Saturday, 8 June 2019

The Gladiators

Dreadlocks The Time Is Now (1976-1980) 

Mix Up/Bellyful/Looks Is Deceiving/Chatty Chatty Mouth/Soul Rebel/Eli Eli/Hearsay/Rude Boy Ska/Dreadlocks The Time Is Now/Jah Works/Pocket Money/Get Ready/Stick A Bush/Write To Me/Naturality/Struggle/A Day We Go/Sweet So Till/Hello Carol    

Material from 1976-1980

The Gladiators, were, along with The Mighty Diamonds and The Wailing Souls, one of those roots reggae groups from the mid seventies that combined a devotional Rasta consciousness with some melodic, mid-pace reggae “riddims”. Their brand of roots was, on the whole, upbeat, gently singalong and while having a full bass line, was certainly not in the realms of heavy dub. Bellyfull and Mix Up are classic examples of that sound. The sound quality on this album is excellent too, crystal clear on the trebly percussion and rich and warm on the ubiquitous bass lines.

The songs

A favourite of mine is the subtly melodious Looks Is Deceiving - a delicious slice of lilting reggae, rumbling guitars and some “stream of Rasta consciousness” lyrics about Babylon and parables and the like. 

Chatty Chatty Mouth has an irresistible piano intro and a booming, steady beat, just perfect seventies roots-inspired reggae. The Gladiators were probably my favourites of this particular arm of the genre. The vocals were the lightest and the most tunefully affecting. The backing is top notch throughout - crystal clear, rhythmic and toe-tapping. 

Their cover of Bob Marley’s Soul Rebel is superb, as good as the original, to be honest, and that is saying something. Lovely clear backing, great vocal, great backing vocals and that omnipresent rumbling bass. Great stuff. Nice semi-dubby part two thirds of the way through.

Eli Eli is a very Rasta-inspired song and very uplifting with yet more soaring vocals. This really is seventies reggae of the highest quality. 

Hearsay is a warning type of song, as if delivered from a pulpit. There is lot of religious meaning in the lyrics to these songs, but it doesn’t really matter because the backing is so good. There is some lovely light guitar skanking parts on this one. 

Rude Boy Ska is suitably vibrant and joyful, with a thoroughly addictive singalong refrain. 

Another favourite is the rumbling Dreadlocks The Time Is Now, with an intoxicating skank. It is a militant, “culture conscious” song and should be on any “punky reggae party” playlist. It is just so 78-79 West London. Some excellent instrumental parts in it and a yearning vocal.

The percussion and bass at the beginning of Jah Works is just stunning. I love the clarity of reggae sounds like this. 

Pocket Money has another captivating riddim and bass line. Check out that big pounding thump of a bass on Get Ready and the cymbal work. Marvellous stuff. I could wax lyrical about all the songs on this excellent album. Needless to say they are all good. Just a breath of fresh summer air. Somehow this album suits a sunny summer’s morning.

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Ras Michael
Mighty Diamonds

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