Album review
Ras Michael & The Sons of Negus
February 26, 2005

Tracking list

  1. New Name
  2. Wicked Men
  3. No-Hoppers
  4. Zion Land
  5. If You Only Knew
  6. Babylon
  7. Booma Yeah
  8. Over The Mountain
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)

Vocals : 4 Backing : 5 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 1

Originally released in 1977, this album continues the tradition pioneered by The Sons of Negus, Count Ossie and The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari.

The album opens with the churchical hymn chant of "New Name", with its piano intro and eerie phased guitar. Robbie Shakespeare's bass is a huge underpinning boom, grounding the tune and merging with thudding Binghi drums.

"If You Only Knew" is a more calming chant, but again, is clearly derived from hymnal form and structure.

The heaviest, most aggressive track here is the aural purge of "Bablyon" AKA "Free up Jah People", with its lyric about Jah conspiring to bomb the world in vengeance for man's corruption -- it's not a peacable, reflective lyric, but it does full justice to the hammer like bass drop in this tune. At times, Nyabinghi drumming can sound lethargic and soporific, but this work is energetic, inspired and inventive, a complex undertow of taut sound.

"Booma Yeah" is partially chanted in Amharic. The opening blessing from Ras Michael is a recital and a meditation, reminding the listener of the origin of the drum in Africa. That heartbeat he reminds, is echoed in The Sons of Negus. After the orthodox opening, this track veers into Hamilton Bohannon / Tony Allen afro funk -- it works beautifully, with Shakespeare's agile bass and the taut Binghi percussion. It sounds similar to Hamilton Bohannon's long deleted 45 "South African Man" with it's hypnotic keyboard and drum structure.

"Over the Mountain" speaks of nature as a holy place of Jah spirit.

The sound quality on this Greensleeves re-issue is excellent, with pounding bass, crisp percussion and ringing guitar tones-- Chinna's work is exemplary throughout this album,consistently inventive, sparse and eerie. The horns patterns are melancholy jazz inspired patterns, sounding like Headley Bennett (the horns section isn't credited on the sleeve).

The sleeve art however, is careless, and doesn't reflect the spiritual focus of the music within. (The original JA vinyl on Dynamic/Errol Thompson featured an apocalyptic image of a blood red sky overlaid with Amharic script) it's a shame Greensleeves couldn't put more effort into their re-issue sleeve designs. The music deserves it.

However, besides this minor point, this is a worthy re-issue of a classic -- Now, one can hope and dream the Sons of Negus 1982 "Revelation" album will be re-released too, with its epic, swirling remixes of Prince Far I's dubs.

Professor Barnabas