Together as One

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When Aston "Family Man" Barrett heard Elan's demo, the ears of the Wailers bassist immediately pricked up. Given Junior Marvin's departure, the Wailers needed a frontman, and Barrett was immediately convinced they'd found his replacement. One listen to Together as One's title track explains why the Wailers snapped Elan up. This glorious number's gorgeous melody, acoustic guitar-laced arrangement, and unity theme all echo of Bob Marley's own "Redemption Song." However, dancehall fans will note the track's equally striking similarities to Buju Banton's "Untold Stories." And it's this ability to beautifully blend both new and old, speaking simultaneously to young and old, that is Elan's strongest suit. "I Wanna Yell" also reverberates with a Marley-esque sound, although in this case, with its modern reggae flavor and bouncy melody, it's Stephen who springs to mind. Elsewhere, "My Kingston Girl," which resurrects an old rocksteady melody and is brushed with harmonies, recalls the Wailers' days at Studio One. "You Don't Come Around No More" also has a lovely revival feel to the riddim, but here Elan leaves the Marleys behind and strides straight into R&B-flavored dancehall, accompanied by Cutty Ranks, whose sharp toasts provide an authentic island-style feel to the number. Gwen Stefani helps take this hybrid sound into even lusher pastures on "All Nighter." Then again, Elan can handle dancehall in any of its varieties, be it the sweet singing/tough toaster combo of the reggaeton-tinged "Girl," where he's paired with Assassin, or DJing himself across the techno-flavored drum'n'bass-driven "Feel My Pressure." Intriguingly, on another combo number, "Don't You Go," dancehall surfs right into new wave, while Tami Chynn toasts up a storm on top and Elan sings out sweetly below. He rides solo on "Do Right by You," another powerful number, this time on a roots reggae riddim that's again frothing with new wave influences. It's a heady mix of sounds and styles, and with a producer roster that includes Lynford "Fatta" Marshall, Lenky Marsden, Tony Kelly, Sly & Robbie, and No Doubt's Tony Kanal, that's no surprise. Elan initially established his reputation by keeping the Wailers' songs alive, but it's evident here that he has numbers of his own that demand attention. He also has plenty to say on a variety of subjects, from romance to injustice, and with lyrics that swing from dancehall boasts to unity calls, Elan circles culture and matters of the heart with equal finesse and aplomb. Although not Jamaican -- he's California born and bred -- Elan is already a reggae force, but with his debut album he now strongly stamps his own imprimatur on the scene.

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