Album Review: Solo Banton – Old Raggamuffin

By Gerry McMahon

‘Hats off’ to Solo Banton and his long-time collaborator Reality Shock producer (and much more besides) Kris Kemist, on the release of their third studio album entitled ‘Old Raggamuffin’. After a 7-year hiatus, this is a quality product from the warm and amiable West London youth, who knows all about the importance of message music, as reflected in many of the tunes on this 12-track compilation.

The album’s title track kicks off proceedings, with horns and harmonies ably complementing Banton’s rapid-fire lyrical delivery, before Take Aim gives vent to his Rastafarian religious disposition. This is logically followed by Sleep Walking, where Banton’s consciousness comes to the fore – in line with the modern move toward mindfulness and the need to be constantly aware of where we are and what we’re doing. It then fits that the legendary Macka B should join Banton on vocals, making a strong case for education via music in the aptly titled Edutainment. Of course, as befits these artists, slackness and gangster themes are relegated in favour of message music. 

With wonderful vocals, percussion and organ inputs Drag Foot then makes the case for getting stuck in, underlining the effort: reward relationship. That is, if you want the fruits of life, you must sow the seeds, as they won’t fall into your lap without effort. Next up, set to a jaunty rhythm, Sabrina Bell’s vocals ably enable Transitions & Changes, which Banton has described as the most personal song he’s ever written, with a focus on learning from – instead of succumbing to – life’s (often harsh) lessons. 

Set to sweet brass sounds, the ever-popular Mikey General then arrives to warn that with Wickedness Trending we better keep an eye on Jah’s judgment day. Banton then has much to say about those minor matters that disturb our equanimity, in the aptly titled First World Problem. The importance of perspective, when vulnerable to cracking up about waiting times, faulty technology, etc. is emphasized here. So, stop your whinging and whining about what are really first world problems. You will quickly recognize Earl Sixteen’s dulcet tones on the ‘Universal Language’ of a music track, making the point that music transcends borders and dialects. 

Next up comes Akward, a track emphasizing the need to feel comfortable about expressing yourself, regardless of others’ sensitivities – in this case, Banton’s pride in being black. The penultimate track Smile Every Day underlines the case for smiles and laughs. Well said Solo – not alone is it good for your heart, but (being mortal) the day will dawn soon enough when we won’t be able to do that or indeed anything else! The set closes with the 5-minute Rolling Stone, recalling the pleasure of returning home, both in a physical and spiritual sense. 

All-round this is a fine piece of work from deejay stylee Banton, the multi-talented Kemist, et al. The vocals and messages are to the fore, with clever deployment of Amelia Harmony’s vocal embellishments, alongside trombone and trumpet trills, with sax, guitar and keys completing the package.

Produced by Kris Kemist
Recorded & Mixed at Reality Shock Studio
Mastered by Lewis Hopkin at Star Delta Audio

Backing Vocals by Amelia Harmony
Keys 1,2,3,6,8,11 by Christian Cowlin
Brass Section 1,3,5,7,8,11,12 by Cedric Munsch, Adam Webb & Jake Jacas
Bass 7 by Don Chandler, Bass 8 by Ross Erlam, Lead Guitar 9 by Patrick Williamson
All other instruments played by Kris Kemist.
Photography by Damian ‘Damalistik’ Albert & Alex ‘Sunshine’ Douglas.
Graphics by Ben LR

Release Date – October 2019