Friday, November 5, 2010

'Distinguished Gentleman': A Review of "Teach Them Right" by Apple Gabriel

How exactly does one go about attaining respect and reverence in the scope of Reggae music? Popularity is something which I feel is far more arbitrary and can, at times, come down to a matter of simply ‘being in the right place at the right time’, but to actually earn someone’s RESPECT is something which is earned through a process and maintained through another. Of course, the add-on in that case, however, is that popularity in ANY case of music, has its peak and after that peak, things well begin to change. If we are to look at some of the most respected and revered names in Reggae music, I think the initial thought is to look at the elders. I do so avoid discussing Bob Marley, but in speaking of reverence in regards to Reggae, it’s fairly impossible to do so accurately and thoroughly without mentioning its clearly most revered name. Marley is most interesting because, as the face of the genre (even still), despite the fact that he’s physically been gone for nearly thirty years at this point, it almost seems like, occasionally, he’s still making ‘progress’. And there’re others such as Peter Tosh and, one which is extremely interesting, Garnet Silk, who just when spoken of are held in such a fantastic regard in Reggae music that it’s very difficult to ignore them, even casually, when dealing with the genre. In all of those cases, however, these artists (even Marley) can play no direct role in extending or diminishing their legacies. What gets REALLY interesting is when you begin to discuss similarly tenured artists who are not only still living, but still recording. Names like Burning Spear, Toots & The Maytals, Bunny Wailer and the always controversial (and far younger) Buju Banton come to mind in this instance as well established and downright LEGENDARY names in Reggae music, who still are (selectively in each case) active to some degree, well enjoying the fruits of their labour as musicians. Within that very same well esteemed group resides undeniably one of the most well regarded Reggae acts of all time, Israel Vibration. I’m pretty convinced that I could walk up to a person who, ostensibly, knows nothing at all about Reggae music and while they could probably name neither song, nor any member, nor distinguishing characteristic about the group, if I mentioned “Israel Vibration”, it would elicit some sort of response along the lines of ‘oh, don’t they play Reggae?’. EVERYTHING about the group, including its name, holds MASSIVE weight in the worldwide music community and just as a said, one of the greatest things about them, of course, is the fact that they’re still around and spreading their name to those who have still yet to hear of them.

They’re doing this as a unit and as the collective members of the group, at least in my opinion. As members, the one, obviously, sticking out is former member Albert Craig, bka Apple Gabriel. Gabriel remains well connected, in the general sense, to the legendary group in spite of the fact that he left it almost a decade and a half ago and has been out on his own as a solo artist from since then. His first BIG statement as such came wayyyyy back in the year 1999 with the well received ”Another Moses” from the once mighty RAS Records, but ever since then . . . Things had REALLY changed. The last time I’d heard about Apple Gabriel it was very unfortunate. He was reportedly living in the States and near destitute and seriously ill at the time. Obviously, also, he wasn’t making music and this is terrible for anyone, much less someone who is bonafide Reggae royalty (and this is also considering the fact that his former group was and remains pretty active and remains so in the international sense) and REIGNING Reggae royalty at that. It was just all very sad news and I’m sure so many people counted him out and did so, on so many levels. Well, hopefully so many of those “so many” will be downright overjoyed to know that they were wrong and that Apple Gabriel was, at the very least, on his way to returning to musical form and doing so under some of the most interesting set of circumstances. Earlier this year, an amalgam of a couple of labels from out of The Netherlands, JahSolidRock (a label with the greatest current slogan in all of Reggae music, ‘MUSIC FROM THE HIGHEST REGION’) and Not Easy At All Productions, formed to released what is still one of the year’s finest projects, ”Judgement Time” by Chezidek. The music that they made for the singer (from out of St. Ann!) was VERY HEAVY Roots Reggae music and a nice bit of the material I read on it (besides my own) centered on the fact that the vibes of the album were absolutely top notch. SO, how fitting would it be if such a unit helmed the return of Apple Gabriel to prominence - This once and potentially still DOMINANT figure of Roots Reggae music - back again over what he made his name on originally, hard hitting and no-nonsense music. That is exactly what is to be found on the first solo album from Apple Gabriel in more than a decade (!) ”Teach Them Right”. The album comes via the mentioned Dutch duo of labels and it is one which is pretty much a ‘can’t-miss’. If you have traditionally loved the music of Apple Gabriel and/or Israel Vibration, there’s almost no way in the world that you will not like this album. What it does is bring forth that same, tried and proven, methodology of making vibes and just dusts it off and pushes it again in this very new and refreshing way. Also, the album is going to provide more than just a few new fans the opportunity to catch on and see what the ‘fuss’ (for the past thirty years) has been about because it is very strong and hopefully it does pull in a great number of new fans. What said new fans will find on ”Teach Them Right” is pretty much a master at work as Apple Gabriel returns from such bad conditions to thrill us once again.

