Avrakedabra lacks lyrical magic
This is not going to be a glowing review of Morgan Heritage's latest album, Avrakedabra, a copy of which turned up on the surface of the desk allocated to me at The Gleaner's 7 North Street, Kingston offices, a couple weeks ago. However, should you choose to go any further, keep two things in mind. The first is that my opinion matters not to the persons who have actually bought copies, in the process returning Avrakedabra to the Billboard Reggae Charts in the number 13 position for the listing up to July 29. So far, it has spent seven weeks on the chart.
The other is a quote from Chronixx's Likes, about the interplay between performer and critic, in which he probably speaks for many artistes when he says:
"Mi no waan no waste guy a critique mi song
Mi no waan no media guy interpret mi wrong."
All that said, this is not this particular media guy's (and, who knows, maybe waste guy, too) glowing review of Avrakedabra, the title of which is, of course, reminiscent of the magician's standard call abracadabra (which is actually what Gramps Morgan says at the outset).
For, as a whole, although it sounds fantastic in production quality, Morgan Heritage's 14-track album is disappointingly formulaic and lacking that spark which moves a piece of creative work from 'ho hum' to 'wow!'. The set ticks all the right boxes musically - including the horn solo on Tribute to Ruggs, where there is an excellent blend of voices. It is the topics and lyrics which let it down.
Part of that formula is the pairing of lead singer Peetah Morgan's higher pitch with Gramps' distinctive lower pitch (especially when he says "rockaz!") and that familiar strategy is employed on the opening track, Want Some More - a very forgettable track on the well-hackneyed theme of reggae's power.
The cliche topics continue with One Life to Live (the urging is to live it to the fullest) and One Family, a call for unity featuring Stephen and Ziggy Marley.
Golden, a love where the man "just wants to love you" and never wants to be without the lady, is run-of-the-mill Reggae Nights (featuring Drezion) is a remake that adds naught to the Jimmy Cliff classic. Dispelling myth about Africa is a valuable, ongoing process, but Selah does not do it in a new and interesting way, although it details personal experiences.
And so it goes, although there are some saving graces in the latter part of the album, among them the final track, Dancing in the Moonlight, which recommends a simple approach to matters of the heart. It is not an unusual topic, but lines such as "before it's too late, before we get too jaded" is over some reprieve.