October 11, 2005

Try The Real Thing

Based on Fred Wilson's enthusiastic rave for Throw Down Your Arms, Sinéad O'Connor's new reagge album, I picked it up while I was making my pilgrimage to Amoeba Music in San Francisco.

The album is a collection of covers of famous reggae tunes. While it's a nice collection, the new recordings don't improve on the originals, nor shed any new light on the lyrics.

"Downpressor Man", one of my favorite songs, is given a passionate reading by O'Connor but still, it just doesn't compare to Peter Tosh's original. One of the nice things about iTunes: I just did a search for "downpressor" and both songs came up. A careful listen to both and the jury is in: Tosh's version stands head and shoulders above the new interpretation.

Another example: the original "Marcus Garvey" by Burning Spear is so much richer and powerful than the O'Connor version that there's just no comparison. I'm listening to the Burning Spear version now. It's so amazingly powerful. Go listen to it.

I liked "Prophet Has Arise". Buju Banton's version of "Untold Stories" is way better than Sinéad's. "Throw Down Your Arms" is good -- feels like Burning Spear live. Well, except for the vocal.

I love Sly and Robbie and would listen to them play chopsticks or metronomes. But this recording needed more than just Sly and Robbie to really be something notable. Sinéad suffers from the same problem that U2 suffers from: no sense of humor. Everything is so dreadfully serious. She's gotta loosen up. (So does U2).

Bottom line: go fetch the original recordings by the original artists. Make a mix tape of all these tracks. Hear. Listen.

Posted by brian at October 11, 2005 10:41 PM

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