Kwesi Johnson's Island years contains some of his finest moments. A tight dub-wise band, with a wicked horn section, led by bassist/producer, Dennis "Blackbeard" Bovell, wrap Linton's words in easy snapping but rootsy settings that drop you into the streets of post-punk, south London during the 80s. The poignant "Sonny's Lettah" deals with racist policing and remains as topical today, in the aftermath of the Stephen Lawrence case, as it did then. On "Want Fi Goh Rave" Linton maps out street life under Thatcherism and makes no apologies for the youth. He mocks the political parties of all shades on "Independent Intavenshan" saying, "Make them gwaan...it is we who have to ride the storm." And while the riots of the 80s may seem remote today, the underlying lessons of LKJ's dub-poetry remain disturbingly relevant.--Paul Bradshaw
Having exploded onto the UK scene in 1978 with the dark, angry masterpiece, Dread Beat & Blood, Brixton Dub Poet Linton Kwesi Johnson returned the following year with second album, Forces Of Victory. Calling, again, on the talents of the Dennis Bovell Band, this was a calmer, more measured work, packed with both wry observation and political conviction.
Johnson's poetry, with its emphasis on rhythm, was ideally suited to the sparse, jazz-tinged backings of UK dub. Opener "Want Fi Go Rave" is as cool and confident as anything by Gregory Isaacs or Prince Buster, while "It Noh Funny", a homage to the realities of youth, gives Bovell plenty of room for the interaction of drum and delay.
"Sonny's Lettah - a deeply affecting tale of injustice - is a favourite among veteran activists, but "Independent Intavenshan"'s bouncing bassline and scornful lyrics (bemoaning the abundance of right-minded organisations attempting to speak for the black community) make the more resonant statement. "Fight Dem Back" rallies against the racists behind a mocking sing-song refrain, while "Reality Poem", with its haunting chorus-drenched guitar motif, advocates sober atheism at a time when such viewpoints were far from welcome.
Some have criticised Johnson for making Caribbean culture palatable to a predominantly white left-wing audience, but such criticism is to be expected by any artist who transcends their genre. And while the clean understated Bovell production is more suitable for the coffee bar than the sound system, it marks one of many high points in a distinguished career. A homegrown reggae classic. --Angus Taylor
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