Hey Look of HPN fame and his excellent blog Another Sucker On The Vine turned me onto PEACE AND LOVE. Oh man, dub doesn’t really get more hypnotic than this. -Ian!
Of all the many albums heralding the arrival of roots, and driving it to ascendency in the Jamaican and international reggae market, few were as uncompromising in vision as Ras Michael’s Dadawah — Peace & Love. The singing drummer had led aggregations of devout Rastafarian musicians for nearly a decade, releasing grounation flavored, nyahbinghi driven records on his own Zion Disc label. Dadawa now brought Ras Michael together with veteran studio hands — bassist Lloyd Parks, drummer Paul Williams, guitarist Willie Lindo, and pianist/organist Lloyd Charmers, who trebled as producer. The resulting album was a work of faith, but equally it was a leap of faith for the singles orientated Trojan label, whose full-length records had previously tended towards hits round-ups. Dadawa, in contrast, spread a mere four tracks across two sides of vinyl, and while certainly accessible to a wider audience, it was never going to appeal to pop fans. Although not a concept album in the strict sense of the term, it thematically evokes the Biblical final days. “Run Come Rally” calls together the world’s righteous in preparation for the upcoming battle with evil. Having gathered together the brethren from “Seventy Two Nations,” all bow before Jah in a celebration of His greatness, then give voice to their desire to return to “Zion Land.” The set concludes with “Know How You Stand”‘s call for freedom, and with it the ability to fulfill Jah’s plan. The extraordinary power of the set’s themes is echoed by the equally phenomenal backings, all conjuring up the most haunting of atmospheres. While the hand drums give the album a grounation feel, Parks and Williams simultaneously ground the numbers deep in roots. Intriguingly, though, there’s no reggae guitar, just Lindo’s sublime riffs and licks that flick into the rock realm, while constantly sliding back into blues. Charmers’ piano and organ occasionally take over the reggae guitar role, but mostly his keys intertwine around Lindo’s leads, accentuating melodies, scattering elegant flourishes here and there, and subtly building up the atmospheres. Even during the most elongated tracks, there’s no sense of repetition or self-indulgent meanderings, every note and bar furthers the musical and thematic journey. Charmers’ production is superb, the musicians inspired, and Ras Michael’s power undeniable. An astounding album that’s lost none of its potency over the years.
Nyahbinghi was Ras Michael’s second album, following the four extended tracks that made up Dadawah-Peace & Love. Michael (his real name is George Michael Henry) specializes in the traditional Jamaican rasta drumming style known as nyahbinghi, and is the obvious commercial heir apparent to Count Ossie, whose groundbreaking Grounation set with tenor saxophonist Cedric Brooks put this odd and moving genre on the musical map. Michael sticks pretty close to the traditional on this set, although on other releases he has grafted mainstream reggae, funk, rock and even electronica into the mix. There isn’t a whole lot of stylistic variation here, but the overall effect of the slow, pronounced drum patterns is definitely soothing and trance inducing, but hardly conducive to the dancehall. The most striking track is “Rise Jah Jah Children,” which builds around the refrain to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” a big international hit for the Tokens. Trojan released Nyahbinghi packaged with the slightly more experimental Dadawah on a single disc in 1998.
-Jo-Ann Greene, Steve Leggett, allmusic.com