Album review
Monty Alexander feat. Ernest Ranglin
October 11, 2004

Tracking list

  1. Double Barrel
  2. Confucius
  3. Stalag 17
  4. Marcus Garvey
  5. Nightwork
  6. East Of The River Nile
  7. Israelites
  8. Row Fisherman
  9. Freedom Street
  10. Pressure Drop
  11. At the Feast
  12. Redemption Song
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)

Lead Instruments : 5 Backing : 5 Production : 4 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 4

Before Monty Alexander became a renowned jazz pianist in the U.S., he earned his stripes in the club scene of his native Jamaica. At the same time, he was an ambitious young session player who was pioneering an innovative, cross-cultural sound at Studio One – Coxsone Dodd's famous recording house often referred to as the Motown of Jamaica. Still in his teens, Alexander was fusing and distilling the sounds of jazz, blue, soul and pop through a distinctly Jamaican musical filter. Decades later, Alexander revisits that fertile time and place with his latest cd "Rocksteady", a tribute to Jamaica's ska heyday of the late '60s and early '70s. His special guest on this set is guitarist Ernest Ranglin, who recorded side by side with Alexander in those early days. The album opens with a solid version of Dave and Ansel Collins' "Double Barrel", one of Jamaica's first international cross-over hits. Alexander and Ranglin also deliver compelling renditions of the Skatellites' "Confucius", Desmond Dekker's huge international hit "Israelites" and Ken Boothe's "Freedom Street". When listening closely to their presentation of Burning Spear's anthem "Marcus Garvey", you’ll hear references to Bob Marley’s classic "I Shot The Sheriff" - appropriate, considering the touchingly delicate rendering of Marley's own "Redemption Song" that closes the set. Also worth of hearing is a superb version of Augustus Pablo's "East Of The River Nile" and "Pressure Drop" featuring guest vocals from Toots. Much of the magic of "Rocksteady" is conjured by the live groove of each track. There are no overdubs, no tricks, no effects – just like the old days when Alexander and Ranglin were crafting the early Studio One classics. All in all this superb set of jazzy reggae covers from these two veteran master musicians follows much the same winning formula as their previous collaborations and Ernest’s solo works particularly, and should find the same appreciative audience. Very tasty!!

Teacher & Mr. T.