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The most important instrument in a reggae band? Well, it's got to be the bass, hasn't it? Shaking the speaker cones and driving the music onwards. Third World's basslines are endlessly inventive - deep and sinister on "Cold Sweat", ducking and weaving on "Now That We Found Love", popping and slapping on the instrumental "Journey to Addis".
Or maybe it's the drums. This album has sharp, clear Compass Point recorded drums, with that typically 'dry' Island Records acoustic that hasn't dated badly at all. The hi-hat cuts through beautifully without slicing off your ears, and again the playing is constantly inventive, but ever losing the groove.
Or maybe it's the guitars? Not content to spend a whole album going 'onk-chinka-onk-chinka-onk-chinka...', the guitarist here keeps breaking off for scuzzy, distorted solo improvisations that evoke hot, dusty evenings watching a Jamaican band perform outdoors.
Or maybe it's the vocals. Third World possess two or three excellent, soulful male vocalists, with occasional vocal spots by another bloke with a subterranean basement-voice, and lost of high and pure harmonies thrown into the mix. My only tiny problem with this album is the in-yer-face Rastafari philosophy that pretty much drives every lyric. The faithful will love it, but those who find it hard to accept a 20th century African head of state as the second incarnation of Christ may struggle with some of the meanings here.
But it's mostly about the music, and Third World have created a beautiful album. No two songs sound alike, and all have rich sounds and textures that make them a constant delight and stand repeated listening.
I should add a note of caution for downloaders - make sure you get the 7'40" album version of "Now That We Found Love" and not the single edit that some online retailers (not Amazon) are flogging. This CD remaster is excellent - faithful to the original (I have the vinyl pressing from 1978) and it has definitely NOT been ruined by putting the sound through the too-good-to-be-true filter. My CD states "Made in the USA" and "Distributed by Def Jam Records".
I am so in love with the sound of this. It's the kind of album any jock would want to take on the road to tour with, it's THAT good.
Wasn't familiar with Cold Sweat as a studio version, so truly enjoyed getting to know it in its original format. Plus, Now That We've Found Love is absolutely splendid as a full length recording. The edit is about half of what the full track length turns out to be.
Title track? Awesome. As is Cool Meditation, a song I wished I'd had with me on many a gig. You cannot help but drum along with this as it plays through. Oh, but these guys know how to play, and how to fill our spirits with good stuff. Love the music. Really, really do.