The Gladiators

Trench Town Mix Up

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The Gladiators' debut full-length, both at home and abroad, Trench Town Mix Up not only met all expectations, but far outstripped them. Although the group was composed of adept musicians, the likes of bassist Lloyd Parks and drummer Sly Dunbar were brought in to assist, adding further gloss to the group's already-stellar sound. Producer Prince Tony Robinson showcased the trio and their songs to the very best advantage and picked wisely amongst the possible inclusions to create the most sumptuous of sets that really did offer something for everyone. For the international set there were two fine Wailers covers to highlight the similarities between lead singer Albert Griffiths' vocals and Bob Marley's own. "Soul Rebel" is, if anything, heavier than the original, while "Rude Boy Ska" is even more militant, yet still awash in gorgeous melody and the trio's lovely harmonies.

Jamaicans were equally impressed by the group's updates of two of the Gladiators' own songs, including a new version of their smash 1968 debut "Hello Carol" and "Bongo Red," recut in scorching, militant style as "Mix Up." But if those impressed, the new numbers overwhelmed. The most fiercesome was "Hearsay," a vehement assault on gossips; "Chatty Chatty Mouth" contrarily rounds not on rumor-mongerers but boasters; however, the Gladiators take satisfaction that Jah will give him and his ilk their come-uppance. The flowery keyboards imbue "Chatty" with a Studio One aura, although this is a new number, while equally delectable is the exhilarating "Eli Eli," a bouncy unity number. Elsewhere, "Looks Is Deceiving" talks in parables, as Albert Griffiths brilliantly reinvents a series of old adages. The rest of the album comprises a trio of masterful cultural numbers. "Thief in the Night" harkens back to the early days of reggae, with its strident beats and aggressive riffs, its theme an equally vigorous warning of Jah's wrath. When the band began work on this album, many believed that man's final days were nearing, be it Armageddon itself or civil war, and "Know Yourself Mankind" gives voice to the seething turmoil of the time, while "Bellyfull" reflects the suffering and unsettled conditions causing turmoil in the ghettos. Throughout this set the musicianship is superb, the vocals fabulous, the arrangements sublime, while the songs are filled variously with rich atmospheres, fierce rhythms, sweet melodies, or easygoing riffs as required. Everything about this set is masterful, and it remains a classic, one that Gladiators fans have consistently returned to over the years.

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