Altar of Earth
of Your Song
Night in Zion
Is My Dove
March 7, 2006
Review by Scott "Dr. Music" Itter
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
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
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.
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.
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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