Album review
Unchained Spirit
Buju Banton
Epitaph Records
Promo CD

Tracking list

  1. Intro
  2. 23rd Psalm featuring Gramps from Morgan Heritage
  3. Voice Of Jah featuring L.M.S.
  4. Sudan
  5. We Be Alright featuring Luciano
  6. Pull It Up featuring Beres Hammond
  7. Life Is A Journey
  8. Better Must Come
  9. Mighty Dread
  10. Poor Old Man featuring Stephen Marley
  11. Law & Order
  12. Guns & Bombs
  13. Woman Dem Phat
  14. No More Misty Days featuring Rancid
  15. Pull It Up (live)
  16. Reunion featuring Wayne Wonder
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)

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

"Unchained Spirit" - surprisingly released on the US based indepent label Epitaph Records - is the highly anticipated follow up to Buju Banton's two excellent albums "Til Shiloh" (1995) and "Inna Heights" (1997), both regarded as modern Reggae classics by reggae connoisseurs as well as reggae fans worldwide. After having spinned "Unchained Spirit" several times, we dare to answer the inevitable question "...has Buju Banton been able to deliver a third excellent album in a row" with a whole-hearted "Yes!". Considering the fact that it took some five years to produce three album - almost unique in the world of Reggae music which is known for its high prolific artists - Buju Banton's albums have clearly been the product of much time and thought.
Although this new album incorporates the same ingredients as the previous two - the intro, the guest appearances, the inclusion of a ska flavoured piece (Buju is a big ska fan), the diversity, the energy, the conscious feel and strong songwriting - probably the main difference lies in the fact that Buju Banton sounds rootsier than ever. In a period of three album releases Buju Banton has more and more gone back to his roots, which has resulted in a growing amount of songs that deal with hard-edged reality and cultural issues, delivered over fine rootical riddims. The only exception are the Dancehall tunes "Guns & Bombs" and "Women Dem Phat", the latter utilizing Tony 'CD' Kelly's "Unda Watta" riddim. Did Buju already stretch his style on "Til Shiloh", which he actually continued to do on "Inna Heights", here he mainly performs in a "chanting" style.
Too many excellent tracks on "Unchained Spirit" to point out the standouts. No real weak track to be found, although the live version of "Pull It Up" seems to be superfluous. Even the unusual combination with ska/punk band Rancid sounds good. Personal favourites are the great combination tunes "23rd Psalm" with Gramps, "Voice Of Jah" with L.M.S., the anthem "Pull It Up" with Beres Hammond and "We Be Allright" with Luciano (on wich Buju sings and Luciano deejays at the end of the song), the energetic "Mighty Dread" and the wicked, ska flavoured "Better Must Come". This album is a must-have for every modern roots fan!

Teacher & Mr. T.