All Shook Up ~ A Reggae Tribute To The King
November 11, 2005
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 3||Backing : 3||Production : 3||Sound quality : 3||Sleeve : 3|
Reggae music has long borrowed inspiration from other genres -- and it has always had an extraordinary capacity to transform the most banal and saccharine pop songs into confessional works of beauty and insight.
For examples of this, think Studio One versions to "First Cut Is The Deepest", versions of the Beatlesí "Blackbird", Alton Ellis cuts to the Everley Brothers "By Bye Love", Luciano's cut to Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy", Delroy Wilson's "Suspicion", Black Ark's "Rainy Night In Georgia" and so on -- All of which were transformed into works of great worth -- the list could go on and on.
This collection does indeed have its share of lame and pointless karaoke versions -- it is certainly questionable how many reggae fans will really want to sit through Chaka Demus' version of "Don't Be Cruel", Jackie Edwards' "All Shook Up" and blandest of all, Byron Lee's "How Great Thou Art" --
But it also undeniably has its moments of transformed beauty, as well as -- yes, don't laugh -- one or two real heavy weight cuts.
Who could possibly imagine an Elvis tune being so aggressive and heavy that it could drop hard, like a bomb, at a Shaka dance?
The very idea is ridiculous -- Impossible, right?
Think again -- the Junior Byles cut to "Fever" is as brutal and weighty as a tank division, with a wheel and come again false start and dangerous, edgy vocals. (The Elvis original of "Fever", with its tightly coiled, threatening drum and bass lends itself perfectly to reggae dynamics anyway, so it is an ideal choice for a cover version.) The dub to this can be found on Lee Perry's "Blackboard Jungle" album.
Delroy Wilson voiced a despairing version of "Suspicion", and whilst the Jimmy London cut included here is not as truthfully emotionally disturbed and believable, it is still very good.
"Love Letters", a song which has that inner quality which renders it utterly kitsch yet eerily bizarre at the same time, gets a version here from the quite wonderful Alton and Phyllis -- arguably there are stronger versions out there, since it has already been covered to great effect by many jazz and 60's r ní b artists -- but this cut is still memorable.
The album ends with John Holt's version of "Pledging My Love", which will be immediately recognised by cult film fans as the painfully tragic r n b/ doo wop song that closed "Bad Lieutenant" -- Abel Ferreira and Harvey Keitel's cinematic/Gnostic paean to compassionate forgiveness.
The appeal of this album probably has very little at all to do with the original Elvis compositions but rather has more to do with the emotional truths that the JA artists manage to wrest from the songs' core.
As a reggae lover then, a number of these versions will interest -- whether you like Elvis or not will probably be largely immaterial here.
The album sleeve is a lot of fun too, albeit in a self consciously post modern Andy Warhol/Pop Art style.