Besides himelf being one of the most distinguished of names we have in Reggae music, the singer also happens to have one of the most recognizable voices in the genre as well. So, despite the fact that I don’t consider myself to be amongst the most frenzied of Israel Vibration fans (and the artist seemingly has yet to have the opportunity to create such a fervent following for himself as a solo artist), I do admit that the very first drop on the album was a sound for sore ears for me. That first sound to be heard on ”Teach Them Right”, Apple Gabriel’s new album courtesy of Jahsolidrock and Not Easy At All Productions is a very nice opener and one of the album’s finest of moments, ‘Mr. Conman'. This tune is, effectively, a sufferer’s anthem, but it is one which aims itself at those who’ve cause the Sufferation in the first place.

“What goes around will come around
Same man you pass on your way up
Same man you pass on your way down”

Gabriel also goes on to make the connection with himself and empathizing with the situation of being impoverished and coming from his far and recent background, you know it’s a tune which strikes the singer on a very personal level. Next in is a tune in ‘No Equality’ which is absolutely STERLING to my ears. Building on some of the same concepts to be found in the opener, the song again speaks to the ‘powers that be’ who have created this oppressive and VIOLENT system which generates so much destabilization and unruly behaviour amongst the masses. I look at this song as one of the strongest lyrical efforts, first of all, on the album, but it just SOUNDS so nice and it isn’t very much of a ‘flaring’ tune, it’s very straight-forward and just goes about doing what it was obviously intended to do. The next tune to be found on ”Teach Them Right” is my absolute favourite track on the entire album, ‘In The Jungle’. I probably spun through this tune about twenty times or so before I realized that I was listening to something pretty special which would go on to provide what is, for me, the lasting sentiment of the album.

“Purify my soul, Oh Jah
Wash me clean and I will be clean
Purify my soul Oh Jah
Wash me clean and I will be clean”

That statement is made at the pinnacle of this OUTSTANDING song which grows to this moment, after speaking of so much corruption and hate and general negativity in the world - It seems like Apple Gabriel is ready to leave it all behind and wash his hands of it . . . Well so am I. MASSIVE!

One thing that really caught me by a nice surprise on ”Teach Them Right” (and thus doing what the title indicates, I suppose), is the very rich and a very varied nature of the lyrical direction of the album. The very first three selections, despite being similar in terms of where they ultimately go, take very unique steps to get there and the balance of the album covers a wide variety of subjectry. A tune whose words I HOPE gets a great amount of attention is ‘Give Them Love’, which finds Apple Gabriel throwing LOVE to all corners of the world.

“A new days has begun
Another battle to be won
Now the weak must be strong
Don‘t you fight the gays and the lesbians
Don’t you fight the church and the Christians
Give love for love to go to Zion”

I’m not going to go FULLY to the point of opening up that discussion, but for a subject which is and has been more than one in passing in our genre for the pass decade or so, here we have such a respected artist giving his uncategorized and unconditional thought on the subject (and I happen to agree with him by the way) so hopefully those who come constantly seeking the negatives will just as aggressively find the positives and celebrate Gabriel for it (and, incidentally, that tune has the same sublime riddim as Chezidek‘s tune ‘Live & Learn‘). There’s also ‘Gifted Ones’ which finds Gabriel conversing with and giving honours to some of the finest that music, as a whole, has to offer. It is probably the lyrical changeup of the album and it does very well.

