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Courtney John - From Letters To Words

Courtney John - From Letters To Words

Courtney John - From Letters To Words

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A proper album from start to end.


Courtney John - From Letters To Words"Comfortable" is the way to describe Courtney John's fourth album 'From Letters To Words'. Previous effort 'Made In Jamaica' showcased a broad spectrum of styles from the Treasure Isle rocksteady of Lucky Man (which ended up being used in a major deodorant commercial) to the spooky electronica of Safer Place. 'From Letters To Words', whilst containing many of the elements of Jamaica, is far more unified and sticks broadly to the same mood and feel.

Lyrically, the "lovers rocksteady" singer generally stays with romantic themes. The Duke Reid rhythms are still in evidence with Love Is on the Melodians' You Dont' Need Me and Every Way on the Techniques You Don't Care both revived by Lloyd Campbell's Joe Fraser records. Again there are contributions from Sly and Robbie: with the roots-lovers of Run To You on their/BB Seaton's Something New/I Know Myself plus a cover of the Chi Lites Have You Seen Her. And again, Mr John mainly uses his distinctive falsetto but occasionally drops down to lower registers for the solo acoustic guitar of Cleopatra and the 70s troubadour approach of single It's Gonna Be Alright, co-produced with John's cousin and Beres Hammond's daughter The Wizard. She also helms the languid guitar-dripping opener Like Magic and closer Hey Jamaica, with deep voiced dancehall artiste Mr Lexx. Its thumping Bo Diddley style beat (himself a key player in rocksteady having sung the original to No No No) is wisely placed at the end of the set to avoid disrupting the flow.

Unlike 'Made In Jamaica', which felt like a compilation of Courtney's many moods - every track here is akin to the next. The 60s rhythms have a modern gloss (purist devotees of the originals might find them a tad too glossy)  while newer, more tailor-made, song-based material has an old-time sensibility. It all fits with the trend towards vintage sounds in Jamaican Reggae evinced by recent albums by Busy and Mr Vegas - a trend John could be said to have anticipated with his championing of pre-reggae as the mother of lovers rock. Staunch Courtney fans may well own a few of these tracks as singles but this is music that lends itself to longplaying format. And though there is no dominant piece like Lucky Man this points to the consistency of the record in general. Devoid of badman lyrics or banging beats - this carefully compiled project of new and familiar tunes is a proper album from start to end.

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