Anthony Joseph ‘Caribbean Roots’ LP/CD/DIG (Strut/Heavenly Sweetness) 4/5

anthony-josephAn intriguing pairing of labels re-emphasizing the cultural Entente Cordiale has afforded multi-layered performer Anthony Joseph the opportunity to produce an album that showcases various facets of his own Caribbean roots. Part poet, musician, novelist and academic to name but a few of his many talents, Joseph’s highly melodic delivery impresses on the mid-tempo groove of ‘Our history’, with a bass line the recalls Omar’s ‘There’s nothing like this’, and on the uptempo calypso-flavoured, ‘Slinger’. This is a pan-Caribbean voyage of musical roots and discovery that makes a compelling case for the proximity of African and Caribbean ties and features a multi-national band that includes youthful UK jazzers Shabaka Hutchings and Jason Yarde. There is something of a Last Poets and even Linton Kwesi Johnson feel to the rhythmic poetry meets dub of ‘Mano a mano’, and social commentary in Jamaican patois on the shuffling rhythm of ‘Neckbone’, that includes a lovely baritone saxophone solo. Mention at this juncture has to be made of the varied instrumental accompaniment which is simply excellent throughout and the use of fender and horns gives the project as a whole a timeless feel. For fans of fast-paced Afro Beat, the rasping semi-spoken voice of Joseph, here sounding akin to Edwin Starr, will appeal on ‘Jumping upon that bridge’, which has fast become a radio favourite. That said, the gentler and utterly melodic delivery on ‘Brother Davis (Yanvalou)’ really suits Joseph down to the ground, and gets across the message effectively with its use of soprano saxophone and steel drums. The musical cross-pollination continues on ‘The Kora’, with Shaftesque guitar licks intro, rapped dialogue and jazz-tinged horns. An old-time feel permeates ‘Powerful Peace’, with clarinet and a calypso riff on guitar. Arguably Anthony Joseph’s most accomplished and rounded albums to date and a fine undertaking either side of the Channel that is definitely of mutual benefit, the listener very much the winner. A real grower of an album.

Tim Stenhouse