Jah Shaka has found great success by returning to the studio legendary roots artists whose careers had slipped under the wire with time. The mighty Prince Alla is the latest in this high caliber league to undergo Shaka's back from the past attack. It may be 1996, but listeners unaware of this album's genesis will be forgiven for thinking this is a long-lost Alla album dug up from the archives. The deep roots atmosphere, the sparse instrumentation, Earl "Flabba" Holt's thick as a boa constrictor and just as sinuous bassline, the General's militant beats, Felix "Deadly Headly" Bennett's bright blasts of brass, everything about this set including the production and arrangement reeks of the early '80s, with only the synth occasionally giving the game away. Alla certainly doesn't, he sounds as good, if not better, than he did during the roots era, filling the entire album with strong and thoughtful cultural messages. And with Johnny Clarke providing the close harmonies, even the one updated number on the set, "Born A Fighter," reaches new heights. Every track here is notable, kicking off with the militant tinged rallying cry "Gather Round," while the more delicate adoration of "Rastafari" comes from the other end of the roots spectrum. "Togo The Lion," an incendiary version of the "Drum Song" riddim, is lethal, even though the lion doesn't roar as much as snarl like a peeved kitten. The sufferer's song "It Ain't Easy" is particularly haunting, a touch of jazzy horns beautifully illuminates the "Righteous," while "King Midas" is a strong retelling of the legendary regent. "Captive Birds" and "Souls To Save" are both themed around justice (or lack of it) provided by both man's and Jah's law. By album's end you, like Alla, will "Feel The Spirit," as the singer, musicians, and Jah Shaka re-energize the roots realm.

Jo-Ann Greene ~ AllMusic


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