Ronnie Davis

Come Straight

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Having spent a couple of decades singing harmonies in the Itals, Ronnie Davis now takes the lead with his group Idren. Their formation reunites Davis with Roy Smith, a compatriot from the Westmorlites, the vocal group from which the Itals evolved, and Robert Doctor, who also had ties to that latter group. And just to make it a real family affair, former Ital Lloyd Ricketts also contributes harmonies, while the Roots Radics, who have long accompanied the Itals in the studio, provide musical backing here as well. Across the '80s and beyond, the Itals began slowly inching away from the heavily conscious numbers that had initially defined their oeuvre, but Davis now returns to these roots. Thematically, Come Straight is strictly culture, with the sole exception of the lovelorn "Won't You Come," a lush remodel of the chart-topping solo single Davis cut in 1975. The lovely original rhythm was then versioned for "Ina Dis Ya Time," the single which launched the Itals to fame. The re-recording beautifully cossets a stiff rhythm in a rich, rural reggae backing, and as always, the Roots Radics have a grand time mixing up the album's sound with bouncy rhythms, breezy backing, militant beats, and their unique take on dancehall stylings. The album appends instrumentals and dubs to a number of the songs, a boon for Roots Radics fans. But even as the musicians diversify the sound, there's no mistaking the message within, as Davis and Idren coax, reason, and threaten those who have yet to see Jah's light. However, even as he's demanding listeners to "Repent," threatening those who don't with a beating on "Pick up the Pieces," prodding the overbearing to "Move on Oppressor," and pleading with youth to "Respect Your Elders," Davis never raises his voice in anger. Instead there's a quiet and intense passion in his delivery that's much more effective. And when he turns to eloquent expressions of his faith, as on the soulful "Jah Is My Light" and "If You Conscious," his rich tones are filled with the glow of righteousness, while the glorious harmonies across this set are a revelation in themselves. Although fans may mourn Davis' departure from the Itals, the superb Come Straight proves that the singer has much more to offer than harmonies and the occasional song.

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