The Abyssinians / Bernard Collins

Last Days

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As the perceived frontman of the legendary Abyssinians, Bernard Collins had a lot to live up to when he released his first solo album, Last Days, in 1998. Recorded between 1988 and 1994, the album actually included two tracks, "Last Days" and "African Princess," originally intended for an Abyssinians album, and these two songs feature fellow original members Donald and Lynford Manning on vocal harmonies. That said, this is by no means an Abyssinians album, which is both its strength and its failing. The sound is brighter and more contemporary, but some of the minor-key seriousness that made his previous group so distinctive is missing, and truthfully, Collins was in somewhat of a lose/lose situation with this project from the start, since it couldn't be an Abyssinians album, but everyone would expect it to be, or at the very least, compare it to the group's earlier work. It's telling that the best two tracks are the one that sound the most like his old trio, the impressive title track, "Last Days," and the powerful and autobiographical "Wareika Hills." Another highlight is the Bob Marley tribute, "Jah Marley," that leads off the album. In the end, fans of the Abyssinians treated this project as a sidebar, which is probably just about right, since the group has reunited a couple of times since the album was released.

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