An anti-violence tone reverberates throughout the 15 tracks on Rasta Got Soul, a solid new collection from Grammy-nominated reggae star Buju Banton. But their strengths do not lie in the universal themes of hope, goodwill, and enlightenment, but in the perceptive and compelling socio-political tales they tell. Recalling vintage Buju, circa 'Til Shiloh, Rasta Got Soul is a heartfelt, honest and contemplative release from one of Jamaica’s best-selling and legendary artistes.
Listeners who appreciated the rootsy appeal and authentic Afro-Caribbean artistry of Mr Mention (1992) and 'Til Shiloh (1995) will find that this new album delivers echoes from that era and showcases the 36-year-old Rastaman at his ‘soulful’ best. Banton’s lyrics and melodies are sometimes arresting and vigorous but always from the heart, as he delivers his message of right over wrong, love over war, humanity and sympathy over cruelty and hatred. Highlights include the slow and sensuous “Make You Mine”, on which he tenderly woos his lady love and the reflective “Optimistic Soul”, which examines the existing way of the world. The deeply affecting storytelling continues with poignant and sensitive cuts like “Affairs of the Heart” and “Bedtime Story” (with vocal contributions from Wyclef Jean).
Rasta Got Soul showcases the mature side of Buju Banton (born Mark Myrie), an artiste who has been embroiled in controversy over ‘homophobic lyrics’ for more than a decade. There are no traces of that sad phase of his journey here. Instead, we get an atmosphere indicative of a new outlook on life and society that is both refreshing and appealing. The expressive and prayerful “Lights Out” is testament to Banton’s growth and his clarity of thought. On “Lend A Hand”, “A Little Bit of Sorry” and “Sense Of Purpose” (featuring Third World) he waxes philosophical and rhythmical. “I Wonder” and “I Rise” are equally memorable highlights.
“You’ve got to learn your lessons the hard way,” he affirms on “Be On Your Way”, while he proudly declares his identity on the Nyabinghi-esque “Rastafari” and takes us back in the day with the old favourite “Magic City”. There is hardly anything to complain about listening to Rasta Got Soul, which some even might say channels Bob Marley in his prime. Much like the Marley classics Legend and Catch A Fire, Banton’s Rasta Got Soul hooks listeners with its emphasis on strictly conscious lyrics. And while the world continues to dissect Banton’s recent comments about the world’s obsession with Marley (ignoring other reggae greats), it is safe to say that Banton demonstrates his prominence as a living legend and penchant for crafting evocative and powerful lyrics on this new release.
In short, Rasta Got Soul is juicy Grammy bait; the type of record voters favour when annually deciding who takes home the highly-coveted honour. True to life and full of feeling, the album displays Banton’s talent for introspective and mellow reggae, while speaking to peace, wisdom, and positive vibrations.
DOWNLOAD: “Bedtime Story”, “Lights Out”, “I Rise”, “Lend A Hand” and “Optimistic Soul”Powered by Sidelines