Tuesday, February 25, 2014

'A Continuation': A review of "In My Father's House" by Addis Pablo

Pass it on. The process of coming into music, be it as an actual artist or even as a fan, can be a very hereditary progression. While you could argue that there is some magical musical gene which actually exists in the blood, more common (and more interesting in my opinion) is how the passion for music seems to be one of very few which, with very few conditions, passes seamlessly from one generation to a next. And even in cases where you can identify the originator and developer of that passion in the first place, it's very likely that all who come after him/her will at least have that foundation for building a similar infatuation for the music, in one way or another. The history of Reggae music, like probably all other genres is absolutely brimming with examples of that of all kinds. One the smaller scales, you'll find an endless line of connections which aren't necessarily the most known of situations. I read bios all the time and I'm surprised a lot to hear that someone who I've been listening to for years is, in some matter, related to some other esteemed figure in the music. It is almost always a delightfully interesting occurrence in seeing who chose to make that connection known and who did not. At the complete other end of that same spectrum, of course, are the unavoidable such as Reggae's first family, the Marleys and also the Morgans. And you can also fine lineages blossoming from the likes of Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Freddie McGregor. There's Alton Ellis. Joseph Hill and Kenyatta Hill. Lee Perry. And siblings and cousins such as the Benjamin brothers from Midnite. Don Corleon and Protoje. Brick & Lace. Tessanne and Tami Chin and more. Like I said, a nearly endless line of connections are to be made and as we go through time, we'll eventually arrive at the point where we're dealing with a third line of grandchildren also following in the same way. Today we take a look and listen at another example of a family where the passion of music and the pursuit of that passion has gone beyond a generation and, in this case, has done so in a downright stunning way where a son comes along and assumes the very unique work of his father. 

Addis Pablo is the son of the legendary Augustus Pablo. The elder constructed his musical legacy largely on the strength of playing the melodica which certainly isn't the same thing as Bob Marley and the others. In their cases, through singing, they did something which has no end. As long as there're people on the planet, you can be assured that someone, somewhere will be singing Reggae music. Playing the melodica? Probably not so much. Despite (or perhaps including) all that he did in his career, what continues to amaze me most about Augustus Pablo is the kind of reverence that his name generates, even today. While he never achieved the level of stardom as his peers such as Marley, Dennis Brown and others, even from the production side, he still casts this very unusual shadow which is wholly unquestionable and, to my opinion, he stands one of the least polarizing and most beloved figures in the history of Reggae music amongst more devoted followers. But even though Pablo left that type of a legacy, the act of playing the melodica, as a full showcasing instrument, hasn't been maintained and it's become somewhat of a lost art. 
So go find it. Wonderfully, the greatest exception to that has been the work of his son who not only followed his Father into the music, thus continuing the lineage, but Addis Pablo has taken up the melodica thus, essentially, directly continuing his Father's work (Augustus transitioned in 1999). And in recent times, over the past year or two, it seems as if he's been getting more and more attention and now he takes the next step and, journeys to the highest region to bring forth his debut album. "In My Father's House" comes via one of or absolute favourite labels, JahSolidRock (who, apparently, has something to do with a Bass Galore Productions, so biggup Bass Galore). If you follow Roots music of the modern era, you have to be aware of JSR. Currently, the Dutch based label is making some of the best of it to be found throughout the entire world - which is pinnacled by their outstanding work alongside Jamaican veteran vocalist, Chezidek. Last year, they delivered part two of that union in the form of the MASSIVE "The Order of Melchezedik". They also worked with the venerable Brinsley Forde on his own debut, "Urban Jungle" and have also worked with others such as Earl Sixteen, Apple Gabriel and Lloyd De Meza. Interestingly enough, to my opinion, one of the label's signature traits is its sound quality. The first album they did with Chezidek, 2010's bonafide classic, "Judgement Time" is one of the most appealing sounding Roots albums that I've ever heard - STILL. And its sequel wasn't drastically behind it in that particular area -- if behind it at all -- and it's also been prevalent through almost all of their work. So coming from the specific standpoint of sound appeal, which is going to be very crucial in the case of Addis Pablo (more on that in a second), he couldn't have done much better than in linking with JahSolidRock. For his part, again, Pablo brings to the table a skill which has virtually no equal these days. For what he does, he is the best and most visible practitioner in the entire world and like I Grade Records and Zion High Productions, given their proclivity for making BIG albums, JSR is one of those labels who I'm always curious to see with whom they'll work next. In this case, they've aligned themselves with someone who is very skilled and already accomplished, but so damn unique as well that I'm expecting something huge.
And it may be even better than I hoped that it would be. Unsurprisingly, "In My Father's House" is a VERY unique album. It is an instrumental release, a Dub release, there're guest vocalists. There're familiar sounds and a healthy variety of twists and turns making for one dynamic and compelling musical experiences whose existence is going to require more than a giant review to explain but who cares, I'll try it anyway. The first tune on the album is also what, I believe, is the first single from "In My Father's House", 'Road To Addis'. I think that they made a wonderful choice in selecting the first single, because 'Road To Addis' is the single best song I hear on this album, altogether. It is STUNNING! When I first heard it, I kind of just let it go on and on and then I came back and almost immediately it took me in and it made me smile and I think I even cried [WHAT!]. It is a breathtaking composition and, for what he does, I would assume one quite personal to Pablo and it's pretty personal for me too and I'm sure we aren't the only two. Next is a full song featuring the aforementioned Earl Sixteen, 'Evolution'. It's a very good tune also with Sixteen dealing with evolution and revolution of varying types and how everyone, in some way, must change with the times to make it through. When he's in a good tone (and he usually is), I could listen to this man sing all day long. Then there's a piece called 'Evolutionary Rockers' which is, basically, a dub version of both 'Road To Addis' and 'Evolution', stuck together. It is GORGEOUS! And it took me awhile to figure out exactly what they had done, but when I did, this album, right there, got a few extra points from me, because that was a stroke of genius. They do a similar thing, though not to the same completion with the next couple of songs (and really, throughout the album), 'In a Di Gideon' and 'Gideon Rockers'. The tunes utilize a form of the same pleasant riddim which backed Chezidek's 'Faya Pon Dem' from the "The Order of Melchezedik" album. Handling the vocal duties here, on 'Gideon Rockers', is the esteemed Sylford Walker and both are really nice additions to this album, taking advantage of JSR' increasingly vast vault of productions.

