Just as the hopes and dreams of Jamaican reggae have been pinned on Tarrus Riley, similar fanfare has accompanied the irresistible rise of gap-toothed Harlesden singer-deejay Gappy Ranks in the UK. Now, his first full length album has arrived, using vintage rocksteady and reggae rhythms by the Peckings crew, and it's every bit as good as the singles would suggest.
The first act will be familiar to Gappy fans. Debut Peckings release Mountain Top ambles to the easy confident pace of the immortal Step It Out rhythm. Put the Stereo On - recalling Gappy's Jamaican father playing classic Studio One platters whilst his Dominican mother made the Sunday meal - is the strongest use of Hot Milk since Edi Fitzroy's Freedom Fighters. And huge hit Heaven in Her Eyes takes a while to outgrow the shadow of the Wailers' Soul Rebel, yet reveals itself as equally capable of standing the test of time.
But it's the quality of the fresher cuts that consolidates the disc's success. Thy Shall Love (on a revamp of the rhythm to Joe White's melodica instrumental Kenyatta) and Heavy Load on guest producer Frenchie's update of Bunny Lee's Creation Rebel take Gappy in a roots direction. Musical Girl (introduced by the great U Roy) lyrically captures the overpowering feeling of sonic immersion that only Jamaican music can achieve. There's even a second crack at Soul Rebel with the sweet-voiced Nereus Joseph in tow.
After the modern dancehall sounds of EP Rising out of the Ghetto (co-produced by his management Special Delivery) this foundation album might appear a nostalgia piece in the mode of Bitty McLean's On Bond Street. But the combination of these timeless backings with Gappy's free-styled lyrics, current topics and (tasteful) pitch correction delivery forges a meeting of eras that should please all the people all the time.
- - -