One of the best reggae releases in a fiercely competitive year.
Angus Taylor 2009
The fragile voiced, deeply spiritual Chezidek has put out two albums in 2009: Herbalist, a collection including previously released single and album tracks, and this superlative dedicated project recorded with the legendary Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare and their Taxi band.
Much like 2007’s highly rated Inna Di Road, cut for old friend Bobby Konders of Massive B, I Grade is a throwback to the salad days of roots music. There are fewer vintage rhythms this time (the most notable being a revamp of Bunny Lee’s Ain’t Got No Love for pan-African anthem Want More Love) and a more diverse spread of cultural and lovers material.
Even so, the strength and fervour of Chezidek’s plaintive, insistent vocals and the Spartan backings of the ‘rhythm twins’ are a perfect match. The result is a definite progression from Inna Di Road while keeping everything that made it work so well.
Laid down at the famous Harry J’s studio and mixed by veteran engineer Godwin Logie the arrangements will appease the reggae traditionalist. There are real horns, and Sly and Robbie’s gunshot drumming and simple deliberate bass underpin each lyrical message; even treating us to some closing mini-workouts when the vocals end.
Tracks such as Devil Yuh Cah Bully Wi Out (using the pugnacious rhythm to Gregory Isaacs’ Poor Man in Love from 2008) and the cheerful rub-a-dub of the anti-colonial Who Start the War articulate robust Rastafarian statements. But it’s the added value of the romantic compositions, from the twilight bewitchment of Tonight to the dreamy Girl Like U in My Life, which completes a beautifully balanced procession of songs.
Throw in a bonus CD of crisp, busy dubs that could have been released as a stand-alone set and you have one of the best releases in a fiercely competitive year.