Alborosie ‘Soul Pirate Acoustic’ (Geejam Music) 5/5

I have to make a confession here. Going back a few years when Alborosie was unleashing a stream of singles I was not totally convinced. Not sure why. Perhaps it was his Buju-esque baritone resonances or a trend in the first decade of the new millennium when European artists tried to outdo Jamaicans by in some ways claiming the best Reggae was coming out of Europe and not Jamaica. That last argument never really washed with me. After a few listens and spins though Alborosie totally grew on me, particularly after his 2nd solo LP ‘Escape from Babylon (2009) which as a sophomore work had some powerful songs on it. So going back to go forward Alborosie now unleashes an unblemished rendition of 9 of the songs from his first release called ‘Soul Pirate Acoustic’. It certainly is a different set although melodically the songs are all the same. The approach of much less machines and more a totally live vibe giving this release a different kind of ambience which works so well on many musical levels Folky, Ambient and of course Reggae. Throughout the release your mind kind of goes back to the originals as well but these totally stripped down versions in many ways sound like new arrangements/songs with a different kind of mystical urgency. ‘Herbalist’ for example with a complete Nyabingi aesthetic has a mournful quality which was lacking on the original version. The same applies to ‘Police’ and ‘Kingston Town’. Additionally the acoustic vibe allows the vocals to come so much more to the forefront in a more natural and intimate manner. Imagine being on top of the hills somewhere in Jamaica, with ‘firewood burning in the night’ (as Bob did say) musicians gathering with Alborosie completing the circle singing long into the night until sunrise. That’s how I picture this new release. As something more personal, Alborosie close up, hearing every vowel, every syllable, and every note.

It is a hard thing to totally re-interpolate these songs and I am not sure how hardened Albo fans will see it, having been weaned on big sounds made for huge sound systems. There is an ethereal-magical feel to this which although the original versions still remain totally banging tunes, here they are taken somewhere else, to if you like a quieter more intimate place . Personally I look forward to a summer sunset selection to play some of these songs by the shore – any one for Alborosie Chillout?

Haji Mike