Welcome To Jamrock
Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley
Tuff Gong-Universal
October 4, 2005

Track list
  1. Confrontation
  2. There For You
  3. Welcome To Jamrock
  4. The Master Has Come Back
  5. All Night feat. Stephen Marley
  6. Beautiful feat. Bobby Brown
  7. Pimpa's Paradise feat. Stephen Marley & Black Thought
  8. Move!
  9. For The Babies feat. Stephen Marley
  10. Hey Girl feat. Stephen Marley & Rovleta Fraser
  11. Road To Zion feat. Nas
  12. We're Gonna Make It
  13. In 2 Deep
  14. Khaki Suit feat. Bounty Killer & Eek-A-Mouse
  15. Carnal Mind feat. Chew Stick (UK only Bonus Track)
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 4 Backing : 4 Production : 4 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 5
"Welcome To Jamrock" is the third album from Damian Marley, the youngest of the Marley brothers, sibling Stephen also plays a large part, being co-producer and also vocalist on four of the fourteen tracks. Damian's debut album "Mr Marley" was released in 1996, followed five years later by "Halfway Tree" (2001), a Grammy award-winner. This set takes its name from the universally-acclaimed single which propelled Damian to recent success; this album is an attempt to raise 'Jr Gong's' profile still further and broaden his appeal. Therefore the album has a crossover sound which mixes dancehall, roots, R&B and hip-hop, most of which is far removed from the bruising one-drop reggae of the "World Jam" riddim which underpins the hit single "Welcome to Jamrock".

The album's epic intro promises much, an engaging track in militant style called "Confrontation" which is interspersed with samples of a speech by Marcus Garvey and kicked off by the rich voice of Bunny Wailer. Typically, for a reggae-dancehall album trying to achieve crossover success, there are plenty of collaborations. This collection boasts the names of fellow Jamaicans Bounty Killer and Eek-a-Mouse, hip-hop artists Nas and Black Thought, as well as a contribution from Bobby Brown. Damian's usual delivery is a hoarse chatting style drawing on the influence of old school DJ's such as Supercat and Ninjaman. However he does revert to a more soulful singing approach with rich reward on "There For You" and "For The Babies", the mellowness of which are a welcome break from the forcefulness of his usual delivery.

From the start it feels inevitable that there will be some acknowledgement of 'Jr Gong's' family legacy. "Move!" samples "Exodus" and is an unnecessary inclusion of his Dad's work; fortunately the cover of "Pimpa's Paradise" redeems things to a degree. That said, there are plenty of highlights, including the pop-dancehall style and amusing lyrics of "Hey Girl" ("Junior you're a genius, you think with your mind and not your penis"). There is a distinct old-school feel on the bouncy "All Night", which samples the Skatalites, and Stephen's raspy wail, uncannily similar to that of his father, provides an excellent balance for Damian's boisterous vocals. Among my favourite tracks are "We're Gonna Make It", with its higher pitched vocals, and the enjoyably eerie juxtaposition of hip-hop and an Ella Fitzgerald sample on "Road To Zion" featuring Nas.

But I haven't yet discussed the best track on the album, "Welcome To Jamrock". It's a fantastic slice of social commentary on a killer one-drop riddim. This track represents a benchmark against which the rest of the album falls someway short, but fortunately this is much more a testament to the quality of this one track than any lack of quality in the album as a whole. Although the title track outshines everything else, it is nonetheless an enjoyable album full of experimentation and good ideas, very likely to achieve the global sales and broad fan base that, all things considered, it deserves.