Hugh Mundell

Mundell

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Junjo Lawes ruled the dancehalls in the early '80s, with a huge militant sound laid down to fiery perfection by the Roots Radics. The producer's incendiary riddims supported Jamaica's biggest stars and launched a new generation of toasters straight to the top of the charts. This musical shift was accompanied by a thematic change as well, as lighter lyrical fare came to the fore. Many roots artists found the times tough, but not Hugh Mundell, who was young enough to ride this stylistic swing with ease. In 1982, the young star hooked up with Lawes and the Radics for the masterful Mundell album, with the producer providing his best riddims and creating superb versions that still stand the test of time. For "Rasta Have the Handle" and "Tell I a Lie," Lawes lit up the backing with soulful brass solos from Felix "Deadly Headly" Bennett, with Nambo Robinson's trombone in support, and beautifully in counterpoint with Mundell's own emotive vocals and cultural themes. Both of those are militant rockers numbers; in contrast, there's the bubbly, bouncy "Jah Music," the bright backing further lit by the exuberant horns. Winston Bope Bowne's lovely, lilting, lead guitar is the focal point of the romantic "24 Hours a Day," a song whose delicate flavor Lawes offsets with a taut rhythm. Gladstone Anderson's elegant piano work highlights "Red Gold & Green," while overhead Mundell showcases his most soulful vocals. Although "Handle" was the single, it was "Jacqueline" that was obviously built for the dancehalls, with its staccato rhythm, stripped down arrangement, and dubby aura, all of which pushes Mundell towards the more clipped vocal styling that had now taken hold. Even the album's two least substantial numbers, "Your Face Is Familiar" and "Going Places," have such magnificent riddims that they could never be considered throwaways. This album was a classic, and the CD reissue adds four more crucial tracks -- the dubs of "Jacqueline" and "Handle," as well as the extended "discomix" version of "Can't Pop No Style" (produced by Augustus Pablo), and the Prince Jammy overseen "Walk with Jah."

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