The second half of tunes, while maybe lacking the star power of the first, is arguably just as interesting. Speaking of “interesting”, the riddim on the tune ’Hypocrites’ may be my favourite on the album (more on that in a minute) and the tune itself delivers a nice message, somewhat reminiscent of those of the opening batch of selections (the entire song is lovely). I had no good thoughts or high expectations at all going into the song ‘We Are The World’ because I was pretty sure that it was going to be just kind of slopped together clichés and well covered topics, but it wasn’t and the tune turns out to be a very nice surprise by its end. On the other hand, there was no surprise to be found on ‘Praise Jehovah’ - I figured it would do big things and it did! What I like here most is how the song has the face of being a praising tune, but it also makes a tangible connection, which is something that you don’t always see and it takes the song away from being one which only appeals to a certain few (who believe as you do) and turns it into something which EVERY decent person can follow.

“We’ve got to share this planet together
So why they fight and kill each other???”

The sweet natured ‘She’s My Comforter’ becomes the album’s love song. It is pretty much what you’d expect form such a tune from Apple Gabriel, but it isn’t harmful at all and actually has one of the better melodies here and the riddim really opens itself up (especially when the saxophone kicks in). Finally, Gabriel ends ”Teach Them Right” on another biblical note as he speaks of the ‘Tower of Babel’. Here is another tune which makes the increasingly NECESSARY connection of the spiritual and the tangible (“increasingly necessary” in my opinion, of course). A song really takes on an entire new meaning when an artist can make that leap and for someone with the experience of Apple Gabriel; it isn’t really a challenge at all.

SO! That’s it, nothing else! Just like ”Another Moses”, ”Teach Them Right” has ten vocal tracks . . . Oh! There are also seven dubs included as well, just as there were many on the ”Judgement Time” album (and apparently it is a practise which is going to be continued by the labels, from what I gather, and I like it). My favourite two, unsurprisingly, come from the tune ‘Hypocrites’ [‘Hypocrites Version’] which is a very powerful piece and definitely ‘In The Jungle’ [‘Jungle Version’]. But also be sure to have a listen to (all of them) the dynamic ‘Gifted Version’ as well as the ‘Holy Version’ from ‘Praise Jehovah’ (which I’m listening to now and is very very good).

Overall . . ., yeah! Like I said, this one pretty much couldn’t miss with its intended audience and after such people have come through the elation of having the first album from Apple Gabriel since the first number in their age (provided they have two digits) was one less than it is now (and probably the second one also). While I based this review on the concept of RESPECTED figures in Reggae music, what I found to be an interesting concept while going through the album is one which I’ve addressed before and it is the concept of NATURAL TALENTS. Despite all that Apple Gabriel has been through over the past decade, the fact that he can just kind of ‘appear’ and make such a powerful album is VERY interesting and it is one which certainly suggests that, through all of his bad times, he kept writing and singing music and perhaps it is at least part of the reason why he has achieved such a level of respect in his career as well. If it is so, Apple Gabriel and his talents are on FULL and VIBRANT display throughout ”Teach Them Right” and hopefully he doesn’t make us wait so long for a followup. Welcome back.

Rated: 4.45/5
Jahsolidrock/Not Easy At All Productions & Heartbeat
& Digital

Apple Gabriel @ Myspace

{Releases on November 15}


  1. Giving Thanks for this full-blooded and really uplifting review!

    nuff respect everytime

    Not Easy At All Productions

  2. Rastafari greegtings, apple gabriel is the best reggea

  3. Very thoughtful and articulate review. I came across this while searching for some more info on "Not Easy At All" and "JahSolidRock" after hearing Earl Sixteen's new album "Fittest Of The Fittest". Recognizing a riddim on that album lead me back to listening to Chezidek's album "Judgement Time" again. I then recognized a riddim from Apple Gabriel's album which I'd been digesting pretty heavy over the last few months. I had to tie the pieces together and find out who was behind all of this. Nuff respect to the crew out of The Netherlands for some of the best releases in years. And again a nod to Achis for a very insightful and well-thought review. -boomshot

  4. Thanks for reading my friend!