Michael "Prince Far I" Williams' 1977 album "Under Heavy Manners" sees the Jamaican deejay 'toasting' (that's 'rapping' in today's parlance) over some crisp and heavy "rockers" reggae tracks produced by the legendary Joe Gibbs. These rockers rhythms are melodically spacious and are driven by hypnotic bass lines and restless, complicated drum patterns which are played at a faster pace than previous reggae styles (especially on the thunderous double-timed "SHADOW"). Gibbs and engineer Errol Thompson pepper the mix throughout with overdubbed 'arcade-machine' bleeping and swirling synthesizer loops, in keeping with their characteristic excessive dub mixing style. As well as the fragments of original vocals retained from such classic tunes as Dennis Brown's "Stay At Home" and Junior Byles' "Heart And Soul", Joseph Hill from Culture features on a number of enthusiastic introductions.
Prince Far I authoritatively holds court, philosophizing and proselytising spiritual and cultural lyrics in that inimitable booming, gravelly voice of his. He alternates his vocal delivery between energetic chanted rhymes; half-sung choruses and half-spoken stream-of-consciousness commentaries. Unusually for a Far I album, there are 2 tracks here with "love and relationship" themes: "YOU I LOVE AND NOT ANOTHER" is a straightforward devotional song with rather 'soppy' lyrics ("nothing so sweet as when two lover's kisses meet"); and "SHINE EYE GAL" bemoans those materialistic women who "always want and never give" and "worship silver and gold". The rest of the album deals with more 'serious' things: "BOZ ROCK" and "SHOW ME MINE ENEMY" see Far I assume the role of a "dread" fire-and-brimstone preacher, sermonizing on Rastafari and quoting directly from the Bible. "RAIN A FALL" addresses Jamaica's food shortage brought about by economic crisis; whilst the title track - the deepest, darkest and most apocalyptic groove on the album chastises the PNP government (one of their political slogans was "heavy manners"; though Far I insists it's "discipline", not manners, "that the world needs today"). Conceptually novel are "BIG FIGHT", a commentary on an imagined boxing bout which pits "Babylon" versus "Dreadlocks"; and "DECK OF CARDS" a Rastafarian adaptation of the traditional US folk poem in which each card in a pack of playing cards reminds the narrator of a biblical reference.
This CD reissue includes 7 bonus tracks amended to the original LP, which include three extra Far I vocal songs and their respective dub versions - deconstructed remixes with big bass presence, and melodic elements surreally dropped in and out of the mix. The only slightly slightly disappointing aspect to this release is the remastering. This album has very obviously been ripped directly from a vinyl source, and quite a noisy one at that; all the pops and crackles are still intact, and unfortunately the last 2 tracks from the original LP seem to suffer from a build-up of static which renders their sonic qualities slightly dull and fuzzy. The bonus tracks are noticeably clearer, and seem to have been mastered from tape rather than vinyl.
However, such slight concerns are outweighed completely by the sheer quality of the music on an album which contains sublime elements of energy, drama and spiritual joy. Jah bless.
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