Thursday, 6 June 2019

Linton Kwesi Johnson

Forces Of Victry (1979)

Want Fi Goh Rave/It Noh Funny/Sonny's Lettah (Anti-Sus Poem)/Independant Intavenshan/Fite Dem Back/Reality Poem/Forces Of Victry/Time Come       

This was a crucial, contemporaneously relevant reggae release that featured "dread beat poet" Linton Kwesi Johnson reciting his lyrics concerning life in late seventies London as a West Indian over a superb roots reggae beat. The music, played by Dennis Bovell and Rico Rodriguez, amongst others is just excellent, providing a top notch quality backing for Johnson's hard-hitting, often moving urban tales. Johnson largely speaks his lyrics, occasionally slightly breaking into an appealing half-singing. He delivers his verses in Jamaican patois, but it is generally comprehensible. If not, you get the meaning pretty easily. Johnson's semi-spoken delivery is not really different to that of the DJ/"toasters" like Prince Far IBig YouthU-RoyI-Roy or King Stitt, all of whom did not break into song.
Want Fi Goh Rave is a lilting, semi-spoken recitation over a delicious bassy, rootsy beat enhanced with horns and skanking electric guitar. It has a great dubby bit at the end too. 

It Noh Funny has a pounding, bassy riddim, with some Rastafarian-style bongo drum backing. Linton almost starts singing at some points.  

The saddest tale is Sonny's Lettah (Anti-Sus Poem) which takes the form of a letter from a young man from prison to his mother telling of his ill-treatment at the hands of the Metropolitan Police, who, at the time, were nowhere near as accountable as they are today.


Independent Intavenshan despairs at the British politics of the time. Trombonist Rico Rodriguez delivers a great solo on here. 

Some infectious, rhythmic backing introduces the militant Fite Dem Back, which has Johnson uncompromisingly advocating fighting back against fascists by "smashing their brains in, 'cos they ain't got nothin' in 'em...". Menacing stuff, but life was pretty awful in inner city London in the late seventies as a West Indian or Asian immigrant. Until you have walked a mile in his shoes it is an apt quote, I believe.

Reality Poem talks about the age science and technology we are in and bemoans that we still have no light, no clarity, no visions of how to live. The backing is once again excellent too. 

Forces Of Victry is a huge thumper of a "conscious" track, as relevant as any authentic Jamaican Max RomeoJunior Murvin or Lee "Scratch" Perry track. Yes, Johnson was of Jamaican origin, of course, but this was not reggae from "the yard" in Trenchtown, it was London-inspired reggae. The track features more impressive trombone. 

Time Come is an intoxicating warning from Johnson, chock full of rhythm and atmosphere.

There is a definite argument for this album having a place in the upper reaches of reggae's "best ever" albums lists. Without question. Not only are the lyrics culturally vital, but the music is irresistible too. Highly recommended.

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