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Earl 16 meets Manasseh - Gold Dust

Earl 16 meets Manasseh - Gold Dust

Earl 16 meets Manasseh - Gold Dust

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A set of mellow, dubby niceness from start to end.


Earl 16 has been on stage since before the age of 16. His first tune came out in 1974 and 4 decades later the mellifluous Jamaican roots singer shows no signs of slowing down. This year he has already released the showcase LP Natty Farming which revisits his late 70s/early 80s acquaintance with Linval Thompson at Channel One - using drums from Linval’s old Maxfield Avenue sessions built over by Spanish producer Roberto Sanchez. And now 16 has another album with two of his longstanding collaborators from his home in England - engineer Nick Manasseh and Brighton’s Roots Garden Records.

16 and Manasseh go back over 20 years. In 2013 they issued the extended EP Walls of the City via 16’s own Merge Productions containing four of the vocals present here. Likewise the title track appeared on Roots Garden’s 2009 mini compilation Showcase EP part 2. But this is the Brighton imprint’s debut full length album, bolstered with a further 11 sung tracks of quality. Each inclusion flows into the next and the result feels like the culmination of a warm and close association.

Earl 16Roots Garden as their peaceable name suggests, bring out the more gentle side of Manasseh.
Still sound system ready in their drum and bass, these rhythms are gilded with Ciyo Brown’s unplugged guitar, Crispin Spry’s hand percussion and Soothsayers’ atmospheric, Moorish horns. Between Sixteen’s hushed, meditative voice and Nick’s velvet soft mix it is clear this project was a labour of love.

If you recall Manasseh’s transformative 1998 recut of Lord Creator’s Such Is Life with the singer Judith you’ll find similarly pleasing arrangements of well-known songs. There’s an all-acoustic cover Yabby You’s King Pharaoh Plague, and a remake of the Heptones and Harry Moodie’s Love Without Feeling featuring trombone from the great Studio 1 Sound Dimension hornsman Vin Gordon. Earl even reinterprets his own back catalogue with an update of his 1978 Lee Perry production Cheating.

Though Earl 16 might live in London he has fond memories of Jamaica. Gold Dust evokes a firefly surrounded walk in Sligoville. A Matter of Time is a gentle warning against wrongdoing that sets Earl, UK deejay Brother Culture and some psychedelic slide guitar to a trip hop beat.

Not all of these songs are strictly new but Gold Dust offers a more contemporary sounding Earl 16 than the superb Natty Farming. Taken as a whole, it's a set of mellow, dubby niceness from start to end.

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