Jimmy Cliff and Ryan Shaw Offer Up Classic Reggae and R&B with new album
As we close out the year, I wanted to touch on two of my favorites from 2012 that crossed the finish line just prior to making out my Best Of list. Although my self-proclaimed heavy twang Americana propaganda is a beacon of light in these parts of Northeast Ohio, my roots are heavily influenced by the styles of music I have followed along the way. My ears perked up just a bit when singles from these two records were getting played by Mike Marrone, my favorite DJ on Sirius/XM radio channel The Loft.
The segway from an Al Green song to “In Between” from somebody named Ryan Shaw just about made me pee my pants. Born in Decatur, Georgia and having been raised in a deeply religious household, Shaw began his career at age 5 by singing in the Pentecostal church choir. This led to Shaw winning an audition to perform in a gospel musical at Georgia State University, and in 1998 he eventually dropped out of college to take part in Tyler Perry’s play I Know I’ve Been Changed at New York’s Beacon Theatre. At the end of the play’s run he began doing Motown covers in New York, joining the group Fabulous Soul Shakers in 2004. He recorded a demo in 2006, won the ear of Jimmy Bralower. Columbia Records signed him to their label and released Shaw’s debut solo record This is Ryan Shaw in 2007. Bralower started Dynotone Records in 2012 and Real Love by Ryan Shaw was the maiden record released by the new found label this past May.
This album is old school rhythm and blues and an old soul sound that continues to resurface with some excellent off the radar singers. Shaw seems to channel the energy of Motown, Stax, and Muscle Shoals with original compositions like “Karina”, “Evermore”, “Gone, Gone, Gone”, and “That is Why”. You will want to find someone to dance close to while listening to Shaw sing “You Don’t Know Nothing About Love”. “Morning Noon & Night” will make you think this song was cut for Smoke or that “The Wrong Man” was recorded for the Philadelphia Sound hit factory. Players on these tracks include Al Kooper, Robert Randolph, Marc Copley, along with co-producers Johnny Gale and Bralower. So the bottom line is that this 12 track record will receive continuous rotations on your turntable, CD, or MP3 player.
The chant of “One More” by Jimmy Cliff along with his take on “Guns of Brixton” by The Clash put Rebirth on my most wanted list of album finds. Since 1968, Jimmy Cliff has fostered a path to become a legendary voice in music. His mainstream breakthrough came in 1972 when Cliff starred as Ivanhoe “Ivan” Martin in the classic reggae film, The Harder They Come. The soundtrack album of the film was a huge success that sold well across the world, bringing reggae to an international audience for the first time. A slew of hits followed with “Struggling Man”, “Vietnam”, “You Can Get it if you Really Want”, “Sitting in Limbo”, “I Can See Clearly Now”, a cover of Cat Steven’s “Wild World”, and “Many Rivers To Cross”. In 2010, Cliff was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Cliff writes eleven of the album’s 13 tracks with his signature political phrasings and unmistakable vocals including songs “World Upside Down”, “Children’s Bread”, “Bang”, and “Rebel Rebel”. The feel good dance vibe comes out in compositions like “Reggae Music”, “Blessed Love”, and “Ship is Sailing”. Cliff surrounds himself with musical backing by Engine Room featuring Tim Armstrong (guitar), J. Bonner (bass), Scott Abels (drums), Kevin Biona (piano, guitar), and Dan Boer (organ) along with a fabulous horn section. So if you haven’t been exposed to this Shaman reggae master, I recommend you pick up this new record along with his Ultimate Collection to add to your musical library.
May the spirit of the season touch your soul and bring you comfort and joy throughout the upcoming year. Stay tuned for more adventures next month and thanks for checking in … I appreciate your friendship and readership.