Album review
Mash Up The Dance
Earl 16 With No More Babylon
Fifty Five-BMG
November 7, 2004

Tracking list

  1. Mash Up The Posse
  2. Old Time Music
  3. Soldiers Of Jah Army
  4. Children Of The Emperor
  5. Freedom
  6. Milk & Honey
  7. Trample Babylon
  8. Natural Roots
  9. Groovy Situation
  10. Love Is A Feeling
  11. Malcolm X
  12. Important To Be Nice
  13. Dry The Tears / Natural Girl
  14. Rastaman
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)

Vocals : 4/5 Backing : 4/5 Production : 4 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 3/4

Earl 16 was born Earl Daley in Jamaica in 1958. When he was 15 years old he won a talent contest, beating the likes of Michael Rose, Junior "Tamlins" Moore and Joy White. He then formed his first group, The Flaming Phonics, but their only 45 release did not meet with any success. His first hit came about when he sung the song "Malcom X", written by his childhood friend Winston McAnuff and produced by Derrick Harriott. Earl then decided to join bandleader Boris Gardiner as part of a travelling revue/cabaret band. Despite enjoying the great experience of playing with such a professional outfit, Earl's gradual involvement with Rasta resulted in his being fired from the band. Around this same period he hooked up with Lee Perry at his Black Ark Studio, and recorded two songs - "Cheating" and "Freedom", the latter a bonafide classic roots tune. At the Black Ark, Earl met Earl Morgan from The Heptones, who produced his debut album "Shining Star". Earl also recorded two tunes for Augustus Pablo's Rockers label - "Changing World" and "Rastaman", both regarded as essential Pablo productions. Meanwhile, the "Dread At The Controls" broadcaster then producer Mikey "Dread" Campbell, had risen to enormous poularity in Jamaica with his late night weekly radio program where Earl's tune "Freedom" was regularly given airplay. The two subsequently teamed up for sessions backed by the Roots Radics Band and mixed by Scientist at King Tubbys studio. Tunes such as "Reggae Sound", "Jah is the Master", "African Tribesman" and the album "Reggae Sound" all helped to build Earl's name and reputation as a quality songwriter and singer. The song "Trials and Crosses" produced by Linval Thompson was a massive roots hit in England in 1981. Two albums were recorded for the producer Roy Cousins from The Royals, and these included some great songs such as "Song For a Reason", "Julia", "Reggae Rock" and "OK My Love". Earl's unique voice also caught the attention of Coxsone Dodd of Studio One. After practising vocals over a bunch of classic Studio One tunes that Dodd had given Earl, he voiced a tune called "Love Is A Feeling" over the riddim that had underpinned the "Heptones Gonna Fight". It was a massive worldwide dancehall smash but the subsequent Studio One "Showcase" album was ruined by poor mixing and sloppy overdubs. In 1988, Earl scored his biggest hit with a cover version of the Simply Red song "Holding Back The Years", which stayed at the top of the UK reggae charts for months. Since that year, Earl 16 has been resident in London, England, where he has voiced for famous UK producers and bands (Mad Professor, Jah Warrior, Dreadzone) and has created his own label called Merge. In may 2004, Earl 16 has been touring over France with No More Babylon as backing band. During this tour, he has recorded his first live album. This set shows that Earl 16's voice is unmistakeable - a cracked falsetto and a lazy delivery combine to make this voice most poignant, particularly when riding a solid roots riddim. And truly solid roots riddims, provided by a very tight playing No More Babylon, are featured on this very entertaining live album from beginning to end. It's 100% roots & culture that you are offered with Earl 16 performing some of his biggest tunes such as "Freedom", "Malcom X", "Natural Roots", "Love Is A Feeling", "Soldiers Of Jah Army" and "Rastaman" and classic riddims like "Heavenless", "Real Rock" and "Heptones Gonna Fight". Also worth of hearing is one of his latest tunes, the awesome "Important To Be Nice", and his wicked cover versions of Keith Rowe's "Groovy Situation", Albert Malawi's obscure but truly brilliant roots anthem "Children Of The Emperor" and Dennis Brown's "Milk And Honey". Overall opinion is that this is a very entertaining live album, worthwhile checking out.

Teacher & Mr. T.