Review: Alborosie – Freedom & Fyah

By Liam Monaghan

One of my favourite artists that ive had the pleasure of meeting in the UK is Alborosie. Not only an incredibly talented musician, but someone who has genuine love for history and culture. You only have to visit his social media or check videos on youtube to see the rare studio equipment he’s collected over the years including vintage keyboards and King Tubbys mixers. Having all these legendary instruments at his disposal, it was a matter of time before Alborosie was going to drop an album. Is it the right time? Yes. With Reggae music becoming more and more popular and should I say accepted by certain media outlets, Reggae is creeping its way to the masses.

Twenty years ago, Alborosie moved to Jamaica from Sicily and he’s had the time to study and craft the foundation of good Reggae/Dub music. The new Freedom & Fyah, album is 13-tracks and is all Alborosie’s work, bar one track ‘Carry on’ produced by band member and friend Winta James who’s responsible for some of the biggest Reggae tracks to come out in the last 2 years. Noticeable musicians appearing on the the album include Howard Foulds on sax and Hopeton Williams on trumpet. In interviews in the past, instead of sampling, Alborosie has explained why sample when you can recreate, so prepare for much of that on the album. The album was produced and recorded at his Shengen Studio in Kingston and has been released on the Shengen label whilst being pushed via VP Records.

The Prophecy feat. Rev. Rohan Treleven
This is the introduction to the album and I’ve seen some quite disappointing comments about this opener. Lets get one thing clear. It’s obviously not a song. It’s a reading delivered by Rev. Rohan Treleven and after further research I’ve read it’s a segment taken from Alborosie’s sons baptisim. So its clear that it’s a personal thing to Albo, Albums are personal so I accept you may just skip over it, but I’ve seen some shady comments that didn’t really need to be made.

Can’t Cool
So technically the first track on this album is Can’t Cool which is probably one of my favourite tracks of the year, its unbelievably catchy and having spoken to Alborosie about this album, it has been created to be sound system friendly whilst being radio friendly and accessible to all and the rest of the tracks on this album all tick those boxes. Albo discusses Rastafarism & Babylon.

Fly 420 feat. Sugus
When Alborosie appeared on Reggae Roots & Bass he explained to me who Sugus was and why she had been approached to feature on this track. Hes a a big fan and enjoys her voice and how she’s old school and authentic she is Sugus. You can’t really get more authentic than someone who shared a stage providing backing vocals for Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the main message in this track, Albo salutes weed and isn’t a fan of fertilizers but either way he’s a fan and the lyric “Me love me caliweed like a soundboy loves sound!” echoes throughout. Although we see the hard Dubstep like rock guitars blare throughout the record, it’s done well… I’ve been critical before about those sounds just being thrown in but this track is done well throughout.

Quite a few of the new tracks I’m hearing from various artists globally have mentioned Cry or Cry out in their music and there seems to be a pattern forming. Toke noticeably about the European Refugee crisis in his new album ‘Wake Up Inna Kingston’, Alborosie’s ‘Cry’ addresses Gun violence in Jamaica. Really like the riddim on this track, its simple, drum and bass which is supplied by Flabba Holt. Alborosie uses the hook ‘Cry for my people everyday” which rings throughout the track.

Strolling feat. Protoje
The track that was highly anticipated when the track list for the album was announced. Hot property Protoje links up with Alborosie for Strolling which discusses the Rastaman strolling into town or I’ve seen it described as an invasion of the Rastaman. Albo told me on Reggae Roots & Bass that he’s known for Protoje for many many years and they’ve tried to do a track together before but due to both having chaotic touring schedules finally they found the right time to release this track together. Its chilled with big bass lines and hits home about the sound system but radio friendly theme.

Rocky Road
One of the singles that was released before the album was Rocky Road and the response was great. Rocky Road is an educated journey of a track that really hits home “Yo! time is passing on s make the most of it! Alborosie discuses the challenges of growing up and breaks down the transition of things we admire and are interested in as we grow with age. The riddim is weighty but you can enjoy it whichever way you look at it, whether an insightful song with deep meaning, or an easy listening track you can have on in the background. I saw this performed live at Boomtown festival and it was a vibe to say the least.

As Tarrus Riley said on his remix of Iba Mahrs Diamond Sox “ Rasta… vanity?” This track is a heavy dub-wise riddim, which gives a bed to Alborosie telling us about fakers and egotistical people and posers in the industry all the way to posers in the street. Another single that was well received well as a single and the live element of this track makes a crowd move.

Something very different here compared to what we’ve heard so far, Dancehall Alborosie style. An aggressive riddim in which Alborosie discusses Judgement but delivers a weighty track. It would be interesting to hear someone like Suku of Ward21 on this riddim or even Mr Vegas.

Life To Me feat. Ky-Mani Marley
Upbeat and vibrant and a calm down from the previous track but we welcome Ky-Mani-Marley on this track. I’d class this as an appreciation song for someone. “ You are so beautiful, id watch you night and day” is the chorus in the track; Ky-Mani’s soothing voice works well in contrast to Albos.

‘Money don’t make you rich’ is the message in this track, “me no cherish no vanity” is one of the first lyrics in this track, it relates to earlier when I touched upon Rasta and vanity. Imagines of the famous Bob Marley interview where he gets asked the question on the lines of are you a rich man? A good reflective track from Albo.

Carry On feat. Sandy Smith
Love the horns in this track. Sandy Smiths vocals are great throughout the track. You must work hard and play hard rings throughout the track. Throughout this album there’s humour, seriousness and a range of different styles of riddims which makes the album play through so quick.

Everything feat. Roots Radics & Pupa Avril
As we near the end of the journey of Freedom & Fyah, Everything starts to ease us to a solid finish with the soft vocals of Pupa Avril and the track is supplied with the legendary Roots Radics with Style Scott featuring on Drums which makes this track extra special. A nice track with a catchy chorus and hook!

Zion Youth feat. Sugus
To finish the album we have Zion Youth featuring Sugus, A great way to finish the journey of Freedom & Fyah. Alborosie discusses zion youths which when Albo featured on Reggae Roots & Bass he explained that “if you listen to Reggae you were a Zion youth, for example I’m a Zion youth”. A nice chilled track to finish one of the best albums to grace us this year.

01. The Prophecy feat. Rev. Rohan Treleven
02. Can’t Cool
03. Fly 420 feat. Sugus
04. Cry
05. Strolling feat. Protoje
06. Rocky Road
07. Poser
08. Judgement
09. Life To Me feat. Ky-Mani Marley
10. Rich
11. Carry On feat. Sandy Smith
12. Everything feat. Roots Radics & Pupa Avril
13. Zion Youth feat. Sugus

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