Review by: Kyle Wilson
Album assigned by: Syd Spence
Reggae and Rastafari will always be connected in the cultural zeitgeist, at least when it comes to Jamaican music, but where Bob Marley uses it as a backdrop for creating pop songs with great grooves and catchy vocal hooks, Ras Michael, here going by the name Dadawah, gives us a deep, religious exploration in his “classic” 1974 album Peace & Love.
I put “classic” in quotes to convey my mixed feelings about the album, but it is certainly Classic with a capital C for a lot of people. Almost every review I’ve seen praises it as one of the greatest albums of all time. Perhaps I’m missing something, though I’m sure I’m not the target audience.
I consider myself one of those annoying people who claims to be open to any kind of music, but who is probably more elitist than I let on. Reggae has never been one of my favorite genres, despite the fact that I’m white, American, secular humanist and I have never smoked pot in my life. I know. Shocking. Still, every genre can be good, even *gasp* country music! And of course, I like the aforementioned Mr. Marley, because I’m human.
So when I was assigned this album, it was a little daunting, not to mention confusing, since it seems to have nothing to do with winter, but I went ahead, before reading any reviews, and started listening to it, all 4 tracks in 38 minutes…
Overall, it was…good. The tracks are obviously all very long, but prog this ain’t.
Basically, the whole album sounds pretty much the same. Dadawah and his musicians spend about 3/4 of the time chanting and yelling mantras about Zion (which is Ethiopia) and “Jah Rastafar-I!!” over a series of long, repetitive grooves, thanks to some nice sounding bass, piano, electric guitar, and traditional nyabinghi drumming, and what seems like relatively little time actually singing the words with real melodies.
Which is fine! This is a (purportedly) honest exploration of Ras Michael’s religious beliefs, and he’s clearly going for atmosphere and spirituality over memorable melodies. On the entire album, there was only one line that stuck with me, melody wise. The “come away, come away, from the land of the sinking sand” bit on “Run Come Rally” was genuinely catchy. Lyrically, when I could actually make out the words, it seems to be mostly religious and Rastafari clichés, and a lot about peace and love (shocker!), though I liked the line about there being a time when there will be no first, second or third world nations, which I believe was in “Seventy Two Nations,” appropriately.
A quick track by track run down, just to get the last important details out of the way.
“Run Come Rally”: A lot of chanting and decent grooves, and one catchy line apparently.
“Seventy Two Nations”: Musically and lyrically seemingly identical to the first track, and in my two listens of this album, I couldn’t tell where the track started.
“Zion Land”: My pick for best track. I can’t really figure out any of the lyrics, and I was unable to find them online, but considering the title, probably something about the Bible. What I like though, is, almost no chanting. Ras Michael actually sings throughout the whole song. Also, this may sound strange but, this track gave me something of a…Procol Harum vibe? Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s just the first thing I thought of.
“Know How You Stand”: Apparently this album is a trip through to…the apocalypse? The renewed Zion? If you say so. All I know about the last song is, it seems to be the most…musically dynamic? The grooves seem to be louder and more menacing.
And that’s about it. Like I said, I only listened to it twice. After the second time, I doubted I would ever listen to the album again, but honestly, I might. It inspired just enough curiosity. Maybe a third listen will inspire even more.
I suppose I get the hype. The album sounds very important. I just don’t agree with it. But hey! People can love whatever and whoever they want! Peace and love, mon! Peace and love!
In conclusion, as an album, it was…interesting. As an expression of a religious belief that Jesus Christ was reincarnated as an Ethiopian emperor who consistently denied being Jesus Christ, it was…interesting?