Friday, May 13, 2011

'Close To Center': A Review of "The Truth Shall Be Told" by Zacheous Jackson

There will come a point in the respective careers of just about every young artist when one has to not only score with the big hits which will ultimately attract the attention of the masses, but to generally begin to distinguish themselves from their peers in the music. Be it through their lyrics, the style, their image or (hopefully) their actual talent, something will likely have to set themselves apart from the pack in order to get that necessary attention from fans as well as to (again, hopefully), have any chance at having a lasting presence, of any kind, in the music. In Reggae music, this is true as well, but I find that when we specifically deal with Roots music, things are slightly different because doing something which is going too far away from the norm is something which is often frowned upon, as opposed to the raging ‘Carnival Du Ridiculous’ which is the Dancehall. In Roots Reggae, oddly enough, an artist can, sometimes, have even more successes when they stick closer to the tried and proven methods of old and, because of this in my opinion, it’s very important that Roots Reggae artists at or even near the highest level, whether they exhibit it consistently in their music or not, are at least capable of displaying that they comprehend the most basic principles and ’tenets’ of this wonderful genre. Roots Reggae, still today, is very much a culturally, spiritually and socially aware type of music which is meant to EDUCATE & INFORM (more on that later), uplift AND entertain its listeners. Now watch this: In Roots music, while it is still very important for an artist to be able to individualize themselves and to continue to do so, taking these most basic and ubiquitous premises of the music and sharpening them and perhaps even mastering them can be how someone makes a name for themselves. The audience of those seeking the proverbial ‘strictly Roots’, globally, is the largest that Reggae has (evident by both the number of tours and albums you see coming from providers of that form compared to those in the Dancehall and other forms) - So feeding this very heavy Reggae starved group is something which can keep you around for a very long and fruitful time - Having successes and actually getting your musical messages out to those who need it. For an example, I’ll use a favourite of mine in Lutan Fyah. Now WELL into his distinguished career, we pretty much know what the Fyah is all about, musically and while he surely has a bit of an unusual skill - Lyrically he is nearly in a class of his own - His music, on the large scale, is very USUAL. He doesn’t have to step very far outside of his comfort-zone to make winning music. Luciano, Bushman, Junior Kelly and several others are also great examples of artists who need not BE unusual to make music at an unusually high level and the name we find ourselves confronted with today is another who has obviously gone about accentuating the basics to get us looking and listening in his direction - Zacheous Jackson.

Album Sampler

Prior to late last year or so, I hadn’t even heard Jackson’s name and even when I did; it wasn’t anything which stuck with me. So, it was somewhat of a surprise when I saw his name on the quite recent Step By Step Riddim from the Hawaiian based, Rumble Rock Recordz, which made me remember having seen his name before from . . . somewhere. Oh! I had noticed his name while flipping through endless pages of album releases. One of which would have been ”The Truth Shall Be Told”, a full length album from none other than Rumble Rock Recordz (small world), but other than that, I knew nothing of the man. Well, as it turns out, Jackson, who makes type of music which emphasizes many of the foundational ideas of Roots Reggae music, and does so quite nicely, is originally from a place which, at least until very recently (with the arrival of wonderful names such as Gappy Ranks and Mr. Williamz), is very well known for producing these types - England! His family is from Jamaica, where he reportedly fell in love with Reggae music and that makes his journey to us quite remarkable - Taking a very different course, especially fro someone from the UK. Somewhere, located in the most simple recesses of my mind, I was already noting that ‘Zacheous’ sounded like ‘Nereus’, as in the WICKED UK based St. Lucian born singer and Achis Reggae favourite, Nereus Joseph. Little did I know they had even more than the vague phonetic name similarities in common. I could also mention the likes of another of my favourites, Lloyd Brown, and even the recent Adele Harley as examples of UK artists who, although remarkable in some instances, don’t tend to step away from the music, itself, to distinguish themselves within it.

Zacheous Jackson

As for Zacheous Jackson, in particular, what I heard when I really began to dive into his music was another artist who, while certainly not someone who’d draw adjectives out of me such as ‘dynamic’ and the likes (at least not ostensibly and hopefully I’ll come back to that), did strike me as being very INTELLIGENT and SOLID and there is skill and uniqueness in both of those. More importantly, if we are speaking in tangible abilities, Jackson proves that his sharpest quality is definitely his pen. He’s a very impressive lyricist and after a few more tunes I even began to draw comparisons from him to not only Nereus Joseph again, but another artist who once performed Roots music which came through in its most traditional form (and another with Western Jamaican ties, as Jackson does, as well), the legendary Peter Broggs. Take that and combine it with the vocal approach of something slightly similar to what you’d hear from a Horace Andy or a Bim Sherman and I’m interested and listening through ”The Truth Shall Be Told”, it was, basically, exactly what I was expecting. Let’s have a listen.

