Soldier Of Jah Army
Earl 16
Patate Records
May 5, 2006

Track list
  1. Soldier Of Jah Army
  2. Set The Captives Free
  3. Freedom
  4. Raiders
  5. Malcolm X
  6. Malcolm X Dub
  7. Song For A Reason
  8. Bad Company (Discomix)
  9. Some Gone (Discomix)
  10. Rastaman
  11. Rastaman Dub
  12. Going To Africa (Discomix)
  13. Holy Mount Zion
  14. Blackman Time
  15. Herbman Corner
  16. Dread A General (Discomix)
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 5 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 3
It is surprising indeed, that this Patate album seems to have passed by largely unhailed and unnoticed by the reggae press/grapevine.

The album opens confidently, beautifully, meditatively with "Soldier Of Jah Army", Earl 16's rarely heard cut to Lee Perry's "Zion Blood" -- This cut takes the "Super Ape" original, placing greater emphasis on the percussion, ambient bass and high hat work. This is the perfect complement to the original and the Devon Irons' "When Jah Come" cut.

"Set the Captives Free" is Earl's take on the Upsetter's "Two Bad Bull", with a choir like mantra chant and eerie phased guitar scything through the dreamlike mix.

Another Upsetter cut follows -- "Freedom", from the excellent "Heart Of The Ark" series. Later tunes like "Song For A Reason" take us into the early 80's with (what sounds like) a cavernously spacious Prince Jammies / Scientist mix -- Indeed, a minor complaint about this otherwise fine album is the fact that musician /producer /studio line ups are rarely clearly stated on the sleeve notes. This track, with its fast paced snare and bass drum interplay sounds like Skin Flesh and Bones. Think similarities to the arrangements on Bim Sherman tunes like "Chancery Lane" and "Ever Firm."

This excellent compilation has few flaws, either lyrically or musically -- there is little fat on this album -- Also pleasant is the fact that 99% of these tunes have NOT seen repeated re release elsewhere -- Please note, the versions of "Rastaman" added here are NOT the Pablo cuts, the versions of "Going To Africa" and "Herbman Corner" are NOT the Manasseh cuts -- These are largely unheard, impossible to get discomixes, culled from 12" rare vinyl for the most part.

"Bad Company" sounds like the Roots Radics or Skin Flesh and Bones : the mix is very reminiscent of a Pablo's Rocker's label approach -- shimmering percussion and a meditative bass lead the vibes as the discomix explodes capaciously.

The version on "Going To Africa" here -- with its relentless chanted vocal repetition, timbale tuned roto tom/snare, Steve Reich style cyclical, double timed, layered cymbal work and Blue Note style bass line -- sounds like an immaculate Gnostic hymn.

Some consider that Earl 16 -- an original and considerable talent -- has contributed to some arguably weak projects over the last few years, in particular his contribution to some techno/electronica/Euro digi steppers styled productions.

It has not been Earl's consistently distinctive voice in question on these European projects -- but rather the musical arrangements, which, besides the Manasseh Discomixes, have largely been clichéd, somewhat lugubrious, dour and morose affairs.

But make no mistake : there is nothing weak, repetitive or clichéd about this album.

A worthy compilation of his past works then, has been conspicuously absent -- until now. This collection fills that gap admirably, showcasing his melancholy, reflective, yet soulful, confident rebel vocal style perfectly.The much underrated Gussie P chose the selection, so it should be no surpise that the track listing is so consistently strong.

If you are looking for a "best of" showcase, it couldn't really get much better than this Patate album.

At last, someone is doing justice to the considerable talents of this fine artist.