Tell It To The Children
Ijahman Levi
Tree Roots
November 24, 2009

IJahman Levi - Tell It to the Children Track list
  1. Tell It To The Children
  2. Closer To You
  3. Jah Watch Man
  4. Lend A Hand
  5. Sinner Man
  6. Praises In Strange Places
  7. Tradesman
  8. Thank You
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 5 Production : 4 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 3
Ijahman Levi has an interesting personal history as described in the review of his ArkArt album on this site, including incarceration as a youth, disappointments, and eventually his further commitment to Rastafari, specifically the Twelve Tribes Of Israel mansion. Throughout his albums since the 1970s Ijahman forefronted his Rastafari spirituality in an engaging way, with his beautiful, emotive vocals. Though reggae knows many "soulful" singers, Ijahman in a sense stands out in his ability to raise songs vocally into greatness. When the songwriting and music are also good, Ijahman is often able to put out classic tunes. Although some say this is more rare in his more recent work. Indeed, Ijahman has several such classics from the late 70s or early 80s, including songs that are over 7 minutes long, yet never bore.

This album from 1982 continues to show Ijahman in this good form. Solid roots reggae music and emotive vocals carry you through. Of the 8 tracks here, only the title track is relatively lengthy, while the others are about 4 or 5 minutes long. This title track is nice, has a good message, but seems somewhat too drawn out. Closer To You is a classic love song, showing Ijahman at his best. Vocally it's simply mesmerizing, musically maybe a bit less distinctive. Still, the sincerity of it might make it just one of the best reggae love songs ever.

This is not the only boom tune however. Solid - and somewhat more upbeat - tunes like Jah Watch Man and Sinner Man recall the roots reggae heyday which according to many supposedly had ended by 1982 (but had not). The remaining songs neither disappoint. Of these the non-reggae, jazzy Lend A Hand is a bit monotonous, though still nice. Another high point is the last song (unless you "shuffled" it) Thank You, lyrically directed to Jah, and engaging, almost to the point of hypnotic.

This last track's, and e.g. Sinner Man's quality musicianship, with its percussive and horn-driven roots, reminds me of Burning Spear's better work. It's all the more a pity that the CD sleeve does not provide information on musicians (I believe the earlier vinyl versions did), but I found out through the Internet that musicians include Aston "Familyman" Barret, Ansel Collins, Robbie Shakespeare, Dean Frazer, Carlton "Santa" Davis, Sticky and others. Quality indeed.