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I-ternal Fire by Capleton

I-ternal Fire by Capleton

I-ternal Fire by Capleton

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“The Fireman” turns soulful balladeer, confirming he is an all time great.


Since 2004’s 'Reign of Fire', there's been a case to be made for Capleton as the most important roots reggae deejay of the new century (Buju and Sizzla are lionised for what they represent but have been inconsistent by comparison). So after six years without a long-format release, Mr Bailey’s new "100% one-drop" album with VP needed to be an emphatic statement.

'Reign Of Fire' saw his transfer from incendiary dancehall preacher to gruff harbinger of rootical judgement. 'I-ternal Fire' continues in this vein but exhibits a mellower, almost soulful quality to his vocals. Primarily a chanter, Capleton does a lot more pure singing and at times his voice seems painfully unsuited to melody lines like those of the Selvin McCrae produced gushing serenade I Am In Love or the Norman Bryan helmed ballad Some Day. But while the effect is strange and incongruous it is not unsuccessful. And, when he deejays, he reminds us why he is one of reggae and all music’s unique voices; his sulphur and sandpaper tones honouring the tradition of growling yet compelling singers such as the bluesman Howling Wolf.

There’s an accompanying softer, smoother sound to the rhythms too; although Capleton’s scorched earth delivery supplies a rough edged counterpoint to the most cloying backings. However, even this strategy is abandoned for the profoundly touching James Peart production Mama You Strong – which he showcased on stage in 2009. Singing tender words of total filial devotion, his voice cloaked in studio trickery, the result is as anthemic a tribute as Thank You Mama by Sizzla back in 2002.

Yet as the album progresses the vintage ferocity increasingly makes itself felt. Call I turns up the heat with the frenzied invective of old. The very Reign Of Fire-ish Bobby Digital effort Global War calls out misbehaving world powers while the flamenco flavoured Them Get Corel warns “as I grow older I'm only getting bolder” and gives climate change an eschatological slant. Only All Is Well (on Frenchie's career-best Vineyard Town rhythm) featuring the line, “mistry Babylon, I don't need your approval”, perhaps hints at the controversy over past anti-gay lyrics that has disrupted his career abroad. If there’s a weakness to be found at all, it’s the absence of the Marlon Campbell production No Fold Hand, on the Meditation rhythm, which would have suited the mood to a tee.

Yes, the assimilation of the R&B balladry of modern one drop rhythms by Shane Brown and Flava McGregor will strike those who disliked Capleton's shift from hard dancehall as symptomatic of changes in reggae they fear. But a great artist shows a progression in their work without losing the spirit that first got our attention. Junior Kelly did this expertly with latest album 'Red Pond'. Capleton, in increasingly using his voice to move as well as incite, declaim or terrify, has gone even further. Capleton, then, is an all time great.

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Read comments (1)

Posted by Rasam on 06.18.2010
The time has come for rastas to know of one GOD, lets not confuse Selassie I to be GOD, he is just a walking like you and I.

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