March 9, 2010
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 3/4||Backing : 5||Production : 4||Sound quality : 5||Sleeve : 4|
The Gladiators have been masters of the reggae arena since the group emerged in the late '60s. The group's original leader, Albert Griffiths, formed the legendary group - whose name was suggested to him on a bus by a fellow traveler who had just seen the movie "Ben Hur". The concept of men who fought for their liberty against Babylon immediately struck a chord with Albert and remains a testament today of the difficult life and struggle of Jamaica.
The unique sound of The Gladiators started with Albert Griffiths who was born in the parish of St. Elizabeth in the Jamaican countryside and grew up in poverty in Trench Town. In 1968 The Gladiators were born as a trio including David Webber and Errol Grandison recording for Clive Chin and Duke Reid but it was with Coxone Dodd that "Hello Carol" topped the Jamaican chart in 1968. Webber and Grandison were unable to continue with the group and Clinton Fearon came on board and The Gladiators became a duo. With Griffiths also being employed as a guitarist at Studio One and Fearon joining him on bass, the pair backed artists like Burning Spear and Stranger Cole in the late '60s. Griffiths eventually chose Gallimore Sutherland to make the group a trio again.
During the 1970s, The Gladiators continued racking up hits like "Freedom Train", "Rock A Man Soul", "Roots Natty", "Bongo Red" and "Jah Jah Go Before Us" in Jamaica and the UK. In 1974 Vivian "Yabby U" Jackson asked Griffiths and Fearon to provide backing for his "Jah Vengeance" album at Lee "Scratch" Perry's Black Ark studios which brought in further work in this studio. In 1976 The Gladiators signed a deal with Virgin Records, resulting in the essential "Trenchtown Mix Up" album.
By the early '80s, roots groups were becoming an expiring lot, but The Gladiators went on to release albums and they continued to do so through the '90s. Even the departure of Clinton Fearon during this period could not extinguish The Gladiators' spirit or Griffiths' drive. The Gladiators are one of the very few reggae bands to not only survive but succeed over the decades despite changes in members, and maintain their unique sound and message. They are one of the rare Jamaican groups that are actually a band in the true sense of the word and have a distinct style that shines forth regardless of the circumstances. Griffiths' lyrics, filled with biblical passages and parables, are equally notable.
In 2005 The Gladiators put out the "Father And Sons" album, which features Albert Griffiths and his two sons, Anthony on drums and Al sharing lead vocals. It marked the start of Albert Griffiths turning The Gladiators over to his two sons he knows are capable of carrying on this musical heritage. With Anthony on drums setting the pace for the band and Al replacing his father as lead singer (with Gallimore Sutherland and Ruddlowe Robinson providing background vocals), the "new" Gladiators release their first full length album aptly titled "Continuation".
The 10 tracks featured on this album are decent tunes, which obviously are rooted in the classic roots reggae from the second half of the '70s. Unfortunately none of them are truly outstanding or overwhelming efforts as they lack the distinctive touch that Albert Griffiths could add to his musical outings. Of course, anyone who listens to this cd will acknowledge that Al Griffith's voice is virtually indistinguishable from his father's, but that doesn't imply that he's also capable of creating the same feel and vibe (check "Today Is For You", a weak do-over of the original Gladiarors tune "Seven Times To Rise"). Only few times, like e.g. in "Teach The Children", he comes near to it, but it simply ain't enough to qualify this cd as a fully convincing and satisfying collection of tunes. On the other hand this set strongly benefits from the "live" musical backing provided by Flabba Holt (bass), Andrew "Bassie" Campbell (bass), Gallimore Sutherland (guitar), Clinton Rufus (guitar), Vernon "Keysie" Sutherland (keyboards), Anthony Griffiths (drums) and Dean fraser & his crew (horns). Most enjoyable tracks are "Good Over Evil", "Teach The Children", and "What You Worry About".
Overall, this is a real nice album for those who have been following The Gladiators (or groups like them) for a very long time, but most likely it won't appeal to anyone who is into modern reggae.