May 27, 2016

Hugh Mundell - Africa Must Be Free By 1983 (1978)

What a touching album. It is a cry for peace from a gifted 16 year old roots singer (as young as 14 on some of these songs, actually) who was shot to death in 1983, eerily the same year mentioned in the title. At first I thought that Mundell was a dub DJ or producer and was accompanied by a female vocalist. Nope, some inconspicuous cracks and tension in the voice led me to realize that this is a child singing. I've only discovered Africa Must Be Free this week, but I already consider it one of my favorites. On the fact that he's a teenager, Mundell has nothing on the voice command and power of other great reggae singers like Bob Marley and Michael Rose, but who needs that when an excellent backing band and producer lineup can make your unique vocals equally effective in a different way? Augustus Pablo, a famed figure in Jamaican music, is the album's main producer. Pablo was effective in recruiting an impressive credits list, including my personal favorite Robbie Shakespeare on bass. Mundell's likable youthfulness does nothing but shine and effectively communicate emotion within these warm, organic instrumentals. Like many roots albums, Africa Must Be Free is a little lo-fi, a hodge-podge of recording techinques, and accented by some slightly primitive dubbing sounds, but I think that it's even sweeter as a result of all these factors. Roots reggae at its finest.