Review: The Original Wailers - Miracle EP
by Larson Sutton
Leave them wanting more. It’s an old entertainment adage that finds new relevance on The Original Wailers debut EP Miracle. This quintet of tunes, including four originals penned by singer/keyboardist Desi Hyson, are a tantalizing, though truncated, taste off the long menu offered by a group that largely has earned its reputation in recent years as a touring act.
With the 2011 departure of Junior Marvin, the sole original Wailer from the classic Bob Marley line-up of the mid-1970s is guitarist Al Anderson. Wearing the cap of executive producer, as well, the six-stringer led his new crop of reggae renegades through a set that harkens back to the pre-Pro Tools days of live-in-studio recording. What results is a Side One of five songs that re-introduces today’s listener to the spirit and substance of the vintage vibe. Really, all that’s keeping it from being a neo-classic of the roots rock sub-genre is a Side Two.
Opening with Blackbird, a salute of horns announces this collection’s arrival as Hyson’s world-weary voice provides counterpoint. It’s obvious from note-one that Hyson is not trying to be Bob Marley. This is a good thing. Inherently, flying the flag of the Original Wailers brings an immediate expectation of, and comparison to, a frontman worthy of the Tuff Gong crown. Impossible as it would be to fill that role, Hyson, an established singer/songwriter from his stint with Culture, wisely lets his natural inflections and tone emerge rather than attempt a ‘tribute band’ imitation. The sooner one accepts that it is no longer Marley at the microphone, the more revealing and pleasing Hyson’s approach becomes.
Justice follows and lyrically restores the role of reggae’s revolutionaries. There is no denying the band’s motivation to revisit a time when the music and the message where one and the same. No nostalgia trip, though, as the ideas of social inequity presented here are as relevant today as they were 35 years ago, sadly. Love Supposed To Do detours with its bright synth and bouncy bop, while Dangerous answers its breezy predecessor with the slow rolling riddim of Francis (Paapa) Nyarkoh (drums) and Steve Samuels (bass) peppered with prognostication and complimented by a fog horn reinforcing the prophecies throughout the EP’s strongest and most significant song. Ironically, a cover of Our Day Will Come, a hit from 1963, adds a final, optimistic thought on the future delivered in honeysuckle sweetness by backup-singer Erica Newell, formerly of the Melody Makers. While ostensibly a love ballad, one cannot help but think that the refrain refers to the Original Wailers and its roots reggae return.
In its 50-year history, reggae has had its share of tragedy. With many of its most influential and international stars passing at the peak of their prowess, it isn’t hard to agree that it is, in some ways, miraculous that there are musicians left playing this music, particularly given the daunting task of finding a place on the pop plate already garnished by so much artificial and manufactured banality. Fittingly, Miracle does its best to provide the audience something organic, yet complex, progressive yet respectful, promising yet honest. It is with this EP, and word that former Wailer keyboardist Tyrone Downie has rejoined the ensemble, that one can only hope for more the next time around.
The Original Wailers - Miracle EP
DIGITAL RELEASE [MRG Recordings]
Release date: 4/10/2012
3. Love Supposed To Do
5. Our Day Will Come feat. Erica Newell
Featured artists: Rica Newell