Well-crafted, feel-good work at the poppy end of reggae.
Angus Taylor 2009-10-02
The deep-voiced, unmistakably Peter Tosh-toned Gramps is the first Morgan sibling to release a full-length album since the group Morgan Heritage went on a hiatus in 2008. And, provided you like the poppy end of reggae at which the Morgans reside, it’s a well-crafted, feel-good piece of work.
Mixing one-drop rhythms with the slick arrangements and emotional immediacy of modern gospel, RnB and country, Two Sides of My Heart Volume 1 is, obviously enough, one half of a two-part project. (For volume two he plans to take his love of country further, with a Kenny Rodgers duet.)
The album begins with Tosh himself, stating, “My songs are not smiling songs,” but Gramps’ lyrics tend towards the positive in the face of strife. Whether aimed at people in general or ladies in particular, his uplifting words and big, heartfelt choruses, garnished with ethereal backing vocals and shimmering chime percussion, ensure each message hits home.
The cultural tracks deal mainly with healing and cleansing themes. Wash the Tears promises an end to pain through divine intervention. Time is a poignant unity-call that turns on an evocative ‘new dawn’ synth motif. Lovers material, like the brawny yet gentle Hush and a cover of John Mayer’s Come Back to Bed, maintains Gramps authoritative persona while showing his softer side. Less successful are the bleak digi-strings on the otherwise nicely rendered break-up song Lonely – it’s the disc’s only real production dud.
Power of Prayer sees Gramps and the equally gruff Buju Banton adapt a traditional hymn with surprisingly tender results. Always & Forever, produced by Kemar McGregor, pays tribute to murdered South African singer Lucky Dube.
The son of 1970s vocalist Denroy Morgan, Gramps joined Morgan Heritage in 1990 with brothers Peter, Mojo, Lukes and sister Una. They’ve released ten albums and worked alongside top Jamaican producers including Bobby Digital and King Jammy.
The decision to take a break has sparked fears that the group may not reform. But while this record suggests Gramps is enjoying going solo, Obama celebration All Together’s sign-off of, “Heritage for life, you know that,” hints that they could be back very soon.