
  16. Easy Squeeze
  17. Gone Already
  18. Susu (Hearsay)
  19. Take It Or Leave It
  20. Give Me Your Love (Write Correct)
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 4 Backing : 5 Production : 4 Sound quality : 4 Sleeve : 5
Albert Griffiths has been main lead vocalist of the group the Gladiators since the late 1960s. The Gladiators stayed together until the 1980s, when both members Albert Griffiths and Clinton Fearon went on with solo careers.

This 1989 released album combines the tracks of 1980s albums "Country Living" (1985) and "In Store For You" (1987). The Gladiators break-up was apparently not complete as these albums were credited to 'Albert Griffiths & The Gladiators'. Other Gladiators-members, Clinton Fearon and Gallimore Sutherland, actually contribute backing vocals, but also as instrument players as the Gladiators were one of the few reggae vocal harmony groups that also played main instruments themselves. Instrument players further include quality musicians as Dean Fraser, Dwight Pinkney, and Scully, and the albums were recorded at the influential Channel One and Harry J. Studios. You almost can't go wrong.

Indeed most tracks are good, and have a rootsy sound, with little or no dancehall or "digital" influences. The difference with the earlier Gladiators material is therefore small, but noticeable. There is for instance less a focus on vocal harmony, especially on the first 10 songs: the voice of Griffiths being overall dominant on the mostly slow songs, giving it a somewhat sober sound. There are actually backing vocals, but they're mixed in less loud than the lead vocals (different from the Gladiators song "Hearsay" for instance). Griffiths' singing voice further fits the mellow sound well. His vocals have maybe less reach then, say, Donald Shaw's (of Mighty Diamonds), or Dennis Brown's, but it's distinctive and good enough.

What's more: the quality musicianship, clear roots sound, and often strong melodies of Griffiths' compositions help make the songs enjoyable throughout. The lively, folksy feel of Griffiths' (and Gladiators') reggae style - attributed to Jamaican rural/"country" influences - adds a nice, mellow feel. This mellow feel aside, most lyrics still deal with "reality", though there are a few love songs, and a song on New York (descriptive rather than commentary).

Most tracks are at least nice, but the sober sound, and a few too simple melodies, make part of the songs okay, but not too impressive. This is in my opinion especially the case with some of the first 10 songs (originally the album "In Store For You"). Of the first 10 songs, "Clean Hands", "On TV", and "The Holy Hill" stand out most.

Relatively better songs are found, in my humble opinion, among songs 11 to 20, from the original "Country Living" album. The sound here is less sober, with more well-used sound effects, fuller instrumentation and percussion. Some songs here remind of the better works of the Gladiators, notably "Rise and Shine", "Susu (Hearsay)", and the irresistibly catchy "Easy Squeeze", while "See and Blind", "Gone Already", and "Give Me Your Love (Write Correct)" are equally strong. These tunes have strong melody lines that stayed in my head for days (in a pleasant way), pointing at an inherent catchiness strengthened when accompanied by good music.

All in all, the nice, mellow sound along with the talent involved make most of these 20 songs at least enjoyable, with some very engaging standouts for good measure.

The Abyssinians : Reunion
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