By Liam Monaghan
The 5th album has arrived from Saint Lucian artist Taj Weekes, and interesting it is. We’ve seen Reggae music recently become even more political and religious with various social campaigns around the globe becoming dominant stories in the news. Interestingly enough Taj identifies that there has been an issue with borderline hate speech in regards to being homophobic and has made efforts in this album to rectify or at least start the change of that attitude.
Many Reggae artists have been daring this year with trying out new sounds styles and genre fusions for example the ‘dub step’ influence in the ‘Light It Up’ track from Morgan Heritage. Taj has pushed his boundaries further to introduce new horn lines and structures to the records making the album continuously fresh.
To kick off the album we start with ‘Let Your Voice’. An experimental riddim, consisting of a 70’s cop show style guitar wowing and picking, wood sounding drumming and a dub tempo allowing the concentration to be focused on the lyrics. A distinguishable voice captures your attention in this song, as it’s intriguing.
The ringing of a cash register and the jangling of chains pretty much set the tone of what this record is about, in two words, financial hardship. ‘Life in The Red’ is an original roots reggae sounding record. Short bursts of harmonies. In a world where money is king, you’ll find poverty at the end of your street regardless if you reside in a third world or first world country.
Nice introduction of a trombone to this record but follows on the basic sound of a Reggae track, not much going on musically, vocally and lyrically focused again. A solid song with a solid message in ‘Full Sight’
‘Giant Beast’ is built on a basic Reggae riddim that has been consistent through the album; I like the horn lines particularly in this record as they bring life into the track and the album. I think this is a song that would be well received with a great live element. The track is based on the fall of ‘babylon’.
‘Love Herb & Reggae’ is the title track from the album. Rasta roots in a Nyabinghi style drumming session are the foundation of this record. Harmonies ring out which is a nice touch. It’s a simple song with a positive meaning, again a treat for a live performance.
Gun crime is still an issue and with the American political race to the white house in full swing, the topic of guns has appeared in the global press a fair amount, it was inevitable that a social issues commentator such as Taj would cover the topic ‘Bullet For A Gun’ covers the issue
A more upbeat take on previous riddims on this album, ‘Mediocrity’, we see the elements of horn lines and harmonies return. I steady track taking us through the journey of the album.
Dramatic entry in this song with splashes of drums and a guitar wailing in the background which continues to wander plucking throughout setting an airy feel about this record. ‘Rebels To The Street’ is a stronger record on the album with more factors engrossing you into singing/humming along.
‘The Laws’ basically discusses the laws against Marijuana and how Marijuana has done less damage than the laws in place against Marijuana. More of a protest song from Taj, the riddim is vibrant and more uplifting from previous tracks on the album but the message is clear and Taj’s soft voice chants the verse repetitively.
‘Was It You’ goes back to the roots, and Taj expresses the fondness of love and welcoming a persona into his life. A simple gratitude record but great guitar picking and drum arrangement keeps the riddim moving. Taj paints us a picture using lyrics, which throughout the album he does well.
‘Here I Stand’ probably my favourite track of the album, I’ve played this on Reggae Roots & Bass for the last 2 weeks also. I like the abrupt Latin style Paso Doble riddim that brings new life to the album! I wish Taj would push the boundaries into new sounds and be more experimental as the gift of his voice could stretch much further.
‘St Lucia On My Mind’ closes the Album In the same way it started with a stripped back rootsy riddim with harmonies and guitars wailing in the background. You can hear a little bongo or African style drumming which is a nice introduction.
As a conclusion I find this an Interesting album, some people may say the riddims are all very similar and have the same structures and could be diverse. The messages are clear within the records and Taj possesses such a unique voice it would be great to hear some dubbing of his tracks and see the boundaries pushed into new musical territory, as described on Taj’s website, the Adowa band is made up of ‘eclectic styles and tastes of its members ensure a freshness and inventiveness to Adowa’s arrangements’. You can’t deny the arrangements have been altered but some tracks could have been more varied. Taj has great accolades such as “UNICEF Champion for Children” and runs his children’s charity, They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO) so hopefully this album gives the platform for him to carry on his great work globally.
Taj Weekes & Adowa – Love Herb & Reggae
℗ Jatta Records / VPAL Music
Released: February 12, 2016