A life of contradictions

A life of contradictions. When Reggae Chalice asked me to write a review of an album of my choice the dilemma began: What record? Current or classic? Why is that particular? What characteristics should it have to choose it?.

Maybe it doesn't make much sense to give it so many laps, but when this rhythm you're so passionate about and a long time ago, it is not easy to choose among so many favorites just one to “honor”. They passed names like Chronixx, Protoje or the Morgan Heritage classics with their new grammy-winning album among the current album ideas that have been spinning in my head, where the level of musical production is more than remarkable and worth highlighting.

On the other hand, names like The Abyssinians were circulating, Steel Pulse or The Gladiators that have given birth to the classic albums that have probably most marked my taste for Reggae. But not long ago I rediscovered an album that seems perfect for the occasion, of a transcendental character in the history of this music and directly responsible for its importance worldwide.

I mean the great teacher Joe Higgs, singer, composer, instrumentalist and producer, the one that took the Wailers and Wailing Wailers and locked them up to rehearse, taught them music, playing instruments, brush up on their skills and also taught them about the music business, so once they were ready, they will show the world their great talent.

That's how important this man is and I think that any tribute is done little. Bad bad, Not everyone is a genius from Bob Marley to Jimmy Cliff. Now, What disk of Joe Higgs?, to my liking, what is considered his first most personal job, where he held the reins of the result, the disk called “Life of Contradiction” of the year 1975, recorded under the Island Records label in 1972, Who released the rights to edit it on their own three years later after Chris Blackwell decided that he had no way to introduce a "Folk-Reggae" album to the world market and under Higgs' suspicions that he did not want to compromise the work of the label. with Marley. It was recently re-released on 2008 by Pressure Sounds in England.

Higgs' trajectory is very wide, from his early days with Roy Wilson in Studio One in the sixties, where some of the themes that would form, almost a decade later, part of this classic album, going through his jobs with Prince Buster, and his solo work until the year 1999, when he passes away. The sound of the album is harsh, raw, perfect for wrapping the contents of a record that exposes the life of a suffering person, who has hope, who loves, that lives. This is without makeup, brutally honest, it's not just a record, it's a concept, the beauty of living when there is faith, although times are difficult.

Music is simplicity at its best, just the beat, there's no dub here, no marked rhythmic or harmonic arrangements, music fulfills the function of accompanying a story, an everyday story, the poetry of a troubadour, instruments become protagonists as they are the perfect environment, the scenography of a play that we do not see but we hear and feel. Here you can hear the strong influences that the gospel had, el soul, blues and the R&B, in his music, finding arrangements heavily influenced by Motown-type labels, Stax o Athlantic.

Participating musicians such as Val Douglas stand out, Earl “Wire” Lindo, Robbie Lynn, Mickey Chung and Eric Gale (and, a whole constellation of stars!). In summary, this is an album for lovers of classic Roots, that from the 70s, with a nostalgic sound, dirty and imperfectly perfect. Recommended topic: “There’s a reward” (and for those with a good memory, It is the same guitar that Higgs appears in the documentary "Roots Rock Reggae – Inside the Jamaican Music Scene“ (1977)). Enjoy it!


Artist: Joe Higgs

Year: 1972, Island Records

By Matías Malinarich.
Sonidista, guitarist and founder of the band Kitra