On this debut, young lion Joseph Israel proves a faithful student of classic spiritualized reggae. Judging from his supporting cast, he certainly should: His backing group The Jerusalem Band draws musicians from bands led by contemporary toaster Luciano and Ziggy Marley, Bob's son, and features legendary island guitarist Earl "Chinna Smith plus bassist Chris Meredith, producer for the Melody Makers.
This debut bubbles with reggae thick and bright. Israel sings lead and wrote or co-wrote every song, his music and words resounding with echoes of founding father Marley that are profound and inescapable. Listen to his plaintive lead vocal in the opening "Jerusalem and nearly hear whispers of "Exodus, feel the strength of a young man convicted and strong through his too-tough phrasing in the title track, or burn with his litany of the world's oppressed in "Hotta Fiyah. In this same cut, the female vocalists sway and rumble through a playful chart, testifying with soul like Rita Marley and the I-Threes. All together it creates a classic reggae sound.
A primary contributor to that sound, guitarist Smith works nimble and quick with hot leads in "Truth and rippling fills in the wishful "Jah Kingdom, exquisitely economic, playing no more than is necessary to advance the melody and rhythm, and no less (Smith still sounds, sort of, like the reggae equivalent of rock guitarist Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits).
Israel's lyrics and notes relentlessly explore the relationship between Jah and Yahweh ("Jah -weh) with detailed references to the Hebrew Old Testament and Christian New Testament. From "King of Kings, for example:
Jah so loved the world he gave his only begotten son
Revelation tells the story about the King of Glory
The tribulation that is at hand, the destruction of all nations...
But he mixes it up tough, too, driving home more aggressive rhythms in the title track and in "Truth, which wraps up in a knotty, rugged instrumental jam.
Gone was co-produced by Israel, Meredith, Smith and drummer Wilburn "Squidley Cole, and recorded at several of Jamaica's most famous studios, including Big Yard (a favorite of Shaggy's) and Bob Marley's preferred studio, Tuff Gong. Not bad for Israel's first time.
Personnel: "Squidley" Cole: drums; Chris Meredith: bass; Paul Crossdale: piano; Ozoune: keyboards; Paul "Scooby" Smith: organ; Earl "Chinna" Smith: lead guitar; Ian "Beezy" Coleman: rhythm guitar; Joseph Fennel: vocals; Erica Newell: harmony vocals; Rochelle Bradshaw: harmony vocals.