Friday, 2 August 2019

Frankie Paul

Freedom (1996)

Songs Of Freedom/So Cold/What Am I To Do/Gimme That Potion/No More/She Don't Want Nobody Else/Do It Anytime/Dancehall Nice/What A Wonderful World/Rumours/I'll Be Your Friend             

By 1996, the edgy sub-genre of ragga was, to a certain extent, beginning to morph into a more melodious, laid-back style of late-night soulful reggae, backed by lots of synthesisers and electronic sounds, but still containing a deep bass line. Vocals were not toasting raps any more, but smoochy lovers' rock-style tuneful, soully offerings. This album by Frankie Paul provides an example of that. It is an appealing, lushly produced album with a "dim the lights" romantic feel. There is certainly nothing militant, rootsy or devotional about the material on here. It is full-on love. The instrumentation is intricate, layered and seductive but it is very "digital", so fans of "real reggae", such as myself, have to take that into account. Digital was the way reggae was going though, tune into to any of those "reggae radio stations" that proliferate the internet and this is the sort of stuff you will hear. In fact, it was by doing just that a while ago that I came across Frankie Paul and this album.

Songs Of Freedom is a sensual piece of laid-back groove, featuring saxophone, a sweet-sounding vocal and that "boing" sounding synth drum thing. Near the end is a nice bit of bassy dub-influenced rhythm. 

So Cold has a rumbling, deep bass line underpinning its romantic strains. The slick keyboards wash all over it. It is a perfect example of mid-nineties easy-listening reggae. 

What Am I To Do sees a slight return to the old ragga sound, with a staccato beat, toasting dancehall vocals and a thumping bass. Paul still supplies a regular vocal though, as well as the toasting.

Gimme That Potion is an upbeat and infectious number, with nice dubby aspects and some intoxicating instrumentation. 

No More is one of the album's only flirtations with Rastafarianism, with lyrics about "the Kingdom of Zion", "Babylon system" and the like. It is an enjoyable rootsy skank, albeit a digital-ish one. She Don't Want Nobody Else is a sublime bit of seductive soulful vibe. Nice saxophone, rhythms and vocal.

Do It Anytime has a strong soul vocal and some chunky backing. Yes, there is a reggae backing, but it is also very "soul" in is vocal delivery. Dancehall Nice is a retro-sounding track with pounding dancehall rhythms and a gruffer ragga-style vocal taking us back to the mid/late eighties. 

What A Wonderful World is an unusual, innovative and adventurous song, full of strings and the kitchen sink thrown in to the backing. It is actually pretty difficult to analyse. 

Rumours is a shuffling, rhythmic number with some great percussion and bass and a catchiness to it. I'll Be Your Friend is a tender, laid-back romantic number to end this pleasant, invigorating album.

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