Israel Vibration

Pay the Piper

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The departure of Albert Craig inevitably resulted in some soul searching amongst the two remaining members of Israel Vibration and a decision that some changes were in order. For the first time since signing to the RAS label, Israel Vibration now produced themselves without Doctor Dread's guiding hand. A trio of female backing vocalists are brought on board, while more veteran Jamaican sessionmen buttress the Roots Radics. The result is a huge sound that booms from the grooves. But this may be placing the cart before the horse; the more powerful sound may be merely a reflection of Pay the Piper's militancy. In the past, this has mostly been Lascelle Bulgin's preserve, and while Cecil Spence and Craig did stray in, the pair also offered up lighter-themed numbers. This album, though, boasts a stream of cultural numbers -- militant tracks following sufferer's songs following apocalyptic warnings. Out of the album's dozen songs, only one, "Surfin'," offers up light relief. However, they never engage in polemics, instead providing insight, food for thought, truths, and a hard look at the world, tempered by concern and spiritual devotion. And the pot is further sweetened with infectious melodies, hefty hooks, and the always intriguing arrangements. Some of the catchiest numbers are also the most militant -- the sweet '60s Jamaican pop styling of "Exploitation," with just a tinge of "La Bamba" around the melody line; the anthemic early roots sound of "Systematical Fraud"; the bright and bouncy ska of the title track; the moody "Pop Off"; and Spence toasting his way across "Nuttin' Nah Bruk." The rest of the album is just as strong, and there isn't a single track that isn't a standout. Amazingly enough, truncating the group to a duo seems to have brought out the best in them.

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