Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ghetto Priest

Ghetto Priest

They Call I Black

At the age of 33 years I arrived at a point in my life where the psychological illusion of 
a safety net that I had created or implanted in my mind pertaining to family, culture, society, religion and environment was stripped down to its bare bones. This mini album is a testimony to my 33 years on the planet earth

-          Ghetto Priest

Ghetto Priest is an artist that hit his stride with Adrian Sherwood’s the On-U Sound back in the ‘90’s. He cut his teeth as singer and percussionist for African Head Charge and by 2004 he cut his first album for the label entitled Vulture Culture. Later that year he teamed up Scottish artist Graham Fagen for a remake of Robert burns song “The Slaves Lament.” He even found time to hook up with activist dub-punks Asian Dub Foundation and appear on Fortress Europe from their Enemy of the Enemy album. He went on to front their exciting stage shows for the next four years. He has released several singles including Dungeon, A Long Way, Armageddon and the lion Of Judah Hath Prevailed. He has recorded with The Process, Detroit’s own iconoclastic reggae punks. This is Ghetto Priest’s Sermon on the Mount and the six songs on this disc are the beatitudes. Listen

Wrapped in Prophecy

This is a genre blending musical score that pushes boundaries. Despite the sometimes preachy vibe, this song is about feeling happy and finding bliss. The synthesized backdrop colors the song with a dream-like quality that seems like an alien dissociated state in which the normal processes of consciousness and memory are suspended. Ghetto Priest sings in low conversational tones as if he’s in the kitchen sharing a cuppa with a friend and confiding his most intimate thoughts, despite the title and the low-fi production, this is music for the masses. It has a cool cross-over appeal even with some of its more preachy tones. It is music with a transcendent message:

 I feel there’s somewhere else wrapped in prophecy   
You see the light only twice
Once when you are 
Once when you die

Ghetto Priest is clearly embracing an almost universal spiritual precept of the meek inheriting the earth as when Jesus names a group of people normally thought to be unfortunate and He pronounces them blessed.

Open Up (Let Your Light Shine)

Ghetto Priest sings about spirituality, redemption and Judgment Day with a minimalist backing  with just light percussion and synthesized accents, Ghetto Priests honey glazed vocals colors the song with a sense of warmth and intimacy. The listener joins in with the singer and they are one. He lulls the listener into complete and total submission.  Like a love junkie that never has enough, you cannot stop asking for more. He’s so quiet and unassuming, you have an urge to stop, quiet your mind and really listen. His lyrics are about courage and redemption:

Don’t give up  
Never say die  
Seek and you shall find
Let your mind fly
touch the stars 
Life keeps moving on
Don’t lose your faith
Slow down the pace

The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea

This is an extraordinary beautiful ballad, a substantial piece of music that can stand on its own merits. It opens with a lonesome acoustic guitar playing a minor chord, a swoosh of a cymbal roll and Ghetto Priest’s winsome “oooh”. There is a musical economy that provides space for the instruments and vocals to co-exist peacefully.  He sings:

I wonder if good can conquer evil
could we ever be free
Down on my knees
Caught between the devil & the deep blue sea
asking for forgiveness for all our sins

This is a breezy pop song with a message. It has hooks galore, melody and a great lead vocal.

It could be a radio hit!

Bruised is a genre hopping master piece. A reggae infused declaration of courage against all odds. The verse is pure reggae bliss:

I’m bruised but I’m fighting
I’m blind but I can feel
every tumble I take
is making me stronger
The bridge includes a jangly guitar riff and a 2/4 beat:

When you tell me it’s alright
Nothing will break me down
If you need me I’ll be around
a shoulder to lean on 
When you hold me in your arms
There’s no doubt in my mind   
Everything’s gonna be alright

Ghetto Priest moves skillfully from reggae to pop without missing a beat. He even throws in some primitive Dylanesque harp as a means of tipping his hat to the master, a kindred soul whose music and lyrics created the soundtrack  for the sixties peace movement.

The Time Has Come is another genre defying song. It is a statement of change and rebellion and  love and freedom. This is an historical declaration that is centuries old but had its most recent incarnation in in 1967 as it flowered and overflowed in Laurel Canyon where the ideas about freedom, peace and love were embraced in San Francisco and elsewhere.  Ghetto Priest sings it cool and low and the harmony vocals by the ladies gives the chorus a boost. The swirling synthesizer blips and grumbles and helps define the overall sound. The percussion is muted but the rhythm of the guitars helps keep the time.

The lyrics tell the story:

The time has come
when we can sail into the ocean
we felt no fear and no regrets
the time has come
we can hold hands together
and march to the promised land

The Devil & the Deep Blue Sea (dub edit)

              The swoosh of the synthesizer colors the dub edit of this incredible musical statement. The prominent echo gives Ghetto Priest’s vocals a heavenly tone and hue. He sings beautifully. This is a stone masterpiece that deserves a wider audience. This is a fully realized song that goes beyond simple craft to a soulful exploration of musical blending and boundaries. His lush tenor sounds a bit like Usher which may convince a younger fan base to sit up and take notice . From the musical execution to the lyrical brilliance, Ghetto Priest is on the cusp of something much bigger. This should be the vehicle to greater notoriety. Keep on!                                                                                                                            

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