Prison Life
Devon Russell
December 8, 2014

Track list
  1. Thank You Jah
  2. Let Sleeping Dogs Life
  3. Life Is
  4. Prison Life
  5. Give The Children What They Want feat. Jah Stitch
  6. Some Time feat. Nina Soul
  7. Jah Is Watching You
  8. Shame And Pity
  9. Let's Get Together Now
  10. Stranger
  11. Jah Will See
  12. The Bland
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 5 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 4
The late Devon Russell (died 18 June 1997) started his career with the Tartans, a mid-'60s vocal group comprised of Prince Lincoln Thompson, Linbergh "Preps" Lewis, Cedric Myton, and Devon Russell himself. The group disbanded after their 1967 hit "Dance All Night" and Devon Russell embarked on a solo career, interrupted only by a short stint as Cultural Roots' lead singer in the early '90s.

The sweet reggae singer's first solo album entitled "Roots Music" was produced by Coxsone Dodd for Sweet Music Records in 1982. Unlike artists such as Johnny Osbourne, Freddie McGregor and Sugar Minott, who attracted notable attention when they recorded with the legendary producer, Devon Russell's career didn't really benefit from his working with Coxsone Dodd. Therefore his debut album wasn't strong enough. This, however, can't be said about his sophomore album "Prison Life", which was produced by Roy Cousins in 1983. And although "Prison Life" also didn't bring the singer a real international breakthrough, it certainly is a strong album, if not his strongest ever.

This reissue of the original vinyl LP comes with two bonus tracks: Jah Stitch's "Give The Children What They Want" - the deejay answer version on the "Prison Life" riddim - and "The Bland". Devon Russell's voice is very reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield and thus it's not a real surprise that he recorded several interpretations of him, eventually leading to a poignant tribute to the US soul singer on the 1996 released "Darker Than Blue" album. On some of the tunes included here he fully utilizes that vocal style, but on others he doesn't, thus demonstrating his flawless vocal abilities. The cultural tune "Thank You Jah" is a solid opener, while "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie" (previously issued on a Black Roots 12" vinyl with Sugar Minott's "Rome" on the other side and then on Tamoki-Wambesi-Dove with Cornell Campbell's "Jah Jah Love" on the B-side) is simply a great tune backed by a riddim that features harmonica play by Rudolph "Ras" Bonito. "Life Is" and especially "Prison Life" are both worth hearing, and it's nice to have the Jah Stitch bonus track here as well. Then two significant Devon Russell singles drop in. First there's a duet with Nina Soul called "Sometimes" and then "Jah Is Watching You", which caused some buzz at the time of its release. Of the remaining tracks it's "Shame & Pity" (could have been a Mighty Diamonds tune), "Stranger" and "Jah Will See" that provide great listening pleasure.

This is a great Devon Russell album, not to be missed!!