Conscious Roots 3

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Conscious Roots 3(Various Artists / EMI Music NZ)
Compiled by David Allan and Pranja Moodley

It’s always a hard thing to do the third of a series, especially if the previous two have been such killers. The third has the danger of being just more of the same, coasting along on the success of it predecessors, or worse to flop. Sometimes though, the third can be a deeper, more expansive appreciation of the subject, than a compilation of secure hits. Such is the case with CR3.  

On first listen there are no tracks that really leap out like CR2’s stunning Dreams (House of Shem) or CR1’s universal Get Away (Katchafire). Like all songs and albums that last, CR3 needs a good few listens to feel the intention of the compilation.

The track order has been very carefully considered. The album kicks off in a happily major tone, the first couple of songs by 1814 and Cornerstone Roots respectively, in a jumpy, happy feel. The nugget of sweetness is revealed in the beautifully rocksteady Poor Man Shall Save the City by Unity Pacific, which has the uncanny knack of being able to slide between major / minor, reminiscent of classics like Cry Tough (Alton Ellis) and Free Man (Ethiopians). Also employing this technique are Three Houses Down who, with the righteously conscious lyric ‘justice for all or just us?’, lead us into a more relaxed tempo.

The mood turns more serious with the Black Seeds’ The Answer, which stays true to the indie kiwi feel (and accent), while still satisfying rootical leanings. The Midnights roll into the dub zone, iriely maintained by The Kingites. Verse Two keeps the rootsy feel with its finely syncopated beat, as do Open Souls ft Lady6. From here the feel stays fairly broody and introspective to the end of the disc, which ends with Hollie Smith’s moody Prayer.

This CD is music for musicians and aficionados, as well as irie reggae lovers. Popular without being pop, intelligent and finely crafted without feeling contrived, it is a tribute to Aotearoa’s skill in composing, performance and selection. Like any good compilation, it satisfies all areas and sub-genres of Conscious Reggae, and serves to educate as well as provide polished familiarity.

It would have been nice, however, to have had a return back to the sunny, feel-good vibes of the beginning tracks, but the obvious question as the compilers must have found, is: which tracks to replace? For this reason it seems unfinished, as if there is another paragraph or chapter to come. No doubt the door has been left open for a CR4.

These may not be tracks to be called ‘catchy’ (thankfully), but as with all good art, give it time and attention. The strength is in the range of artists and styles.

4 Stars.

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