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Hard Work

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Album Review

Hard Work it may be, but Frankie Paul makes it all seem easy on this charmer of a set. It's a diverse album, which sees the singer working his way across the decades and genres, but sensitive sequencing precludes any jarring shifts, and in a way this album follows the workday itself.

It begins at dawn with a day of toil before you; however, Paul sets toes tapping with a song that is almost spiritual in atmosphere, encouraging listeners to "Work Hard." Then he brightens up the morning with a pair of '60s-flavored covers, the first Beatlesque, the second even poppier. As lunchtime looms, one begins daydreaming, and Paul is caught up with thoughts of an "Everlasting Love" where everyday is like "Heaven." This pair of romantic covers form the centerpiece of the set, but it's the trio of cultural numbers that provides the album's meat. The shift in sound is deftly done, with the first, "Keep Faith," imbued with a soulful atmosphere cut through with tinges of roots and fired by the dancehall beats. Paul then makes his move with the roots reggae-flavored "Leaving out of Babylon," and embarks into dreader lands with "Children of Israel." With that the workday ends and the evening begins, and Paul is again primed for romance, entrancing listeners with the passionate urban soul stirrings of "Stormy Night," then heads out to the dancehalls for the jungle rave-up "She's My Lady."

Across this stellar set the singer delivers up the goods with a fabulous performance that never flags or puts a single emotive note wrong. Tapper Zukie deserves equal praise for the excellent production and inspired arrangements. As always, his rhythms are inspired, extraordinarily militant, and forceful, but never overwhelm the moods he so effortlessly conjures up, be it the breeziest pop, richest romance, or deepest of roots. Again, his workload was eased by the likes of Sly Dunbar, Mafia & Fluxy, Errol "Flabba" Holt, Frank "Bubbler" Waul, and Lloyd "Gitsy" Willis, among an all-star crew. Not just a stunning set of songs, this album is one you'll want to play in full over and over again.


Born: 1965 in Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

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

Frankie Paul is often referred to as Jamaica's Stevie Wonder, and not just because of his visual impairment; like Wonder, he was a talented multi-instrumentalist with a tremendous vocal range. He was also extraordinarily prolific; part of the first wave of dancehall artists, he started his recording career in earnest during the early '80s, and has since flooded the market with product, releasing countless singles and well over 30 albums. That's made his career difficult to track for all but the most...
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Hard Work, Frankie Paul
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