Reggae Redemption Songs

Various Artists

Lion of Zion Entertainment, 2002

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


A confession: I don't like reviewing religious music. Even when I was a practicing Catholic, I didn't like much religious music, because I found it to be too preachy. (I did, however, make an exception for Stryper in my headbanging days; that's a group we need to dust off for review someday. So it might not be surprising that I've been sitting on a disc like Reggae Redemption Songs for over a year, delaying listening to it as long as I could. But the longer I delayed, the more I had to explain to myself that reggae, at its core, was pretty much a religious form of music, even if it was celebrating Rastifarianism and not Christianity.

The collection of artists who bang out these 17 songs are indeed able to strike a solid balance between their strong religious views and keeping a secular side of musical entertainment open to the listener. Yet no matter how good the performance might be, this disc remains one that is tough to get through in one sitting.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

What is interesting is that I can't quite pin down why this is the case. It certainly is not the fault of the musicians here; artists like Neil Evans, Felicia Marion, Ben Okafor and Christifari (featuring Geneman) all show that the sphere of reggae music didn't stop in 1981 with Bob Marley's death. (Maybe this was a second reason I held off on reviewing this disc; I freely admit there is a lot about reggae I don't know.)

Maybe what makes Reggae Redemption Songs a little tough to swallow in one gulp is that there isn't a lot of flexibility with the music. Tempo-wise, it often feels like each song could easily blend into the next. After a while, listening to the disc almost feels like running a marathon. I really can't see blaming the artists; rather, the compilation producers could have done a little more to inject some life into this set as it was needed.

If anything, the strength of Reggae Redemption Songs might well lie in individual performances. If you take this CD one song at a time, then works like those of Okafor ("Man Of Sorrows," "Wise Ones"), Heaven Bound ("Fisherman"), Evans ("Not My Desire") and Marion ("The Rock," "Drink") showcase the power that reggae music really has, and how it can win over even the most stubborn ears.

To everyone's credit, the religious messages of these songs rarely, if ever, gets to the point of being a miniature sermon. It is only in the liner notes when it goes into overkill mode - but, in a sense, I can't fault them for doing even this. After all, chances are you're not picking this one up simply because the store was out of Slayer CDs.

The only times where this disc became a little hard to bear (besides having to take the occasional break to re-charge my musical batteries) were the two "dub" tracks - and even there, Heaven Bound's disc-closer "Dub Sur Mer" was somewhat interesting. This was what a good dub track could do: lay out the groove, and get out of the way before its welcome was worn out. If only the same could have been said for Solomon Jabby's "Iesous Dub International".

Reggae Redemption Songs is a surprisingly good compilation disc which should introduce many people to some reggae artists who are deserving of the attention. The fact that they are using music to preach the word of God almost becomes second in command with this group - and that, quite frankly, works to their favor.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2003 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Lion of Zion Entertainment, and is used for informational purposes only.