Umkhonto We Sizwe (Spear Of The Nation)
Prince Far I
September 22, 2014

Track list
  1. Survival
  2. With Prayers
  3. Ask Ask
  4. What Mine's Yours
  5. African Queen
  6. Queen Bee
  7. Stop The War
  8. War Mongers
  9. Jerry Doghead
  10. Greenwich Farm
  11. Special Request
  12. Request Granted
  13. Gebbi feat. Charlie Chaplin & Knowledge
  14. Royal Palace
  15. Ejarsa Gora
  16. Road To Zion
  17. Get Down
  18. Bliss
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 4 Backing : 4/5 Production : 4/5 Sound quality : 4/5 Sleeve : 4
Michael James Williams, known to the reggae world as Prince Far I, had a unique style, both vocally and lyrically. With a unique voice and talking over style, preferring to describe himself as a 'chanter' rather than a 'toaster', he became a popular reggae deejay, styling himself 'The Voice of Thunder'. His deep, husky voice graced recordings for producers such as Coxsone Dodd ("Natty Farmyard"), Bunny Lee (for whom he recorded his first hit single "I Had A Talk" and then the even greater hit "The Great Booga Wooga" under the name King Cry Cry), Joe Gibbs ("Under Heavy Manners"), Lloydie Slim ("Psalms For I"), Enos McLeod and Martin 'Mandingo' Williams.

In 1983 he teamed up with producer Roy Cousins, after having released self-produced albums like "Cry Tuff Dub Encounter Vols I, II, III & IV", "Dub To Africa", "Free From Sin", "Jamaican Heroes", "Livity" and "Voice Of Thunder". In September of that year Prince Far I went into Harry J Recording Studio to voice the riddims the Roots Radics had laid at Channel One. Within two days he had completed six tracks. It turned out to be his very last recording sessions as he was shot to death in his home in Edgewater on September 15, 1983. Prince Far I's 1984 released 'unfinished' vinyl album inna 'Showcase' style entitled "Umkhonto We Sizwe (Spear Of The Nation)", featured the six vocal tracks plus their versions. This most recent cd reissue of this album, named "Umkhonto We Sizwe (Spear Of The Nation)" in honor of the fight of the militant wing of South Africa's ANC, has been expanded with six bonus tracks.

The six vocal tracks from the original vinyl LP show that Prince Far I's voice was in real good shape at the time of the recordings as he sounds like his early works. The chanter's voice hypnotizes throughout and the lyrical content keeps you involved from beginning to end. The stellar opening track "Survival" and also the matching "Jerry Doghead" are haunting pre-cognitive tales that can be ranked among his best efforts. In "Jerry Doghead", Prince Far I speaks of his friend Jerry who was shot dead by hoodlums, and then spins a piece about the killers themselves. Prince Far I was shot down by the same hoodlums the day after these pieces were recorded. Another inspired sounding track is "Special Reguest", a tune on the "Operation Radication" riddim that sends out love to all musicians. "Ask Ask" is a solid piece about every poor man's problem, while "Stop The War" has a message to political leaders world wide. In "African Queen", Prince Far I pays tribute to all black mothers.

In true 'Showcase' style, each vocal cut - including those of the bonus tracks - is followed by its version. Don't expect these versions to be hard-hitting dub sounds! These tracks are closer to simple instrumental versions than true dub mixes. When it comes to the bonus tracks it's in particular "Ejarsa-Gora", where the 'marvel of miracles' sample appears in the mix on top of Vivian Jackson's "Yabby You" riddim and traces of Gregorian chant are incorporated, that stands out. The other tracks vary in quality and aren't up to par with the rest of the tracks on this cd, which is rounded off by the mediocre "Get Down" and its version called "Bliss".

Overall, Prince Far I's last album has mostly solid tracks and is worth adding to any reggae collection.