Words by Clyde MacFarlane
Better known for bass playing than for his equally natural singing ability, Clinton Fearon reflects on his career with legendary roots reggae band The Gladiators over the course of Heart and Soul. When Fearon did take lead vocals – on lesser-known Gladiators cuts such as ‘Marvel Not’, ‘Richman Poorman’ and ‘Let Jah Be Praised’, the band could have been Jamaica’s Motown equivalents, unrecognisable to their sound when fronted by the significantly rougher vocals of Albert Griffiths. Griffiths had a style well suited to dancehall, a direction The Gladiators moved towards after Fearon’s 1987 departure. On Heart and Soul Fearon plays bass, rhythm and plucked acoustic guitar on 12 stripped-down Gladiators originals, capturing how the tracks must have sounded in early composition. Fearon also provides hearty percussion with a variety of giving and receiving objects, namely hand-mallets, bamboo sticks, cowbells and glasses of water (full and empty).
It is in this creative percussion that Heart and Soul becomes something new, avoiding what could be an easy re-hash for Fearon. ‘Chatty Chatty Mouth’ is a near note-for-note, harmony-for-soulful-harmony repeat of the 1976 Joe Gibbs-produced original, only with a vibra slap rattle substituted for Gibbs’ vintage snare effect. Where one expects to hear guitar solos, Fearon fills in with playful scats – a carefree tone laid out in the first few seconds of the opening ‘One Love.’ If the stripped-down approach appeals, listeners should also check out Fearon’s self-descriptive 2005 release Mi An’ Mi Guitar, an even sparser reinvention of The Gladiators’ back catalogue.
TRACK TO TRY: Chatty Chatty Mouth
(On Sterns Music)
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