Babylon You Doom
Ras Shiloh
Shilo B Records
January 11, 2015

Track list
  1. Travel Lite
  2. Joy (Onto) Zion
  3. Aluta Continua
  4. Slavery
  5. Rights Of The Poor
  6. Little Black Boy
  7. Doom
  8. At Evening
  9. Change Gonna Come
  10. Sandy
  11. Head Gone Work
  12. Nuff Injustice
  13. Are You Satisfied (bonus track)
  14. Brass Gates (bonus track)
  15. Child Of A Slave (bonus track)
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 4 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 5
"Babylon You Doom" is Ras Shiloh's 1998 album, and actually an album released early in his career. Ras Shiloh (born 1974 in New York, US, as Thomas Williams) started his career as vocalist at sound systems, recording his debut single "Say You Love Jah" around 1995. While growing up in New York, he would travel regularly to Jamaica and also recorded there. Thus he kept pace with Jamaican musical developments. He connected especially with the Rastafari-inspired New Roots revival, as may be evident from his stage name and first single. Also the collaboration with Buju Banton for the fine song "Give I Strength" (1997) attested to this. Ras Shiloh's vocal style bears many similarities with that of the lost roots reggae icon Garnett Silk, and is likewise a strong, emotive voice. This 1998 album, "Babylon You Doom", shows he is a good singer, and furthermore shows good songwriting, in cooperation with Knotty B, Noel Alphonso (son of Rolando Alphonso of Skatalites fame) and others. There is a digital edge to this sound, as can be expected in 1998, including a mix of live musicians and digital instrumentation. The drum is for instance a digital one, but live musicians include roots veterans like Lloyd Parkes on bass and Bongo Herman on percussion.

All theoretically favourable conditions, you can say (though some might prefer live drums), but I think it was effective and resulted in an overall solid album, with - like mentioned - the good singing of Ras Shiloh and good songs with a "reflective" and soulful vibe. The melodic variation makes it definitely more singing than "chatting/toasting" though influences of the latter, more rhythmic dancehall style are heard here and there on some songs (the groovy "Nuff Injustice" notably is straight dancehall). In fact, one of the appeals of Ras Shiloh is that his vocal style is quite unique... in any subgenre... "Quite unique" because many point at similarities (justly, I think) with the late Garnett Silk. Ras Shiloh seems to consider this recurring comparison with Garnett Silk as a compliment, by the way. I also note some distant similarities in his vocals with Yami Bolo and Junior Reid.

The sound of this album can be described as Roots Reggae with a digital dancehall feel. This digital feel "smoothens" the sound, but luckily avoids mostly being stale. It is still groovy. This is largely due to good production and arranging, as well as to the music itself. Some riddims seem also "fresh" (original), by the way, or reworked creatively (I hear echoes of the "He Prayed" and "Cuss Cuss" riddims). The bonus tracks (not on the original album) are on the other hand on existing riddims.

One of my favourite tunes on this album is "Rights Of The Poor": with strong, soulful vocals by Ras Shiloh, good lyrics, and a good groove, also due to Bongo Herman's effective percussive additions. "Slavery", "Aluta Continua", and "At Evening" are likewise strong, with "At Evening" having a pleasant, "atmospheric" vibe. The cover of Sam Cooke's "Change Gonna Come" sounds okay, even if I heard that song nuff times already and varies little from the original. "Head Gone Work" and the opener "Travel Lite" are also good and catchy, but also the songs not mentioned are at least nice. The three CD bonus tracks (not on vynil versions?) are strong tunes as well, released before this album (and returning also on his later albums). These three bonus tracks were namely relatively big hits in the reggae scene, including in Jamaica itself. "Are You Satisfied" (one of his biggest hits) is nice, but I personally find the great "Child Of A Slave" (on the "Land Of Love" riddim) better, making this CD overall even more worthwhile to check out. Also recommended to know more about the earlier phase of Ras Shiloh's career (he was around 24 years old when this album was released).