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Yard Style

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Album Review

After all those years hearing Johnny Clarke singing over Bunny Lee's exhilarating rockers and steppers riddims, this album must have come as a bit of a shock for fans. Neal "Mad Professor" Fraser's style was far removed from Striker's, swinging wickedly from lover's rock to dread dub. Released in 1983, Yard Style was Clarke's first album for Fraser; he would cut another, Give Thanks, two years later. The producer sends listeners straight in at the deep end, opening the set with "You're All I Want," its riddim a heaving version of the Abyssinians' "Declaration of Rights." To further the dread effect, the song features haunting, close harmonies, styled after the Abs' own. Roots fans can twist Clarke's lyrics and theme toward the religious, but his roof-raising, emotive performance makes clear that his lyrics are not aimed at Jah. In fact, it's not until one reaches "Truth and Rights" that Clarke actually enters the cultural realm, with "Do I Do I" continuing "Want"'s desperate-for-you theme, and "Party" determined to rock on in roots fashion all night long. Side two is where the conscious cuts are hiding. Following on from "Truth"'s concern for the youth, Clarke now expands his anxiety to the whole world, expressing his fear on "Nuclear Weapon." But this is only one of life's many miseries; much closer to home is the poverty that enslaves so much of the Earth's population, with the singer emotively pleading "We Want to Be Free." Poverty isn't inherent to the world, but the result of man's greed, and "Dread Like a Lion" is a sweet warning to those who exploit the poor. And if that's ineffective, then the righteous will rise up, as Clarke eloquently explains on "Top Fight" — at which point the brethren will then make their way to "Mount Zion," an album standout. That said, every one of the tracks on this set is stunning. Clarke is in quite spectacular form, delivering all of the numbers with soulful tour de force performances; even the lightweight "Party" is ripped from the heart. Riddim-wise, "Do I" strays into lovers rock, while "Truth" pushes toward more upbeat reggae, but the rest of the set is seeped deep in roots. The musicianship is flawless, Fraser's productions phenomenal, and the set is equal to, if not better than, any of those Clarke cut for Lee.


Born: January, 1955 in Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

One of Jamaica's most outstanding vocal talents, Johnny Clarke has never achieved the international acclaim of some of his compatriots, and he even fell from favor in his homeland in the 1980s. However, in his heyday, during the mid- through late '70s, the singer recorded a stream of crucial cuts, as well as a bundle of seminal albums. Clarke has also had an inestimable impact on the dancehall scene, which in his day was still the preserve of DJs. His ability to write new lyrics, mostly in a cultural...
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Yard Style, Johnny Clarke
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  • £7.11
  • Genres: Reggae, Music
  • Released: 1983

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