  'Road To Addis'

JahSolidRock continues to do that with the next trio of tunes from "In My Father's House". 'His Majesty' shows that Addis Pablo, like Chezidek, also has Jah in his heart as it tops the same riddim you'll find on 'Jah In Our Heart'. Its vocal accompaniment, 'Giving Thanks', features another big name in Prince Alla, while the Dub version is 'Rockers Trodding Jah Road'. Like the opening sequence of songs, this lot is exquisite and it gives such a vibrant new life to this music. I do enjoy 'His Majesty' most between them, but you'll find not a bad note amongst them… nor will you be able to locate one anywhere else on this record either. Things come tumbling down at the 'Walls Of Jericho' which is Pablo's cut of the riddim which you know from having backed 'Tumbling Down', also from the "TOOM" album (surprisingly easy to abbreviate). Incidentally, in tracking down where I knew this track from, it gave the impetus to go back and listen to 'Tumbling Down' dozens of times. We reviewed and rewound that album, but this song is now probably better than I ever gave it credit for being. As for 'Walls of Jericho' and its biblical vocal piece, 'To The Chief Musicians', alongside Jah Exile - again, they are highly impressive expansions on the music. 'Walls of Jericho' is something special with its melodies and I'm going to give a big credit to Sam Gilly from the House of Riddim and especially to an Obed Brinkman. The former did the music and the latter did the horns in particular and both, in full, are CANDY to the ears. The MAMMOTH 'Praises To Jah' was one of the singles of the "TOOM" album, may've been the first, and actually featured the work of Addis Pablo, so it was no surprise at all to see it here - now renamed 'Thanks and Praise'. Pablo's take on the same riddim is the equally lovely 'Wareika Mystic', which is simply one of the finest things you'll hear on this album or any of the other gems JSR has dropped along the way. Fortunately, that track does get a ribbon in the form of the version for 'Rockers International'. It didn't get a version on the first album and I guess they had intended to save it for this one (and, in retrospect, I don't think that any of the tracks which're covered on "In My Father's House" had instrumentals present on "TOOM", which was a critique of mine of that album, because that is a signature of JSR, and I guess what happens here more than explains that). It is outstanding and, something so simple, a definitive highlight from the album. 

And winding down is a pair of two more familiarly vibed standouts from “In My Father's House". The first is 'One Heart, One Love, One Family'. Chezidek's tune on this track was 'One Family' and I think Pablo may've outdone him. This effort is golden and, reminiscent of the opener, it comes off as very personal and subtly intense as well. And finally is the title track… TEARS! Though not even a year old, 'Search and You Will Find' is a personal favourite and classic of mine and to hear that same track given even more attention just kind of lengthen and strengthen the legacy of that MASSIVE song. Addis Pablo's rendition is probably the second best song on the album named after it, altogether, and I'm going to have years and years of fun listening to this one. Both 'One Love, One Heart, One Family’ and the eponymous tune have clean versions also present on the album. I still favour the latter in that case, but the former doesn't trail mightily with its intoxicating bassline.

"In My Father's House" Documentary

I do want to remark on the presentation of this album, in general. It's outstanding! From the great cover, to the musical display and other things such as a full documentary released in support of it (which Bredz almost surely put in here somewhere), JahSolidRock did, arguably, the greatest job they've ever done and, at least for me, that signifies that even though they well had it together previously, they found room for improvement and have made it. 
Addis Pablo
Overall, while I'll continue to, first and foremost, immediately identify JahSolidRock with the landmark work that they've done with Chezidek (and you can clearly see that from my points of reference for this album), if they do another one of these, that may just change. "In My Father's House" is a riveting album from beginning to end. Something which stands out for me that I do not think that I mentioned is also just how intense this album is as well. It's laidback on the surface, but when I hear such a detailed level of musicianship, I hear PASSION! I hear someone spending a lot of time fine-tuning and tweaking something to perfection and there is a whole heap of intensity brewing throughout that process. "In My Father's House" isn't perfect, but for what it is, it is damn close. The album serves as a mighty debut for Addis Pablo who not only picks up where his legendary father left off, but he also shows himself to potentially be capable of building a legend of his own. GOLDEN. 

Rated: 4.55/5
CD + Digital

Review #497

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