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Free Us Now By Gideon Jah Rubbaal

Free Us Now By Gideon Jah Rubbaal

Free Us Now By Gideon Jah Rubbaal

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A welcome reissue for an uncompromising roots artist


Usually CD reissues of vinyl rarities draw howls of resentment from certain quarters. Original singles by Gideon “Jah Rubbaal” Bolton, however, are so hard to find that almost everyone should be pleased with their release. (The first track Love Rasta has surfaced from time to time, but in some cases sounded warped or off centre). Thanks are due then to Rubbaal and distributor Reggae Retro for giving us a rounded picture of one of the lesser known, less worldly Rasta men: from an era where the more numinous face of Jamaican spirituality collided with popular music forms as never before.

All tracks on 'Free Us Now' were recorded between 1975 and 1979 at Channel One, rhythms courtesy of the Revolutionaries. For the most part they feature Gideon’s guileless unsweetened voice and typically Rasta lyrical themes amid hand drums, flexatone, wobbly organs and Vin Gordon’s soft trombone. Love Rasta talks of the quest for spiritual growth and self-determination; Judgeman Time suggests some far-fetched hiding places for the wicked when the time of reckoning arrives; and Share The Wealth scorns the material life with the question “what’s the fuss about?”

Yet 'Free Us Now' also contains departures from this wailing mystical type of roots (where tunefulness and artifice take a back seat to conviction and belief). Take These Chains & Shackles Off Our Feet (its gospel structure reminiscent of the early roots songs of Max Romeo) and Natty Dread Rush (a 1998 revoice of an old rhythm paying tribute to the rise – and perks - of the dreadlocked look) reveal Rubbaal’s more melodic side. There is also a nice dual harmony lead vocal to Rich Man, its positive chords contrasting with a menacing lyric “Rich man don’t walk in the ghetto” which sounds as much warning as statement of fact.

As well as the production run CD, a limited edition version with different artwork is available from the Reggae Retro website. But whichever you choose, 'Free Us Now' is an intriguing example of the bread and butter roots music of the seventies, whose influence is still felt in the UK dub styles of today.

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