Akae Beka and Ras Teo: All Hail Single Review by Mr Topple for Pauzeradio.com.
The incomparable Vaughn Benjamin’s (Akae Beka) posthumous work continues to impress. Not least was his track with Tiken Jah Fakoly, Everything Bless (you can read Pauzeradio’s review here). So, once more the world is gifted with another fine song from this legend.
All Hail, released via Jah Solid Rock Music, sees Akae Beka and Ras Teo join forces. Production and mixing are from the always on-point Roberto Sánchez of A-Lone Productions, with the Lone Ark Riddim Force band providing the musical backdrop. The result is a graceful and rich song, filled with detail.
It is, as always from Sánchez, a cleverly arranged affair; he also performs the drums, keys and bass. There are some rudimental devices in play to hone in on the Roots vibe. Keys run an unfussy bubble rhythm – but unlike many Roots tracks their sound is rich and full, avoiding the high-passed tininess often found in the genre. The bass runs an attractive riff, utilising semiquavers, quavers and crotchets to veer from syncopated to smooth. It’s been engineered very well, so as not to impose itself to heavily over the rest of the instrumental lines. A clavinet line, from Reuben “Ras” Telford, mimics the bass’s motif – working as a nice counterpoint and supporting the driving momentum.
Drum-wise, and All Hail has an interesting arrangement. Sánchez avoids a traditional one drop entirely, instead creating an almost military vibe which feels double the BPM. The snare is the focal point: incessant, it runs a double demisemiquaver-to-beamed quaver riff marching riff; fitting of the regal subject matter. The kick hits every beat, while hi-hats run a double time rhythm. But at the end of phrases there are nice breaks, with additional rolls and cymbal crashes present. Extra percussion has also been dropped in via Jaime “Pipe” Hero, including riffing tin drums and a vibraslap. It’s a smart, involved arrangement which, with the keys and bass, is central to the power of the track.
Sánchez’s additional instrumentation finishes off All Hail perfectly. A sumptuous string section from Telford glides and slides at points throughout, at times running crotchets on the up beats, at others performing quaver responses to the main vocal lines’ calls – and also then running semibreves, too, to smooth certain phrases out. His electric organ brings Soul to proceedings – running vibrato’d melodic riffs which serve as responses at points throughout the track. There’s also the lovely inclusion of a rich whistle synth – running its own melodic riff towards the end of certain bars. Meanwhile, the backing vocals tread that delicate line between straight, layered harmonisation and call and response duties well. And overall, Sánchez has done a sterling job on the arrangement – providing a delicious backdrop for the artists to work from.
Ras Teo is at his finest, here. His poised performance is endemic of his approach to his craft overall. Delicate yet compelling, he used vibrato to extremely good effect – generally reserving it for the second part of certain syllables across longer notes. This leaves the more rhythmically detailed sections crystal clear in both rhythm and enunciation. He also rhythmically embellishes some of those final syllables for an extra flourish. Teo has made extremely clever use of notation across the bridges, employing triplets to hammer home the lyrics and offset them from the regimental musical arrangement. Then, Benjamin juxtaposes with Teo very well. His lower register coupled with his slightly gruffer tone contrast well – as does his more frantic use of rhythmic patterns. His use of intricate runs on the chorus are particularly impressive, bringing something of the sermonic to the track. His enunciation, too, is crystal clear and his performance suitably refrained but with detailed light and shade across dynamics. The duo also delivers the track’s inspiring message about the humble livity of Rastafari and its importance in the world today, well. The package is finished off with a gorgeous and highly appropriate video from Sherkhan.
The B side of the 7” vinyl is a quite brilliant Dub version – filled with pointed breaks, haunting rhythmic reverb and a nice stripping away of the main parts of the vocals. It’s a genius reimagining of the main track – and also serves to showcase the talents of the Lone Ark Riddim band well.
All Hail is an extremely strong production from Sánchez. Musically intricate and deft, his clever use of Roots devices contrasted with something more military works very well. The Lone Ark Riddim band have taken the arrangement and run with it, bringing a classy and synergetic sound with them. Teo and Benjamin are both at the peak of their powers – and overall, the track is inspired and emotive.
Akae Beka & Ras Teo All Hail review by Mr Topple (27th October 2020).