Justin Hinds

Know Jah Better

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After cutting the excellent Travel With Love album for Nighthawk, which arrived to much acclaim in 1984, Justin Hinds & Dominoes seemed to disappear from view. However, in the early '90s Hinds returned to the studio alone and began recording again, resulting in Know Jah Better. Much had changed in the intervening years -- culture was seeping back into the dancehalls, and thus the singer was now willing to stride firmly into these waters. Thus, Know Jah Better was a distinct shift from Travel With Love, which was an unabashed roots album. It's a bit disconcerting at first listen, but the singer had reveled in the shift from ska to rocksteady and then proved even more evocative during the roots age, so the move to the dancehalls really was long overdue. But under the dancehall sheen, many of the songs are rooted in earlier styles. "Almond Tree" boasts doo wop harmonies and a big band-styled sax solo, "No Place Like Home" is a cheery reggae piece, "Want More and "Happy Go Lucky" are firmly roots-based, "Deep in My Heart" nods toward rocksteady, while "In This Town" resurrects Hinds' ska classic "Higher the Monkey Climbs," albeit with new lyrics and a distinctly new arrangement. As always, Hinds' lyrics remain thoughtful and he touches on a myriad of themes, as if deliberately trying to broaden his horizons to encompass all tastes. Tough, militant numbers, heartfelt sufferer's songs, inspired religious pieces, impassioned love songs, and even "Happy Go Lucky" numbers create a kaleidoscope of moods. But across them all, Hinds' Rastafarian beliefs permeate through, beautifully summed up in the line, "My love for you is second only to Jah." Although deservedly well received, Know Jah Better was not a huge seller, but did provide a springboard for Hinds to launch himself back into public view later in the decade.

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