Luciano United States of Africa Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Showcases the often placid-sounding Luciano taking a tougher stance.

Angus Taylor 2010

Devout crooner Luciano’s follow-up to 2008's Dean Fraser production Jah Is My Navigator takes the lyrical focus off his relationship with God to examine a wider range of topics. Boasting fairly rootsy rhythms courtesy of Maximum Sound’s Frenchie – often with Sly & Robbie on drums and bass – it’s more confrontational in its messages, calling out wrongdoers in all spheres of life.

In a year when Africa has figured strongly in the reggae and mainstream media, both the title-track and Unite Africa predict and demand a stronger continent. The political turns personal with previously released single, Be Aware, on the Vineyard Town rhythm: a blistering attack on the bad elements drawn to success (possibly inspired by the press scandals that hit the singer in 2009).

The breakdown of the world economy is tackled by the outstanding In This Recession, atop a vintage sounding, melodica-haunted backing. Religious error is the spotlight for King of Kings where Luciano warns that Sunday churchgoers are not respecting the day of rest.

Typically, Frenchie uses some of his re-workings of old classics. Johnny Osbourne’s Fally Ranking underpins Footstool, whereas Ernest Wilson’s I Know Myself is the base for herb-hypocrisy anthem Invasion. The rapidly delivered A No Like We No Like Them utilises Sly & Robbie’s immortal World A Music (ironically one of the few tracks where the duo don’t play) before mournful chanter Fantan Mojah guests over Bob Marley’s Zion Train rhythm for Another Terrorist Attack.

Fraser himself is still present on saxophone for much of this refreshingly horn-driven release, while his associate Duane Stephenson co-wrote many of the songs. UK rhythm section Mafia & Fluxy appear on two tunes, whilst west London producer Chris Peckings revives some old-time Paragons/Supersonics rocksteady for Moving On.

There’s the odd questionable production decision and a couple of the softer, more digital rhythms seem a little out of place with the rest. Even so, the vast majority of tracks showcase the often placid-sounding Luciano taking a tougher stance.

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