Alborosie ‘Escape from Babylon’ (Greensleeves) 4/5

alborosieItalian reggae singer Alborosie was already a well-known singer in his native land having created group Reggae National Ticket fifteen years ago and sold over 200,00 copies of the group’s albums. However, he was not satisfied with this and instead decided to quit the band and instead move permanently to Jamaica. It was there that after intially struggling to continue his career that Alborosie became house engineer in Port Antonio, Portland and, after remixing music for the likes of Manu Chao and UB 40, finally started to refocus on his own singing career. Two 45s surfaced in 2008 and after touring in Europe an additional two singles were released. Fast forward to 2009 and this new album which pays homage to the golden roots era of the 1970s and the individual artists that inspired him such as Bob Marley and Burning Spear, and groups like Black Uhuru and Steel Pulse. In essence Alborosie’s style updates the modern roots and dancehall sound. His gruff vocal delivery is distinctive (and different from say Prince Far I) and occasionally he employs the sing-jay style as on ‘Real story’. Reworking the Horace Andy classic ‘Money’ with Andy sampled in the chorus, Alborosie lays down his own vocals to good effect here and in fact a Horace Andy soundalike voice features in the background to the thoroughly modern roots song ‘No cocaine’. In a more melodic vein, ‘One sound’ is one of the album’s highlights with Gramps of Morgan Heritage guesting on lead vocals while a rockers riddim predominates on ‘America’ which is another diatribe against the perceived vices of that nation, but different from Tikhen Jah Fakoly’s epochal ‘Tonton d’Amerique’. Ska flavours are present on the first single to be lifted, ‘Mama she don’t like you’, featuring female vocalist Ieye, and which with radio play could cross over. The riff-laden riddim of ‘I Rusalem’ and virtuous call on ‘Good woman’ attest to his Rastafarian beliefs. 
While this is unquestionably a roots recording, it is one that has plenty of appeal to a wider audience outside strictly reggae circles and there is not the slightest trace of an Italian accent in his vocals which just indicates how well-integrated Alborosie has become in Jamaica. A very promising debut for Greensleeves that bodes well for the future.

Tim Stenhouse