The Wailing Souls


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By the time Tension was recorded in 1997, the Wailing Souls were down to a duo of Winston "Pipe" Matthews and Lloyd "Bread" McDonald. Having been through the major-label shredder for a couple of albums, which saw them veer off into what was ultimately an ill-advised pop direction, the duo turned to producer, singer, and arranger Freddie McGregor for what was to be a return to more classic Jamaican roots material. Recorded at Big Ship, Tension is one of the Souls' most unsung albums, and as a balancing act between their classic early Studio One sides and the electronic processing approach of contemporary reggae, it is darn near perfect. Three of their early successes are revisited here, with recuts of "Row Fisherman Row," "Fire Coal Man" (as "Mr. Fire Cole Man"), and "Back Out Wid It" retaining the roots feel of the originals while still incorporating some vintage 1990s dancehall tricks, in essence shining everything up for a new audience. The most striking track is the title tune, "Tension," offered in two versions, a full band treatment and a reprise done as an acoustic take with nyahbinghi overtones. "Tension" is a glorious and wise song, and the reverent versions offered here more than make this album worth owning.

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