June 10, 2014
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 4/5||Backing : 4/5||Production : 5||Sound quality : 5||Sleeve : 2|
Luciano needs introduction to just a few. He entered the recording scene in the early nineties as a devoted roots singer. Dancehall music those days was dominated by tunes of slackness and gun talk. A new breed of singers emerged, with names like Garnett Silk, Tony Rebel and Luciano, who directed Jamaican music in a more positive and spiritual way. After recording under several names he finally gained some fame under the name we all know him, Luciano. Especially his albums produced by Fattis Burell were rated highly. His finest effort was definitely "The Messenger" from 1996, an album that gave him his deserves nickname Jah Messenger. His strong believe in Ras Tafari always remained a source of inspiration for the albums he recorded since then, providing a steady output of excellent albums with a cultural content. In 2011 he recorded the song "Three Meals A Day" for Ariwa Records, originally a classic Dennis Brown song from his "Joseph's Coat of Many Colours" album. When he met the Mad Professor in Gambia they discussed recording an entire album together.
Neil Fraser was born in Guyana, he emigrated as a youth to the UK. He entered the lively Britain reggae scene in London in 1979. That year he opened his own studio and started a label, called Ariwa Records. He was one of the pioneers of the UK Lovers Rock scene and scored several chart hits with youthful female singers and promising male vocalists. He was also a great technician and created wicked dub albums, all real experimental and highly creative. Although this style doesn’t suit all dub fanatics, he surely earned his nickname the Mad Professor.
The intended collaboration was indeed settled and an album was recorded live in Ariwa Studios and scheduled for release in 2013. But because Luciano’s album "The Qabalah Man" was to be released by Al.ta.fa.an Records around the same time, this album saw daylight in march 2014. It's presented Showcase Style and amongst others features long-time Ariwa affiliate Black Steel as one of the main musicians.
The opener is another Dennis Brown roots classic "Deliverance". Luciano’s vocal approach resembles the Crown Prince, the bass part is tight and the all-star horn-section (including Vin Gordon, Dean Fraser and presuming the mentioned Rico being the legendary Rico Rodriguez) doesn’t harm the song either. The following dub for Mad Professor standards is fairly traditional, in fact none of the album dubs are wild like his famed "Dub Me Crazy" series. Although quite traditional it still is a stunning mix.
Luciano penned some great songs over the years, but on "Deliverance" he mainly relies on singing cover songs. "Ready To Learn" is a song originally by Barbara Mason, this version is voiced as a duet with Carroll Thompson, who shows what a great vocalist she still is. Jazz musician Barbara Thompson herself plays flute, the dub version includes a little homage adding a flute to the rhythmic mix. The next cover is John McLean's "And Now You’re Gone", a song he recorded for Ariwa Records. Luciano delivers his lyrics very calm yet comes on very powerful, the limited backing vocals make it a more than sweet tune. The dub mix at first is stripped down to the bass-line and bells, than the bells are left out and some drum parts drop in and occasionally adding horns and guitar parts, simply a splendid mix.
"Psalm 91" is sung over a version of the "Stalag" riddim featuring a little guitar riff. The lyrics are directly taken from the Bible's Old Testament, leaving no doubt what Luciano is all about, spreading the holy words of Jah Ras Tafari. The "Stalag" riddim is versioned countless times, this Mad Professor version focusses on the bass and features of a very shortened part of the horn-section, all vocals are left out except for Jah (never leave me lonely), the messenger couldn't argue with that I reckon.
Strangely the album steps away from the showcase concept, with the vocal efforts "Mellow" and "Show Them A Sign". The first is classic Luciano material, sung in a uplifting and all the way convincing style. The latter a self-written characteristic Luciano song on which he takes care of all different vocal parts. Next up is the before mentioned roots classic "Three Meals A Day". Dennis Brown recorded it masterfully for Joe Gibbs in 1979, Luciano covers it equally strong. Its heartfelt content, Rastas locked up in prison for doubtful reasons, still is food for thought, whether it's for Rastas or other underprivileged people around the globe. The dub is the album's first bonus track, crafted on the tune's beautiful riddim. The dub version of "Mellow" and "Show Them A Sign" are also not on the sleeve mentioned bonus tracks, with the latter featuring a melodica to add an even more roots feeling. Another remix of the anthem that kicked off this project ends the set, the guitar has a prominent role in the mix, and echoes and delay effects are used making this the most adventurous Mad Professor mix of Deliverance.
Teaming Luciano to the Mad Professor sounds like a great plan. Covering two Dennis Brown classics for this project does as well. The cultural inspired songs blend wonderfully with the romantic ones, and the dubs of the songs add another flavor to the set. So it's easy to conclude that the plan worked out, they both got the best out of themselves, making "Deliverance" a consistently strong set without weak moments.