Gentle climb to a music high
As I listened to Trueversation, the first song on Queen Ifrica's 17-track Climb, I had one of those moments when you feel very smug about having made a great discovery - and, like most of those moments, found out that you overlooked the obvious in the first place.
In the duet with Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley, she sings "action speaks louder than words not in all cases/words can take you very high places/verbal stimulation". And I thought, eureka! There is the key to the naming of the CD with an absolutely beautiful profile portrait of Ifrica on the cover and striking pictures in the inset.
Then I scanned the track listing a little closer and saw Climb at number 10 and did not feel like a keen listener any more, just someone who did not look closely enough. However, there is redemption, as the love songs like Trueversation, and the closing Let's Act Silly (the only song on the album which I had heard previously) are at either end of an album with a heavy serving of songs about overcoming adversity, such as Climb, That's how it is Sometime and Ask My Granny. Interspersed are more love tracks like Better Than Amazing and All That I'm Asking, making for an excellent balance.
Throughout it all, Ifrica generally takes a gentle, melodic approach, which makes for an ascent where the slope is so gentle, it is almost a surprise to realise how high you get. Exceptions to that gentleness include Lie Dem a Tell, which is about the contradiction between the doom and gloom outlook on Jamaica and the signs of heavy spending, such as the building of new hotels. There is also Rebellion, an up-tempo track which simultaneously recalls uprising in places as diverse as Pinnacle, Jamaica, and Angola, while stating the injustice which causes especially the youth to be angry. There is also an urgency to Black Woman, which urges women of colour to protect their ra-pa-pam, which is an orchid and should not be sold out for "fish and chips".
There is an especially moving vocal moment in I Can't Breathe, which is about racism, when Ifrica sings, "swing low sweet chariot, coming forth to carry me home" close to the beginning. On a lyrically strong set, among the standout lines is "all mi father need is a chance to be a man/so please officer no take whe de likkle van", which sums up the male's struggle with officialdom for his manhood in providing for his children.
The album could have done without Grabba, especially as it is followed by Medical Marijuana, which is a much better take on the well-worn musical subject of marijuana. And whether used by men and women in ordinary conversation or by Ifrica in Ask My Granny, the use of the word 'catty' jars me.
Those quibbles do not, of course, spoil a splendid album, into which thought and care has been put from the cover image to the lyrics, vocal delivery and music production. Climb takes the listener to levels of thought which are elevated, yet accessible.
1. Trueversation (featuring Damian Marley)
2. That's How it is Sometime
3. Love is not Blind
4. Pleasure to See
5. Lie Dem a Tell
7. Medical Marijuana
8. Good Man
9. Black Women
11. All That I'm Asking
13. I Can't Breathe
14. Ask My Granny
16. Better Than Amazing
17. Let's Get Silly