Horace Andy

Serious Times

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Although Horace Andy achieved significant success in his native Kingston, Jamaica during the height of the roots reggae era in the 1970s, he became an international star much more recently -- his cameo appearances on the Massive Attack albums Blue Lines and Protection brought him to worldwide attention, and he used that attention to basically pick up where he had left off, recording albums of old-school roots reggae (sometimes with a digital twist) for such labels as Tabou 1, Ariwa, Wackie's, and Melankolic. Serious Times finds him in the studio with musicians who share both his history and his predilection for roots-and-culture vibes -- drummer Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, keyboardist Lloyd "Obeah" Denton, and saxophonist Dean Fraser, among others -- and with the great German reggae producer Andreas "Brotherman" Christophersen behind the board. The result is exactly what you'd expect: songs with titles like "Rastafari," "Trodding," "Rumors of War," and "Love" set to crisp-yet-warm, rootsy-yet-modern reggae rhythms. Andy himself is still in fine voice, though his trademark stuttering vibrato is starting to sound a little bit like self-parody. He's at his best on the songs that tap most deeply into his spiritual faith: "So Real" is delivered with a calm and gentle confidence, while "Trodding" benefits from vintage-sounding production and tastefully dubwise production. "Rastafari" nicely recycles the classic "Armagideon Time" rhythm, but on "That Light" Andy squanders an excellent one-drop backing track on a sadly monotonous melody. Not every track is a highlight, but even the weaker entries on this album are good enough to warrant purchase by fans of modern roots reggae.

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