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On The Rocks
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  • This is the third album that the Wailing Souls cut with the Roots Radics, following Firehouse Rock and Inchpinchers. The first two were overseen by Junjo Lawes, On the Rocks the Souls produced themselves, and the result is an absolute delight. Stylistically the differences are slight, Lawes who currently ruled the sound systems preferred a heavier sound with the emphasis on Style Scott's slamming beats, the Souls are more egalitarian. This is particularly evident on "The Riddim of Life" and the righteously reasoned "What Is Your Meaning" where Errol "Flabba" Holt's throbbing bassline is the focus, and the allegorical "Ishen Tree" where saxophonist Dean Fraser and the brass section leads the parade.That latter number has plenty of kid appeal, as does "Don't Burn Baby," which sensibly suggest that if it's too hot in the kitchen, get out. "Stop Red Eye" is just as bouncy, and even more infectious, and Winston "Pipe" Matthew has a grand time rebuking the greedy shark within. The whole studio, meanwhile, revels in the title track, a sweet sing-along, awash in the Souls' most sparkling harmonies, and further fired by Fraser's smoking solos. The brass section are again showcased on the upbeat "The Gun," whose perky backing is counterpointed by the group's message, as they bemoan and condemn the proliferation of small arms on the island. Equally heartfelt is the devotional "Jah Is Watching You," deep roots swept along by the group's phenomenal three part harmonies. The sufferer's themed "Saga Trouble" is just as good, fueled by Holt's bubbling basslines, Style Scott's pendulum beats, and a dense arrangement that harkens back to the group's Channel One days. Which leaves "Sticky Stay" the odd song out. This recent hit was cut not with the Radics, but with Sly & Robbie, and is rocksteady slow and just as melodious, but rocksteady the experimental duo's way, as Robbie pays tribute to Jackie Mittoo while Sly fills the grooves with percussion and metronomic beats. If not quite hitting the heights of their Lawes' sets, Rocks comes close to scaling them, and remains a superb record. ~ Jo-Ann Greene
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