Toots' voice sounds just as captivating as it did in the 60s.
Paul Sullivan 2007-11-13
Any reggae fan worth their salt will have a Frederick 'Toots' Hibbert album or three stashed in their collection. Not only was Toots the one to originally coin the phrase 'reggae' (in his song "Do The Reggay"), but along with his soulful ska band The Maytals he penned classic, evergreen songs like "54-46 Was My Number" (the number he wore while in prison in the 60s on cannabis charges), "Funky Kingston" and "Pressure Drop" – tunes whose infectious ska-reggae-funk-soul backdrops merged beautifully with Toots' own Memphis soul vocals. 45 years on, Toots is still chugging out the tunes. His voice sounds just as captivating as it did in the 60s, and though the Maytals broke up in 1981, he reunites with some of them here for his first major project since 2005's Grammy-winning True Love.
Light Your Light takes the same insouciant, reggae-pop approach that has marked Toots' recent work. Delving into his past, he teams up with blues singer Bonnie Raitt for a take on "Premature", and with slide guitarist Derek Trucks for a reworking of his excellent 1970s tune "Johnny Coolman", both of which update the originals in largely inoffensive style.
Hibbert has always been fond of a cover (see his version of Otis Redding's "Hard To Handle" for a shining example), and here he takes on a few; namely Alan Toussaint's classic "Pain In My Heart" (also made famous by Redding), Ray Charles's "I Gotta Woman” and ska classic, "Guns of Navarone", which is dedicated to Coxsone Dodd. The results are mixed. An overly slick version of "Guns…" may well have Dodd, the Studio One legend, turning in his grave.
Better are the originals – light, sunny songs like "Celia" and "Image Get A Lick" find a pleasant pace and roots numbers like the title track and "See the Light", backed by singers Chantal Ernandez and 'Twiggy' Gittens, manage to recall something of the classic Maytals sound. As Toots must surely know, reggae always sounds its best when it comes off as raw and real as his own eternal, classic voice.