Independent reggae artist Papa Rosko’s self-titled debut album is an intriguing new addition to this year’s field of new reggae records. That is proven throughout the course of the 10-song record, thanks to its musical arrangements and lyrical content alike. It is a record that takes a course somewhat unlike so many other reggae offerings, as proven in part through the album’s opener, a cover of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues. This work will be discussed shortly. ‘Chemistry Is Everything,’ which is one of the album’s originals, is another example of what makes Papa Rosko’s debut record stand out among its reggae counterparts. It will be discussed a little later. The rock-infused ‘1984’ is yet another example of what makes Papa Rosko a notable addition to his year’s field of new reggae albums. It will also be discussed later. When it is considered along with the rest of the album’s songs and those mentioned here, the whole proves to be a presentation that reggae fans will agree is worth hearing at least once.
Papa Rosko’s self-tiled debut record, released independently Oct. 16 by Papa Rosko is an interesting new addition to this year’s field of new reggae records. That is because it is a work that takes that proverbial road less traveled. Rather than just using the typical, familiar reggae sounds and topics, this album offers audiences a wider array of content musically and lyrically. The record’s opener, a cover of Johnny Cash’s timeless song ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ is just one of the ways in which the noted statements are supported. Right off the bat, audiences would not necessarily expect a reggae record to feature such a work, so that Papa Rosko took that course is admirable in its own right. The song’s arrangement infuses Cash’s country original with the familiar horns and guitar sounds of the reggae realm for a whole that gives Cash’s original a whole new identity. That identity in question is just as engaging and enjoyable as Cash’s original. Given, there is little improving on perfection. Small Town Titans is one of the rare acts that has ever clearly outdone the original song. Papa Rosko’s version however, just takes the song in a distinctly new direction that is still enjoyable in its own right. It is just one of the songs that shows the strength of Papa Rosko’s self-titled debut album. Papa Rosko’s original song ‘Chemistry is Everything’ stands on its own merits.
The musical arrangement that is featured in ‘Chemistry is Everything’ lends itself to comparisons to works from Sublime. As a matter of fact, a close listen to the keyboards, guitar, vocals, horns, and seeming shaker, can also lead to a comparison to works from the chief Parrothead himself, Jimmy Buffet. Once again, this is a path that most reggae acts have not taken and that most likely never will. So to have a comparison to two acts who are so similar yet different makes for such a unique composition. That unique composition will in turn make for quite the enjoyable and engaging listening experience in its own right.
The light, relaxed vibe that the musical arrangement exudes in ‘Chemistry is Everything’ becomes even more important when it is considered alongside the song’s lyrical theme. That theme in question is, clearly, a song about the importance of chemistry in the formation of a relationship. Papa Rosko sings of that importance, “Some things just go together/Like two birds of a feather…Too late, the seed’s been planted/By you I’ve been enchanted/It’s in our protoplasm/My atoms love your atoms/Let’s sing a song/That only we can hear…Our souls made love/Before our bodies ever did/This is true/Chemistry is everything.” He continues in the song’ second verse, “We sat and talked for hours/A kiss that overpowers/I’m not the kind to cling to…I sing to a tune/That soothes the soul/We go together, baby/Like rock and roll/Compatibility like I have never known/When I’m with you, girl/It just feels like home.” A few lines here are difficult to decipher, but the bigger picture is clear. The song’s lyrical theme focuses on that noted chemistry and its role in the strength of a relationship in its infancy. Considering everything noted here, it would have been easy for papa Rosko to compose a musical arrangement that was upbeat but more tense, considering the uncertainty that so many people feel at the earliest stage of a relationship. What he did here instead was present that early stage in a more relaxed fashion, maybe from someone who is more confident than others. That juxtaposition makes this song even more interesting, and even clearer an example of what makes the song an important addition to Papa Rosko. It is just one more of the album’s most notable works, too. Papa Rosko’s musical adaptation of author George Orwell’s timeless novel 1984 is yet another key addition to the album.
‘1984’ takes a completely different route than pretty much every reggae artist and act out there today in its musical and musical aspects. Yes, the reggae elements are there, but at the same time, he and his fellow musicians incorporate a nice, heavy, rock influence for a very distinct contrast in styles and sounds throughout. What’s interesting to note here is the minimalist use of that rock element alongside the reggae influence. Because of its placement at very specific points, it makes for a wonderful accent to the arrangement. In the same vein, the use of the saxophone solo adds its own nice touch to the whole. Between that and everything else in this song, its musical arrangement builds a strong foundation for its presentation. The lyrical theme that builds on that foundation makes the song stand out even more.
The lyrical theme of ‘1984,’ — as noted — centers on Orwell’s timeless novel by the same name. Papa Rosko notes at times, that he does not want cameras following his every move and that big brother is everywhere. In this day and age, that is not so much science fiction or even fiction anymore. News reports throughout the past decade or so have revealed that yes, there are cameras on earth and on satellites that watch our near every move nowadays. Many of those cameras even have facial recognition technology, which is very scary. Papa Rosko even notes at one point, “There’s no escaping 1984.” He could not be more right. We live in an age now when everything we say and do is being monitored by higher powers. Given, Papa Rosko is hardly the first artist to ever take on this matter, but that he would do so by outright invoking Orwell’s novel makes for plenty of interest. That he would do with through a protest song that is one part reggae and one part rock makes for even more interest for listeners. When this is considered with the equally accessible lyrical content in the other songs noted here and their companion musical arrangements, and the overall content featured in the album’s other songs, the album in whole prove to give listeners plenty of reason to hear this record at least once.
Papa Rosko’s self-titled debut album is an interesting new addition to this year’s field of new reggae records. It is not the traditional presentation that one might think of when one thinks of reggae albums. That is proven through the record’s musical and lyrical content alike, as the songs examined here show. They feature content that is far more accessible to mainstream audiences than more devoted reggae fans in terms of both aspects. Keeping all of that in mind, Papa Rosko proves itself a record that reggae devotees and more casual fans alike will enjoy. It is available now. More information on the album is available along with all of Papa Rosko’s latest news at:
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