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Cry Freedom Dub

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Album Review

A far more appropriate title for this set would have been Roy Cousins Meets Roots Radics at Channel One Studio, for there's very little Prince Far I within to justify the title. In fact, the late, great, gravel-voiced sermonizer is heard on only two tracks — "Free Jah Jah Children" and "Famine in Africa," with virtually the entire rest of the set comprising vocal-less instrumental dubs. There again, it would be wrong to assume that Cousins was merely cashing in on the DJ's name, better to think of Cry Freedom Dub as a tribute set. Prince Far I was, of course, recording a new album, Umkhonto We Sizwe (aka Spear of the Nation), with Cousins right before his death, so profoundly affected by his murder was the producer that he emigrated from Jamaica soon after. So, in many ways this set could be considered a labor of love, a final farewell to Far I. To this end, the album is an overwhelmingly celebratory affair, almost joyous in mood, and far removed from the militancy that defined Channel One's sound. The bulk of the riddims are sublime versions of Studio One classics, and although the Radics had given most of them a sharp edge, Cousins' production smoothes much of that away. Like many singing producers, Cousins loved melody, and laced virtually all the dubs here with it. Engineers Scientist and Lancelot "Maxi" McKenzie are given some room to maneuver however, most obviously on the "classic" deconstruction styled dubs of "Idlers Rest," "Famine in Africa," and "Freed Jah Jah Children." In contrast "Tired Fe See the Mothers Cry," "Rudeboy Anthem." and "Tribute to Cry Cry" are almost dub instruction manuals, honing in specifically on the guitars, keyboards, and drums respectively. Most magnificently "Mothers Cry" actually creates one of the most laid-back guitar duels of all times. From the brooding "Love Rasta" and "Ethnic Cleansing," two of the moodiest tracks on the set, to the gorgeous "We Will Be Free from Poverty" and the almost breezy "Sacrifice for the Truth," Cry Freedom is filled with sublime music, a diversity of atmospheres, and an uplifting aura, with the track titles a pointed reminder of Prince Far I's deeply cultural concerns. All told it makes for a glorious set, a fitting homage to one of Jamaica's most revered artists.

Biography

Born: 1944 in Spanish Town, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s

One of the many voices of the roots era, Prince Far I was absolutely unique. He certainly cannot be categorized as a singer, although at times -- especially during chanted passages -- there was definitely a singsong quality to his vocals, and in that respect the closest comparison was to Winston Rodney of Burning Spear. However, that group actually wrote lyrics, while Prince Far I vocals were a stream of consciousness that belongs in the DJ realm. But to call him a toaster is equally inaccurate....
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Cry Freedom Dub, Prince Far I
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