Souvenir Ferom Jamaica
Wailing Souls
Artists Only!
June 15, 2014

Track list
  1. Souvenir From Jamaica
  2. Play the Tape
  3. Slip & Slide
  4. I Shall Not Want
  5. Got To Move
  6. You Are The Woman
  7. World Abomination
  8. Nothing Comes Easy
  9. Bus Stop
  10. Pacifier
  11. Back Door
  12. Make That Change
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 5 Production : 4 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 4
I am an unadulterated Wailing Souls fan. Even their creative lower points (relatively), such as the songs for the film Cool Runnings soundtrack (too poppy overall) were forgivable to me. Over the length of their career they maintained a strong standard since their rocksteady debut single "You've Lost That Love", from the late 1960s, with strong, creative harmonies, a rootical sound well-fitting the roots reggae era, and good song-writing.

This album, "Souvenir From Jamaica", is from a later stage, 2003. By then, the Wailing Souls' main, most steady members, Winston "Pipe" Matthews and Lloyd "Bread" McDonald, had settled in Los Angeles. This album follows a few years after the good album "Equality" (2000). The latter had a somewhat harder-edged (a bit digital) dancehall-influenced sound, while "Souvenir From Jamaica" has a more mellow, here and there slight lovers-rock feel. Love/romantic and conscious themes interchange lyrically on this album. The opening, title track has a poppy feel which one might expect from the "touristy" title. It is, however, not that bad, with nice vocals by McDonald, along with the dee-jaying vocals of Wayne "Ragga Z" Ingram, who sounds a lot like Shaggy (or more recent artist Skarra Mucci, for that matter). This title track is okay, though not much more than that. "Play The Tape" however is, I think, stronger and instantly catchy, while other songs are nice and engaging, though here and there a bit too repetitive/monotonous. Especially "Got To Move" could have used some variation melodically. The nice, mellow feel keeps the mood nice, though.

Songs like "Nothing Comes Easy", "World Abomination", and "Make That Change" are very good as well: above average... but the average is not bad... just less good. The most outstanding, strongest songs in my opinion on this album are however "Pacifier" and "Back Door". The latter is a beautiful, soulful gem, with its summarizing, thoughtful lyrics on Black history and historical oppression - and with its emotive delivery -, giving it a similar quality as Marley's "Redemption Song" (though musically/instrumentally fuller). The groovy "Pacifier" likewise can queue op to the list of better Wailing Souls songs from their career.

These and most other songs have a roots reggae, live-band feel, with less digital or dancehall influences than on the preceding album "Equality". A good sound, anyway, with quality, experienced musicians, well-known to reggae fans: Sly & Robbie, Dean Fraser, and known percussionists "Sticky" Thompson and Chris Burt, the latter perhaps better known under the intriguing nick-name "Sky Juice": I wonder what anecdote gave birth to that nick-name.

Anyhow, all in all, the Wailing Souls' talent for writing strong songs, good singing, and these quality musicians, provide a mellow, organic sounding, solid roots reggae album, with a few great songs for good measure. It remains engaging throughout. Only a few monotonous/repetitive parts and mainstream influences diminish the overall quality.