In terms of the subjectry that you’ll find on the album, to get things started Zacheous Jackson appears to be right out of the Pan-African line of thinking which, for someone who has obviously traveled as much as he has, isn’t very much of a surprise, but it is a very welcome addition when listening to his music - That so much of his philosophies fall within this frame of thought. The prime examples of this would be, fittingly, the three opening selections of ”The Truth Shall Be Told”, the debut album from Zacheous Jackson for Rumble Rock Recordz, ’400 Years’, ’Fi Wi Holocaust’ and ‘The Truth Shall Be Told‘. This trio of tunes examine different portions of the same prevailing topic, the Afrikan Disapora. What I found quite interesting between the three is how increasingly spiritual they become. The opener is a tune which drives up DIRECTLY to the doorstep of the oppressors of people of Afrikan descent.

“Dem no waan you fi know
Di truth of who, you really are
Dem waan you fi ‘tan inna ignorance
Fight one another inna war
From di truth and di light, dem waan you fi stay -
Mi seh, well far
From the knowledge of who you are -
Dem waan you fi be a stranger”

‘Fi Wi Holocaust’ gets more to the spiritual point (obviously, when you began to use words like “holocaust”), but it speaks more to the actual journey from HOME to slavery throughout the world. This one is a MIGHTY tune and, in my opinion, the best of the three. The nature of the tune is to deal with the refusal to acknowledge this journey in terms of “holocaust” - Which is a notion that I’ve heard previously, but while I can’t say that I’m completely SHOCKED to hear it in a Reggae song, I can very confidently say that I’ve NEVER heard it in any type of a song to date. Well done. The title track is even more spiritual, but one in a tangible spectrum and, at least to my opinion, it goes back to the first two tracks because what it is saying is that this journey, so unfortunately, has covered up and distracted so many people from the truth. The tune also has this kind of a BIG sound and is one of the more sonically pleasing on the entire album. In full, the first lot of tunes here s very revealing and, as I alluded to earlier, very informative and educational as well. And somewhere the Great Aimé Césaire are WELL impressed. You will be as well.

'Conscious Music'

Were there any questions (and there shouldn’t be), Jackson is sure to make known his musical intentions to all who will listen to this album.

“Mi no inna di gun-carrying lyrics
Writing - No
Mi no inna di gun-shooting
Lyrics writing - No
Mi no inna di lyrics about skull boring
Mi no inna di lyrics about, marrow flying”

This tune, ‘Conscious Music’, at least in my overactive opinion, has a pretty large social significance, because it seems worthless to make it without it. Besides just saying that this is the type of music he makes, Jackson is also saying that he makes it for the purpose of not burdening society with negativity and burdening young people with it, in particular and it is a concept which he, directly and indirectly, refers back to throughout the album and one which he also places into practise sixteen times (no exceptions). To my opinion, the greatest exhibition of ‘conscious music’ on ”The Truth Shall Be Told” album is the LOVELY tune which comes through at song number four, ‘Hold On’. Ostensibly, this is the type of ‘holding firm’ tune that we’ve heard dozens and dozens of time before, but this one has something special to it - A bit of star quality - to my ears. It’s also just a very full sounding vibes and within that is something which draws the listener further and further into the message. I lead a line unswervingly connecting the message of that big tune to that of another big tune which ultimately closes the album, ‘Nah Go Get Weary’, which builds on the previous tune by adding a large spiritual element to it. Somewhere in here I began to make the connection of the ‘Luciano v. Bushman’ style of writing within one artist in Zacheous Jackson. Previously people would remark on just how much the two singers sounded like one another, but they’re totally different as writers. Bushman makes very tangible and real-world type of anthems, as opposed to Luciano who seems to musically teleport his listeners into the presence of The Almighty. Jackson does both (and sometimes does them both on the same song, and on the same verse of the same song), which is very impressive at its best.

I also, through the messages of the tunes, ‘paired-off’ both ‘They Are’ and ‘Politician’ which are songs speaking to world leaders/oppressors and their mis-actions which are hurting the world. The first of these is pretty decent and after a while it REALLY picks up nicely, the latter is just a great song in every way and listening to it with a friend of mine, he and I both seemed to remark at the same time, how nice it would have been had Jackson made the tune a combination with a fiery chanter, because the song is so nice and just a bit of added blaze would have taken it to an even higher place. The tune which precedes ‘Politician’ on the album, ‘Tribulation’, is another decent set and one which goes in a slightly different course to make a similar point. Jackson speaks on the troubles that he, himself, goes through living in England and what he’s experienced in his lifetime being who he is and being where he’s from. It’s a very relatable tune and one which he presents in a very straight forward manner. Jackson keeps it very straight forward and undeviating throughout, although the one minor musical detour he does take, ‘Better Dayz’ proves to be one of the album’s genuine highlights. The song has R&B type of stylings at work on it, but it’s very much of a Reggae-centric type of song, in terms of the message and, just for the changing of the vibes, I was very pleased to hear it and have my head knocking on what is likely the most ENTERTAINING tune on the album, which also features Jackson going the Spoken Word route in the song’s latter stages which is a real winning point and not the only time we hear it done on the album.

