The Meditations

No More Friend

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At the time of No More Friend's release back in 1983, The Meditations referred to it as their dance album, although there's not a hint of the disco-fied rhythms so popular amongst the roots crowd of the day, never mind the harder hitting sounds emanating from the sound systems. In fact the title track, which kicks off the set with its soaring harmonies and breezy horns, conjures up the sumptuous sounds of the rocksteady age, while "Forcing Me" exposes rocksteady's own roots -- Motown soul, and here the trio's harmonies glisten. But still this is the Sixties' as seen through the prism of the Roots Radics, and so even at its most effervescent, Style Scott's beats still boom, as Errol "Flabba" Holt's heavy bass thrums along. On "Jack on Top," Holt's bass throb underpins the whole piece, which beautifully blends '70s roots and the trio's '60s soul vocal styling. From there Friend begins slipping ever deeper into roots territory and dub elements begin to feed through the numbers. "Book of History" is the set's fulcrum, pushing towards dread with its dubby mix, booming beats, haunting melancholy atmosphere, and the trio's soulful recalling of past suffering. Much effort obviously went into the sequencing of this album, which has a wonderfully organic ebb and flow. Beyond "Book of History," the set begins to imperceptibly lighten, "Carpenter Rebuild" features a brighter melody, but the heavily reverbed beats and the arrangement's dubby quality gives this cultural allegory a sharp edge. "Carpenter Rebuild" itself was rebuilt the following year, remixed and released as the lighter "Having Fun" 12" single. "Slick Chick," another hefty dubby number, moves the trio out of the cultural realm and into the kingdom of sexy girls. "Talk of the Town" boasts a sparse, heavily dubbed backing, but overhead, the trio are lightly tripping their way into trouble; indeed tongues will be wagging about the way the group are salivating over schoolgirls. No wonder then that everyone is heading to the "Big City," although the Meditations work hard to convince listeners of the greater charms of country living. Producer Linval Thompson and mixer Soldgie may not have created the ultimate dance album, but they did oversee a classic record, filled with stunning arrangements and fabulous performances from the trio, with the lighter numbers as lyrically eloquent as the cultural numbers. "Mother Love," for instance, is one of the most heartfelt appreciations of a mother's hopes and fears ever delivered. In the previous decade, most of Friend would have deservingly been served up as singles, only the title track and "Carpenter Rebuild" received their due, but the rest of the set was equally worthy.

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