The Gladiators

Country Living

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Having cut three masterful albums for Front Line, the Gladiators stumbled on their eponymous album but regained their footing on Tabou with the hefty Back to Roots then proceeded to unleashed two classic full-lengths on Nighthawk before entering Heartbeat's arena in 1985. Country Living was true to its title, a sumptuous rootsy album infused with a lovely country feel, particularly notable on the title track's paean to rural splendors. As always, the album is driven by Albert Griffiths' strong performances and thoughtful lyrics. Within, the lead Gladiator elucidates on a wide variety of themes, from relationships to righteous living. The exuberant "Guide and Protect" unites the power of prayer with the potency of a stirring rhythm, and boasts fabulous performances not just from the soulful Griffiths but also Dean Fraser and Ronald "Nambo" Robinson, who trade off phenomenal brass solos. The pair, along with trumpeter Glen DaCosta add further fire to the excellent arrangements, as the band unleashes a stream of superb backings, some featuring high-stepping basslines, others more easygoing roots fired up by Stanley "Barnabas" Bryan's clicking beats, while a few flame up with Noel "Skull" Sims, "Bongo Herman" Davis, and Griffiths' own sizzling percussion. For this trio's sheer brilliance check out "Gone Already," an inspired version of the Wailers' "Mr. Brown." And overhead, Griffiths and company tell off busy bodies, urge unity, and pull listeners straight onto the road to righteousness. Every number here has something of interest to offer musically and lyrically, and this is another fabulous set from one of roots' greatest groups.

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