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Ghetto Living by Linval Thompson

Ghetto Living by Linval Thompson

Ghetto Living by Linval Thompson

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A welcome return for a classic roots sound


Linval Thompson is back with a brand new release on his Thompson Sound label, his first full album in over 10 years. One of the great roots producers from the 70s and 80s, this album finds him in fine voice, with the production values characteristic of his style. Since the seminal album ‘Don’t Cut Off Your Dreadlocks’ (also released as ‘Cool Down’), produced by Bunny Lee, Linval Thompson has had a deserved reputation as one of reggae’s legendary artists. Unusually, he has successfully straddled different generational changes within reggae, confidently leaving the 1970s behind with his productions for Barrington Levy and the renowned Roots Radics rhythms for Eek a Mouse.

Linval Thompson - Ghetto LivingOn this new album there are strong songs with clear production around straightforward rhythm tracks devoid of studio over-production. Recorded at Harry J Studios in Kingston, the album has a live and immediate feel. With writing help from his young son, there is musical assistance from France, Jamaica and Canada and this all adds up to a strong combination.

The set opens with Natty Africa, the typical organ sound of early Linval Thompson productions making itself known, with instruments dropping in and out to highlight his gentle vocals. Free Marijuana, followed by a separate dub, alludes to his problems of consumption within the olfactory range of inquisitive neighbours (referencing a favourite theme to be found long ago in I Love Marijuana, 1978).

The single release, Bad Boys (featuring Warrior King) is a particularly strong track. Although not especially typically of the album as a whole – it has a more contemporary feel – its crisp production and sharp vocal, leading into a lengthy instrumental version, is effective. Roots Princess is a standout song, a strong echo-laden workout in the best tradition, followed by a dub version which powers the rhythm along with most of the instrumentation far back in the mix.

Jah Jah is My Father is a powerful devotional song, reflecting the spiritual inspiration behind the album and Linval Thompson’s songs generally, while Empress has some mightily unusual vocals behind a familiar rhythm.

This is a welcome return, and a strong album: due to be touring Europe in February and March, there may even be the rare chance to catch this live.

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