Track listing
1.
  Fire of Heaven/
Altar of Earth
2.
  Youth
3.
  Time of Your Song
4.
  Dispatch The Troops
5.
  Indestructible
6.
  What I'm
Fighting For
7.
  Jerusalem
8.
  WP
9.
  Shalom/Saalam
10.
  Late Night in Zion
11.
  Unique Is My Dove
12.
  Ancient Lullaby
13.
  King Without
A Crown

Label: Sony
Release Date:
March 7, 2006

Matisyahu – Youth
CD Review by Scott "Dr. Music" Itter
September 2006

When I heard that an American-born Hasidic Jew was doing a traditional Reggae record, I had to chuckle. I thought to myself, "Man, people will try anything as a gimmick these days!" I personally find it hard to take anything seriously that calls itself Reggae and isn't from Jamaica. I think the true sound of the music has a lot to do with the region of the world that its creators are from. I just can't see Pennsylvania putting out a legitimate Reggae artist – and that's without calculating race and religion into it. But it happened. Fans and critics alike are actually taking this guy seriously. Matisyahu has been moving his product quite well. But then again, American Idol disaster William Hung sold records too …a lot of them …enough said. Let's just say I still had my doubts when I jumped into this one, but of course my mind is always opened. It was time to open my ears and see what all this was about.

Track 1: "Fire of Heaven/Altar of Earth" – Wow, this is impressive. Real impressive. Lyric references to Mount Zion and a Reggae tempo that would make Bob Marley's hair straighten, this is fantastic stuff. I am a fan of artists like Marley, Michael Rose and Black Uhuru, and Coco Tea and this is right on target with its sound. Great rhythm, great vocal sound, great lyrics - this is a great Reggae song. RATING: 10

Track 2: "Youth" – This is another song that follows the same great Reggae formula as the previous track, but this one has some modern niches that separate it from the first track. For example, the roaring guitar solo just past the middle of the song. Not your typical Reggae ingredient, but it really works well here. With powerful lyrics like "Young man, the power's in your hands/Slam your fist on the table and make your demands," and with an explosion effect kicking in as the "slam your fist" line is delivered, this is really what effective Reggae lyrics are supposed to be about – rebellion and a fight for freedom. Other than the bit more "urban" vocal tone, this is another great Reggae song. RATING: 8

Track 3: "Time Of Your Song" – With some really nice background harmonies and an excellent Reggae voice leading this one, this is another great one. Catchy refrain that is lyrically strong once again. This one has a little bit of an urban rap feel with the pumped up beat, but this is rich in the elemental roots of the Reggae genre nonetheless. RATING: 9

Track 4: "Dispatch The Troops" – This one is a little more on the rap side with a Reggae influence. This one is sung with a voice that isn't as effective, and it's more fast talk/rap than I would prefer. The deep Reggae sound is lost a little bit, but it's not horrible. RATING: 5

Track 5: "Indestructible" – This one has that big pumped up bass beat going on, but the superb vocal keeps the Reggae vibe intact. As a matter of fact, you could easily mistake this one for Michael Rose. Cool background vocals and a nice hook in the chorus make this another good one. RATING: 8

Track 6: "What I'm Fighting For" – Now here's something different. This is an acoustic ballad with some inspiring lyrics and an excellent arrangement. We keep to the Reggae mood in this two minute and 10 second quip by mentioning Zion and "Sons and Daughters of Abraham," but this is really not a Reggae song. This is more Dave Matthews than Bob Marley, but it's good. RATING: 7

Track 7: "Jerusalem" – More of the same great cultured vocal sound, blended with a brilliant song arrangement. We even get a couple of lines from Matthew Wilder's 80's hit "Break My Stride" worked into this one. This works as a gripping modern twist on the traditional Reggae sound that is so honorably represented here. RATING: 8

Track 8: "WP" – Different vocals on this one, and they are all pretty straight forward rappers. Like much of the Rap music that I hear, the artists have a lot to say, but the vehicle in which they use to transport the message isn't worthy of the trip. This really isn't any different. The song is weak, and the lyrical vomiting doesn't help it any. RATING: 3

Track 9: "Shalom/Saalam" – This is just a little acoustic guitar instrumental. Very nice, but not really a song.

Track 10: "Late Night In Zion" – Just a dreamy pop song really. There are plenty of thought provoking lyrics here, and the song is a nice change of pace for the record. Drifts away from the Reggae sound and more into the Pop genre and it's not bad. RATING: 6

Track 11: "Unique Is My Dove" – We almost get to a ska-like, upbeat rhythm at times, with this nicely written tune. A very steady track with a catchy chorus. Very simple rhythm, but still works pretty well. RATING: 5

Track 12: "Ancient Lullaby" – This one has a real Paul Simon "Graceland" feel to it. Some interesting guitar work with a very bright and positive drum beat and vocal. Extensive drum soloing toward the end of this one kind of kills the direction of the song, but it is a nice addition all the same. RATING: 6

Track 13: "King Without A Crown" – This is a quick, "rap" kind of Reggae. Stays in one speed a little too long, but it's pretty interesting to hear an electric rock guitar solo in a song that is a hybrid of Rap and Reggae. I don't love this one, but it does have some qualities. RATING: 5

OVERALL RATING: 7 ALIVE!

This is a real shocker to me. I expected some white, punk ass, suburban kid trying to rap about ganja and passing it off as Reggae. This is the real deal folks. I don't love everything on this record, and as a matter of fact, the last six tracks are merely average. But, this is a Reggae album, and when it shines it shines brightly. The first seven tracks, with the exception of "Dispatch The Troops," are fantastic examples of deeply rooted Reggae music. And I don't know why I would think any differently going into this. With Mount Zion being in Israel, and much of the traditional Reggae themes dealing with religion and The Holy Land, who would be better suited at this Reggae thing than a bearded white guy with a yarmulke?


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