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BBC – Music – Review of Clinton Fearon

Written by on October 16, 2020

During the roots reggae heyday of the 1970s, several noteworthy groups made it onto the roster of major labels. Among these, Virgin Records signees The Gladiators were one of the greatest reggae harmony trios of them all.

Their signing may have come about partly because lead singer Albert Griffiths had a similar tenor range to Bob Marley’s, but regardless of the particulars, The Gladiators crafted many fine albums during their tenure at Virgin.

Bassist/guitarist Clinton Fearon was the perfect foil to Griffiths, his rich baritone a superb counterpart to his bandmate’s high tenor.

Fearon’s work in The Gladiators can be likened to that of Jerry Butler’s in The Impressions, or Mick Jones’ in The Clash – he did not sing lead very often, but when he did, both his lyrics and vocal delivery really stood out.

Fearon moved to Seattle during the 1980s, and launched his solo career there. Yet he has managed to retain the same level of authenticity on his newer albums as heard of his Jamaican works, and this is true of Heart and Soul.

This album follows his unplugged touring in the US and Europe. His association with Earl “Chinna” Smith’s Inna Di Yard project has proved invaluable in shaping Heart and Soul, which recasts great Gladiators tracks in a solo acoustic setting.

Let Jah Be Praised retains its power to move. In fact, with only a few guitar chords to frame it, the lyrics resonate on an even deeper level.

Likewise, Chatty Chatty Mouth, which was aimed at a particular Jamaican politician, conveys a heavy message in a deceptively simple form. Untrue Girl and Jah Almighty simply sound glorious, as does the rest of the disc.

This UK edition has a couple of bonus tracks as well, not present on a slightly earlier French release, which only add to this already excellent album’s appeal.

With exceptional live performances complementing this studio output, it’s clear Fearon’s lost none of his magic.

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