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10 Ft. Ganja Plant
Hillside Airstrip
ROIR (www.roir-usa.com)

cd cover Mystical and earthy, lush yet lucid, 10 Foot Ganja Plant's Hillside Airstrip is an extremely satisfying album. Featuring members of the leading American reggae band at the turn of the century (John Brown's Body), and engineered by Craig Welsch, Airstrip is consciously traditional in performance and production. Instrumentals were recorded ensemble and live on analog equipment, with only vocals laid afterwards. The result is an organic feel that can't be equaled using digital techniques, and which rivals classic Jamaican roots recordings (the downside is a very slight tape hiss at high volumes).

The album begins with more pop-oriented numbers like "Long Time Ago" and "Time I Know." These are not watered down numbers by any means, with the floor-shaking bass and riveting brass that mark the 10 Ft. sound. These are songs to put on for friends who might ask "Is this Bob What's-his-name?" (lead singer Kevin Kinsella really does sound like a Burnin' era Bob Marley). But the best numbers come later.

True to tradition, the dub appears on the second half, but these are originals rather than versions of first side songs. "Two Bulls" is pulsing dub number with heavy effects and several vocal breaks that must be brutal live. "Walkey Walk Tall" is the only repeat cut from 10 Ft.'s first album, Presents, and features the haunting melodica that made Augustus Pablo famous, combined with Congoes-style falsetto vocals. "Hillside Airstrip" sounds like a driving ska reprise of the Skatalites "Guns of Navarone" without the horn section. "New Day" is another live dub, more coherent than "Two Bulls" but equally dread. The slow throbbing progress of the "One Drop" rhythm is offset by the keyboards and scattered vocal and percussive effects with precision and concision.

Despite comparisons to the masters of reggae, 10 Ft. Ganja Plant are not derivative. They are creative within the framework of the very best work in 30-40 years of music up to and including reggae. The liner notes are skimpy but this is offset by the genuinely retro Rasta-style artwork. - Craig Tower


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