The Gladiators

Symbol of Reality

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On this superb set, the Gladiators revisit the past and take note of the present, while simultaneously looking to the future. First the past, and here once again the trio resurrects its classic "Natty Roots." They first cut this number for Studio One back in the early '70s, then re-recorded a fine version in 1977 for Prince Tony Robinson under the title "Dreadlocks the Time Is Now." And now it's back as "Streets of Gold" in its most sumptuous form to date, with the rich arrangement fleshed out by a fabulous brass section -- a masterpiece that keeps improving with time. Originally from 1970, "Watch Out" is given as equally sympathetic update, "Big Boo Boo Deh" returns as "Cheater," and there's an equally evocative retread of "Righteous Man," all three singles originally recorded for Coxsone Dodd years ago. But it's not just its own back catalog that the group is revisiting, but the Wailers' catalog as well. Over the years, the Gladiators have oftentimes paid homage to Jamaica's legendary group, and here they deliver up phenomenal covers of "Small Axe" and "Stand Alone." On to the present day, and the Gladiators offer up the dancehall-flavored "Bumping and Boring" and "Mister Goose," the latter magically blending dancehall rhythms with British beat-laced keyboards. But the band's future remains roots-bound, and the title track glories in the genre, keeping the atmosphere heavy through an appended dub. For a time it looked like the Gladiators had lost their final battle, but Symbol of Reality finds the group back in top form.

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