Robert Dallas Tradition Man LP, conscious roots reggae at its best.
Robert Dallas has waited a long time to get his first LP, Tradition Man published. Born in Jamaica and raised by his Grandma, singing was always his first love. During the 80s he would follow the well trod trail of visiting the big studios in search of some recognition of his undoubted talent. Success nearly fell on his lap when an audition at Tuff Gong caused a ripple of excitement among the staff. But following Bob Marley’s all too premature death, work and a recording contract never materialised.
Jump forward three decades and it was Jamtone Records owner and producer Darren Mathers that spotted Robert’s talent. In 2012 their work together produced the single Tradition Man, the anchor song for this LP.
Darren has had a lifelong love of reggae, progressing from selling records, to running a sound system with friends and then to owning and producing for Jamtone. His role in Robert’s recent career has been pivotal in getting this set released. Darren talks about that relationship in the LP’s sleeve notes. ‘We worked together well on that one song (Tradition Man)’. Darren goes on to say ‘and the next thing we did worked very well. And the natural conclusion was to put out an LP together’.
So what of Tradition Man? Robert is obviously a deeply religious man, and his faith is certainly what motivates him. Reading the sleeve notes he has had problems with the recording industry in the past and it sounds like he has no love of unscrupulous producers. This theme of ‘deceivers’ is evident in the album, but overall it his faith and love of Jah that runs through his lyrics and drives the album.
The LP’s first track, ‘Tradition Man’ sets out the musical theme for all ten songs. It has a very British 70s roots feel to it, very melodic and beautifully produced. A gentle skank, with lovely subtle backing vocals weaving in and out. In this first track the lyrics draw out Robert’s traditional attitudes and virtues, the line ‘I’m a tradition man for a long long time’ sums this up.
‘Clean Up Your Heart’ is next, a track that lifts the mood and showcases Robert’s great vocal range; I am not quite sure how he hits those high notes! Subtle effects provide some layers to the sound and give it richness. Clean Up Your Heart has a message, get your house in order and Jah will accept you, but this effort must come from yourself!
Third track and definitely my favourite is ‘Sign of Mankind’. It bounces along, has some nice key changes, add in a bit of wah wah and you have a real roots anthem. The line ‘Temptation will come your way’ fits in with the prominent horns, which act like an almost biblical calling.
‘Jah Nah Sleep’ slows down the groove and has quite a poppy sound. The song is a big thanks to life and the knowledge we are given. The ‘deceivers’ are mentioned, maybe a reference to his early brush with the bad side of the record industry. Finishing off side one is ‘Victory Train’, which reminds me of a mad cross between ‘Train to Skaville’ and ‘Sleng Teng’. A nice heavy bass line lays out the route to the righteous land.
Side two kicks off with ‘Africa I’m Coming’ and its back to the 70s vibe. The track is a very sad lament to the wicked slave trade and the abominable behaviour perpetrated by Northern European countries. Robert’s spiritual desire to return home is evident. This reviewer can’t help feel a sense of shame for the actions of my white English ancestors. The moral high ground is with Robert, what a shameful period of history.
After the track ‘War & Crime’, another track that wears its heart on its sleeve, is ‘Rise Up’. This is another skanking tune that Bob Marley would have been proud of. Sentiments of stand up for your rights flow through the words. ‘Keep your focus and be strong’ could well be a line from Get Up Stand Up. The highlight though is another simple but damn effective bass line which gets some free reign to drive this track. This one is ripe for a serious dub makeover.
The album finishes off with two tracks which have love as the theme. The lovers track, ‘Inspirational Lady’ sounds like a dedication to Robert’s wife, a lovely personal song. Whilst ‘Children’s Cry’ brings this set to a close. With the scenes we are seeing everyday of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean, this track with protection of children as its theme seems even more poignant.
Robert Dallas and Tradition Man, ten tracks of soulful conscious roots guaranteed to uplift all. After years of trying to get his talent recognised, let’s hope 2015 will be Robert’s year.
You can buy Tradition Man on LP, CD and digital from discogs .
Will you be buying Tradition Man, let me know in the comments, Bless.