‘As I Am’ Album Review
By Jen Cheshire
It’s been close to ten years since Julian Marley last released an album, so this one has been very much anticipated. The album “As I Am” will be released this Friday, January 25th, 2019.
I had no expectations as I’m not very familiar with Julian’s earlier albums; so when I started to listen I was taken aback. This album is full of surprises and although Julian sticks very much to the conscious lyrics of his roots, the music crosses many genres.
“As I Am” is a 17 track album opening with “Are You The One”. I had to listen to the track a few times before I understood the meaning of the song. The lyrics are from the perspective of roots reggae music that is reaching out around the world bringing the message of hope and freedom, with memorable lines like “Travel every ocean, with them redemption songs”. This is a great opening track with a catchy beat and a wicked bass line.
“Hey Jack”, the second track is about friendship and trust, a common theme nowadays in many reggae songs. “Broken Sail”, the next track is about the feeling of hopelessness, comparing it to a boat with a broken sail adrift on the ocean. The following track was the biggest surprise for me. “Chalice Load” is a ganja song with a difference. This is the first time I have ever heard a ganja song with a funk beat. This could definitely be a crossover song that could fit into the pop or soul genres. “Cooling In Jamaica”, track 5, is a happy “summer” song that ought to be picked up by the Jamaican Tourist Board. It talks about the sun, soft sandy beaches and all the good aspects of visiting Jamaica. Next up is “Baby Lotion” featuring The Tamlins; a fun song with an infectious ska beat. ”Too Hot” featuring Shaggy is another surprise track introducing a big band sound, conjuring up visions of the 50’s big bands on the Ed Sullivan Show. The track, “Magic of Love (Compassion)”, is a deep story of despair and a cry to the Almighty for help, “Where have you gone Lord? I am only simply asking”. He is asking where the help is coming from. I don’t have any information about the musicians on the album but there is a very good guitarist on this track. UPDATE: Luke Andrews: Lead Guitar
“Straighter Roads” comes next, a recently released official video captures the essence of this song of hope that compares life to a highway that we journey along. Track 10, “Papa”, is not about his father Bob Marley, as the title would suggest, but about the never-ending love the Almighty has for humanity. Next up is a love song, “Biology (Smile For Me)” This song for me is reminiscent of the love songs of his father. “What’s New Pussycat” featuring Beenie Man changes the atmosphere completely. It is a fun remake of the classic Tom Jones song but with a difference. Julian has really made this song his own with an English Beat/Two Tone feel to it.
”Panic Mind State” featuring Spragga Benz is a “lost love” song with an infectious ska beat. Track 14, “Can’t Cool The Fire”, is a song calling out Babylon for the wrongs it has done. The beautiful classical choral background adds to the drama of this track, which is possibly my favorite track on the album. The penultimate track, “War Zone”, is an anti-war song, calling out the corrupt politicians who feed us propaganda to justify wars that play into their own agendas.
The last track on the album is the inevitable dub. This dub version is of the opening track on the album but with Addis Pablo supplying the melody with the melodica. This is a beautiful ending to an amazing album.
This album is well worth the ten-year wait. It is one of those albums that makes it difficult to pick a favorite track, it will change each time you listen, so buy the complete album and you won’t be disappointed.