Marcia Griffiths ‘And friends ‘ 2CD (VP) 4/5

Jamaican chanteuse extraordinaire, Marcia Griffiths has become something of an elder statesperson (though still youthful looking) in the world of reggae since she has been performing at the top level since the 1960s, beginning at Studio One under Coxsone Dodd, then as a dynamite pairing with Bob Andy earning much deserved pop chart success in the UK, enjoying a critically acclaimed solo career and, if that was not enough, an integral member of the I-Three’s in Bob Marley’s band. Suffice it to say, Marcia Griffiths has a huge back catalogue on which to dip into for this series of duets with singers old and new. The early part of her career is covered by a quartet of numbers that emanated from that most prestigious of Jamaican labels and hit factories, Studio One. The classic riddims have been updated, but the essence has been retained and rightly so. Thus ‘Love is a treasure’ is performed with ‘Exco Levi with a remix version of offer and the horn phrasings are instantly recognisable on this superlative interpretation. A reprise of ‘Really together’, this time with Bunny Rugs. works a treat and is another album highlight while ‘I see love’ where Marcia is paired with Buju Banton features dub effects. Griffiths has always had an ear for a catchy melody and the opener to CD1 is just that with ‘Automatic (Keeping it real)’ being an obvious candidate for a single, possibly flipped by one of the aforementioned Studio One tributes. The singer also has a good ear for other performer’s songs and duets with the late Gregory Isaacs on an update of his epic ‘Number one’ with a lovely contrast in the pair’s vocal range. Of a trio of duets with soulful reggae superstar Beres Hammond, ‘Live on’ is the cream of the crop while country flavours are alluded to on a version of ‘Stand by your man’. Candi Staton recorded a memorable soulful take on this and Marcia Griffiths is clearly a devotee of soul singers. In a roots vein, the duet with Richie Stephens (sounding very Dennis Brownesque) on ‘A true’ is extremely strong and they should seriously consider working together on a larger project, so well do their voices blend together. Of course no musical set of duets would be complete without some reference to Marcia’s tenure with Bob and the I-Three’s and there is a fine roots take on ‘Loving Jah aka Forever loving you’ where the chanteuse hooks up with Tony Rebel.
Other collaborations, too numerous to mention, include singers of the calibre of John Holt, Freddie McGregor and there are some fine all-female pairings, most notably that with Queen Ifrica on ‘Round and round’. Expect this to stay on the hi-fi system for many a month. Tim Stenhouse

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