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Marlene Johnson My Typ O' Smoove

Marlene Johnson My Typ O' Smoove

Marlene Johnson My Typ O' Smoove

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"I'm hip hop, I'm r'n'b, I'm Bee Bop, I'm country, I soul, I pop, I rap, I'm funky, I'm the sun, the light and the moon, I shine I bright, I'm A flower, I’m a child full of vibes" is the intro of Marlene's new album.


Marlene Johnson - My Typ O' SmooveMost reggae listeners outside Germany will have heard of Gentleman; plenty will know of Seeed or Dr Ring Ding. But not many will be aware of Marlene Johnson, the former backing vocalist from Frankfurt whose cool, detached yet sensuous singing style, simple, well fashioned songs, and clean but rootsy arrangements made her EP Runaway one of the most enjoyable low key pleasures of 2005.

Now she’s back with her first full length (mostly) reggae album My Typ O’ Smoove, produced and backed again by the Austrian House Of Riddim band, and it confirms this introspective yet quietly confident lady as a major new talent.

With the same key players involved most of the major components of the success of Runaway are still in place. Clean shiny production, tight playing, and straightforward catchy hooks abound across its 14 track selection. But Marlene has expanded her repertoire for public display; fusing integrationist politics with rasta ideology on second song 'Children Of Jah'; demonstrating she is a dab hand at dancehall mcee-ing on fourth track 'Over The Valley'; and being more open about both romance during 'I’m In Love', (on Rootdown’s sophomore I Love Rhythm) and sexual themes (on pop reggae singalong 'I’m Your Girl').

Once again special guests swarm around Marlene to assist with her work. Where on Runaway we heard collaborations with Jah Meek, Ward 21 and Tricky Chris, the number of contributions from all corners of the globe is immense. Most notable are vocals from JA named brands like Natty King ('I’m Your Girl') and Anthony Cruz (for soulful King Tubby Meets The Rockers inspired stepper 'Africa') - whose smoky baritones both contrast nicely with the dreamy drawl of the album’s hostess - but Fitta Warri, Poland’s Natural Dread Killaz, The Far East band’s Johanna Jaremo and the Oneness band’s Morry also make less prominent but vital appearances to name just a few.

Departures from reggae terra firma include some spoken monologues and an acoustic guitar ballad called U. Marlene also rides beatbox rhythms by Austrian mouth-music maestro Gerald Huber (on 'They Don’t Know' and a remix of 'Over The Valley') which are mercifully free of the sort of pyrotechnical gimmickry we tend to expect from the discipline, playing to the strengths of her Jamaican heritage and only once rapping US style, in a husky early 90s jazzy-hip-hop fashion.

So where Runaway hung on a few tent pole tracks ('We A Warrior' & 'We Here In particular') that towered over the less showy competence of the rest, as an album My Type O' Smoove spreads this quality across the whole set - despite not quite reaching the same individual heights. Hopefully now Ms Johnson can make the transition from Germany’s best kept secret to the international big time she so richly deserves.

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