Dennis Brown

Bless Me Jah

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Another sumptuous offering from Dennis Brown, brilliantly overseen by Errol "Flabba" Holt. Although well over half the tracks are covers or remodels of his own hits, so powerful are the singer's performances, so inspired the arrangements, that everything sounds brand new. Only four of the covers are actually acknowledged, included a chirpy take on Harry Nilsson's hit "Everybody's Talking at Me," an impassioned version of Marvin Gaye & Mary Wells' much covered standard "Once Upon a Time," an evocative retread of Santana's "Black Magic Woman," which the singer covered to much effect in the past, as well as a soulful take on the Impressions' "No Man Is an Island." Brown initially cut

a cover of the latter number almost three decades ago for Studio One. It became his first Jamaican hit, but is so Brown-like in its universal brotherhood theme it could pass as one of his own later compositions. Kenny Rogers will assuredly be perplexed not merely by the lack of credit for his "Decorated My Life," but by the song's punchy dancehall backing. The Jamaican artists plundered, however, are used to this recycling and should be pleased by Brown's fabulous performances and Holt's clever arrangements. Thus, the lovely "If You Should Lose Me" beautifully blends sharp beats, flowery piano riffs, and lush '50s-styled brass, while Jackie Estick's "Since You've Been Gone" is reborn in the steamiest of fashion as the smoldering "My Heart Is Gone." He returns to his own hit songbook for "Your Love Is Amazing," which boasts a particularly daring arrangement melding smoky brass, digitized drums, and a C&W tinge seemingly conjured right out of the air. That song was covered by a young Errol Dunkley for his scorching "Darling Ooh," and Brown returns the favor with a steamy rendition of Dunkley's "Black Cinderella," set to a punchy backing boasting some of the best organ and piano riffing on the record. "There's No Love and Understanding" reinvigorates an old rocksteady rhythm, with breezy piano riffs and particularly effective work from trombonist Nambo Robinson. Brown shines here, as he does throughout this album. For cultural fans he resurrects another of his old hits, "The Half," in glorious roots fashion. For soul fans there's "Take Me to the Top," featuring one of those perfect soulful pop deliveries that cries out classic. But it's the title track with it's heartfelt prayer that will resonate for most fans, prompting many to offer their own prayers for the singer's soul. There's no hint that Brown would pass on this same year; anything but, in fact, as his performances here are uniformly powerful, filled with emotion, soul, and heart. He sounds strong enough to sing on forever, continuing to bringing new life to other writers' numbers, while glorying in his own songs. Thankfully, with albums like this, his music should live on for years to come.

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