Ray Isaacs & Tabby Diamond Jah Bless The Rastaman Review

Ray Isaacs & Tabby Diamond – Jah Bless The Rastaman – Review

Ray Isaacs and Tabby Diamond: Jah Bless The Rastaman Single Review by Mr Topple For Pauzeradio.com.

The last song ever recorded by Donald “Tabby Diamond” Shaw has finally been released, over a year after his murder. It serves as a fitting memory of the man and the artist – but also a glimpse of what he still had to offer, and what was cruelly taken.

Jah Bless The Rastaman, released via Anotha One Productions, sees Diamond team up with Ray Isaacs – nephew of Gregory. It was recorded on 28 March 2022, after Diamond called up Isaacs wanting to come immediately to his studio to record it (Jah Bless The Rastaman opens with the voice note he left). This was, as we now know, a day before Diamond’s untimely passing.

The track was originally released by Diamond’s group the Mighty Diamonds in 1975 under the title Jah Jah Bless The Dreadlocks – with production by Bunny “Striker” Lee.

Now, it’s been reimagined under the watchful eye of the Austria-based Reggaement Band (formerly the Kaya Roots Band) performing the music, production from Anotha One’s team, and mixing and mastering from Roberto Sanchez – who also sang backing vocals.

When compared to the original, Anotha One has stayed true to its arrangement – albeit with a slight increase in BPM. That whining electric guitar still opens proceedings, returning intermittently throughout – especially for a pleasing bridge on the same riff – which sets the tone for this re-imagining well. It’s highly Roots, with a heavy-on-the-drop-beat bass skipping beats one and three on almost every bar, with a warm and rounded tone. A second electric guitar frantically skanks in the background, bringing some momentum to the otherwise lazy pace.

Drums are on a standard one drop, with the kick hitting the two and four along with the snare, while hi-hats fill the spaces in between. There are some nice flourishes from the tom-toms and cymbals at points – but what’s interesting is Jah Bless the Rastaman has been engineered so the kick is almost lost to the dominant bass.

Keys run a constant bubble rhythm, except for a nicely improvised riff towards the end which moves gradually up their register in a funky way. The use of the very expressive washboard is still present, too – and overall, Anotha One and the Reggaement Band have done an excellent job of reworking, yet staying faithful to, the Mighty Diamonds original. However, the ending of the track is particularly poignant – as the keys break away from their funky refrain, to end with something more delicate and almost Baroque harpsichord-esque: a two-tone riff off the major third to finish.

Then, we have Isaacs and Diamonds’ vocals – paired excellently together. The former delivers the track in his own, inimitable way – that nasal mid-tenor gliding over the notes and lyrics, with delicate glissandos at the end of certain phrases. Isaacs has grown as a performer, as his interpretation of lyrics has greatly improved in the past few years.

Then, what can be said about Diamond – apart from his performance is pitch perfect. His vocal is smooth, expressive, clean, and as technically accomplished as it was on the original all those years ago. He easily hits all the notes in the higher end of his register and brings an increased sense of purpose to this reworking, perhaps as it’s as timely as it was in the 70s – if not more so, given the state of the world.

Of course, there’s a sad and strange irony with this track being Diamond’s last ever – given the sentiment of Jah Bless The Rastaman. The suddenness at which he wanted to record it, coupled with the song choice, makes one wonder whether unconsciously Diamond knew something we didn’t.

Overall, Jah Bless The Rastaman is excellent work from all involved – particularly the Reggaement Band and Anotha One’s sterling commitment to the original, but with a particularly thoughtful new ending. Isaacs is on-point – however, this is Diamond’s track, posthumously, showing what skill this giant of the Roots Reggae scene still had. Jah Bless The Rastaman, Tabby – and may he rest well.

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Ray Isaacs & Tabby Diamond – Jah Bless The Rastaman Review by Mr Topple / Pauzeradio PR Services (7th August 2023).

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