'Will My People Ever'

Of the remaining tunes on ”The Truth Shall Be Told”, ‘Will My People Ever’ is probably my favourite, even though I’m going to critique it shortly. The premise of this song is very interesting because along with offering the refrain of:

“Will my people ever rise?
Will they ever truly be free
Will dem overcome dis yah bondage -
Bondage of mental slavery”

It also offers examples of exactly what Jackson means. He speaks about people bleaching their skin and raising their children carelessly, which seems to suggest this RIPE topic of self-oppression and self-imposed slavery in some respects and you may not completely agree with Jackson, but his methodology in composing this track is to be well respected. ‘Far Away’ has a similar vibes to it but . . . That’s right - It’s a song with a more spiritual incline to it. Here, Jackson expounds on poor actions of the people and the lack of EDUCATION (and other things - “Remember that deh letter by di one dutty Willie Lynch, he. Well nuff a wi still living the Willie Lynch reality”) being examples of things which are moving us “far away” from the ideal situation that The Almighty had in mind for us. ‘Murder Eena Di City’ has a different sound on this social commentary which follows a pretty impressive set geared, again, towards bringing up children in a more careful process, 'Fi Wi Yute Dem', which seems to be a very crucial element in Jackson’s writing. And finally is a very strong pair of tunes in ‘Come Away’ and ‘Day Of Yah’, both of which, arguably, are two of the album’s standout tracks. Personally, I found the former to be a mighty tune with its LARGE and pronounced vibes and Jackson imploring the masses to ‘come away’ from negativity and to come towards righteousness. The former - I’m still working with just a little, but it too is nice as Jackson warns all who’re living in a foul way to correct their ways because the ultimate correction awaits.

Looking at ”The Truth Shall Be Told”, as a whole, two things stand out in opposite directions. The first is the good - Despite the fact that I’ve kind of set the premise of the review as someone exceeding within doing the basic pieces of Roots Reggae music (and I still stand by that, clearly), the album very much has an identity of its own and that, in fact, is another part of that skill. If I can succeed doing what is expected of them, that’s pretty special and with Jackson‘s quick wit and sharp pen, it helps his cause even more. The bad - As I alluded to it (or at least I think I did), my only real critique of this album is a sonic one. On a few of the tunes, including ‘Will My People Ever’, there seems to be some type of disconnect between the vocals and the riddim. Ideally one would want a song where the two entities seem to MELT into one another so perfectly that you have a hard time imagining that riddim for another song and those lyrics for another riddim, but at times here, it appears as if there was a difficult time ‘marrying’ the two and I don’t know if that is a product of Jackson’s somewhat unusual vocal style or something else (maybe I’m just imagining it), but it’s what I hear, mainly in the middle portion. Oh, and it should be said that the artist is WELL supplied with some excellent compositions in general.

Overall, what we have here is a very solid Roots set from Zacheous Jackson. I can recommend it, but I’m only going to say to very heavy fans of Reggae music. If for some reason you are a newer fan and are considering picking this one up, you can do so, but I think it may be a while for you before you can REALLY enjoy it and come into the ‘fullness’ of the music as well. When such a time does happen for you (or if you’re already an experienced fan - likely if you’re reading a review like this one), what you’ll find is not only an artist who works wonders within the primary ‘confines’ of Reggae music, but someone who you kind of feel is capable of even more. I’d like to hear Jackson turn up the heat just a small amount on a future release and I also hope that he falls more into the ‘regular’ rotation of UK artists in terms of recording more and more. Until that time, however, we’ll have this fine introduction in ”The Truth Shall Be Told”.

Rated: 3.75/5
Rumble Rock Recordz
Zacheous Jackson
Zacheous Jackson @ Facebook


  1. what a blessing ... beautiful message music.. big up to Zacheous Jackson, keeping it REAL!!

  2. Blessed love Elena..message music and keeping it real is what I have to do....
    Nuff respect Bredda Achis...Irie
    Zacheous Jackson

  3. I am very proud of what Zacheous has done and I hope he gets more recognition for his works.

    I love his works as he keeps it real .. definately message in the music.

    Forward ever Zacheous Jackson

    Love always