Linton Kwesi Johnson

Tings An' Times

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Linton Kwesi Johnson is not only one of the top reggae artists in England (historically, the genre's strongest market next to Jamaica) -- he's also one of the leaders of dub poetry, a style that could be described as part singing and part rapping. Though "dub poets" like Johnson, Mutabaruka and Sister Carol do parallel dubwise and dancehall artists in some areas (such as their heavy use of the patois dialect), the style has a personality all its own. Although it falls short of the excellence of some of the albums he recorded in the 1980s, Tings An' Times is heartfelt and satisfying. Never one to cater to pop sensibilities, Johnson is uncompromising and angrily socio-political. Uniting African-style singing and chanting with elements of rock, jazz, and soul, this album is a fascinating listen that will remind westerners of the progressive American music of the '60s and early '70s. But his outlook is intensely African, and his socio-political lyrics (some in English, some in an African language) are a passionate call for democracy in Africa, where repressive Nigerian regimes regularly attacked him. (In fact, many of these recordings were made not long before a military regime in Nigeria sentenced Johnson's fellow African music pioneer Fela Kuti to five years in prison on a questionable smuggling charge, only two of which he served.) This is music that, for all its spontaneity, has a definite sense of purpose.

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