Israel Vibration

Strength of My Life

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What a difference a few years can make. Fleeing Jamaica in 1982 to escape dancehall fever, then floundering on the seemingly indifferent shores of the States, Israel Vibrations split up, and slipped from view. The trio re-formed in 1987, signed to the RAS label, then set to work on a new album, their first since the Why You So Craven fiasco back in 1981. Self-produced with the assistance of Doctor Dread, and backed by the mighty Roots Radics, the Vibes don't so much return to form as find a new strength and power. Strength of My Life is aptly titled, and while the strength they refer to is the power of Jah, the album also makes plain the strength of their music, their beliefs, and, most of all, the strength of the trio's relationship. For there is strength in numbers, and the threesome perfectly complement each other. And the Radics perfectly complement their songs. Laying down fat rhythms, over which they conjure up a wide spectrum of moods, every track has its own unique style. From the bright and breezy "Cool and Calm" to the moody "Live and Give," to the genre-bending epic title track, the Radics create a masterful backdrop. Every song has something special to offer -- Augustus Pablo's melodica on "Greedy Dog," the infectious pop leaning of "Perfect Love and Understanding," Dwight Pinkney's evocative guitar on "Jah Love Me." The Vibes themselves seem to have been liberated from previous limitations, and there's a newfound well of vocal strength, and their performances are magnificent throughout. Across heartfelt religious numbers, social commentary, and onto more personal concerns, the songs all ring with conviction. It's as if the Vibes had wiped the slate clean and started anew. As a debut album, this would be a masterpiece, but as the trio already accomplished that with The Same Song, it makes this set even more awe-inspiring.

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