Ivory Coast reggae roots man Tiken Jah Fakoly has been endeavouring to break into the Anglophone market for a few years now and this all-English language project is firmly aimed at winning over reggae fans who might baulk at the idea of hearing roots reggae in French, or other languages than English. He covers a few classics along the way.
Of note is the attention to authentic roots reggae detail and here that means recording at Tuff Gong studios, Kingston, with Sly and Robbie providing the rock steady rhythm section and, among others, more top session musicians accompanying in Mikey Chung and Robbie Lyn. One of the strongest re-workings is a reggae take on Syl Johnson’s 1960s political anthem, ‘Is it because I’m black’, which back in the late 1970s Ken Boothe reworked to stunning effect. This time round the singer joins the leader here for a version that shifts up a gear from a gentle acoustic intro. Another guest, on this occasion Max Romeo, duets on his own original, ‘One step forward’, and this writer is especially fond of the subtle use of West African percussion and taken at a slightly slower tempo than the original. A reprise of Bob Marley’s ‘Get up stand up’ with Daddy U-Roy on toasting duties works a treat and Fakoly further sources the Marley back catalogue with a faithful interpretation of ‘Zimbabwe’. Elsewhere, Junior Byles’ epic ‘Fade away’ and Burning Spear’s ‘Slavery days’ are updated to good effect. Reggae from the African continent is not forgotten, however, and Tiken Jah Fakoly has a decent stab at another of his compatriots reggae anthems, Alpha Blondy’s 1980s classic, ‘Brigadier Sabari’. If Tiken Jah Fakoly does not score a hit with this album, there will be no excuses whatsoever for the English-speaking world of reggae. A solid homage to the roots era.