Taking over vocal duties with The Wailers would be a daunting enough task for anyone. Performing a gig with them in front of 5,000 people, having never played live before, and with no rehearsal or sound check, takes enough guts to fill an abattoir. Courage or recklessness? Who knows. Before I’d listened to barely a minute of Together As One, Elan had earned my respect.
Unsurprisingly for one elevated so quickly to such lofty heights, he’s a great singer, although as yet his vocal stylings haven’t quite escaped from beneath the shadow of the mighty Bob Marley. Given that Elan has spent so much time singing Marley’s repertoire, it’s hardly surprising. Sometimes, vocally at least, it’s a little like listening to a Marley tribute act, but for all that, the “authenticity” on which he places such an emphasis is enough for him to rise above his stylistic debt To Marley. The sincerity of his delivery is never in doubt, to the extent that when Elan is joined by Gwen Stefani for a duet on “Allnighter,” Stefani sounds positively plastic by comparison.
With a supporting cast that includes Sly & Robbie and Cutty Ranks, Together As One is a varied work, taking in pure roots reggae, dancehall slackness, and all manner of flavours in between. It’s refreshing to hear an overtly sexual song like "Feel My Pressure" delivered with humour instead of misogyny, and the album’s cornerstone title track, like Marley’s "Redemption Song," could easily become an anthem for a generation in the right circumstances.
The only drawback with the album is that the more rootsy songs, like "I Wanna Yell," are so very strong and Elan’s vocals so well-suited to them, that much of the other material is left in their shade. This isn’t to say the rest of the album is bad; it isn’t, not by any means, but it does make the record as a whole feel a little uneven. I would have liked some of the tantalising glimpses of what an Elan dub LP might sound like to have been explored a little more fully too.
With time, I’ve no doubt that Elan will develop, vocally and stylistically, into a reggae artist of great stature. For now, he’s produced a thoroughly enjoyable album that has allowed him to set out his stall without having to commit himself fully to any one style.