As with most albums originally releases under the direction of Lloyd "Bullwackies" Barnes, Rootsy Reggae / Visions Of John Clarke showcases a strong selection of talented musicians to support the poppy vocals that make these tunes so memorable. Clarke's lyrical abilities, while somewhat limited, sometimes distract with their simplicity, yet provide no real obstruction to appreciating his work. On the other hand, some of his clearly presented messages might polarize or alientate some of his potential listenership, a problem best evidenced on the glibly titled pro-life plea "Abortion." Surprisingly, Clarke offers very little in the way of "Jah praise," save for the reverential "Creator," though hints of Rastafarianism might be inferred from "Good Collie Weed," a track whose high-minded contents can be easily deciphered as more akin to addiction than benediction. For the most part, the subject matter of most of these topical songs stick to somewhat basic reggae music premises, such as social commentary ("Recession," "Pollution") and male-female relationships ("You're Just The One," "Shack Up With You"). Despite all that, Clarke almost always delivers the goods, crooning and wailing unhindered throughout.
It is difficult to say definitively which of the two albums presents Clarke's better collection of material, though the Rootsy Reggae half seems tighter and more coherant. Devotees of the reissue campaign ambitiously and admirably undertaken by Rhythm & Sound cohorts Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus will find some of this material here familar, as two of the tracks on this CD, "Recession" and "John Brown," were featured on the repackaged Reggae Goodies Vol. 1 & 2 compilation, though that probably wont stop any of them from snagging this on sight. For those entirely new to Wackies, this 76 minute CD offers a phenomenal value, but dub purists seeking more ascetic terrain might opt to give it a pass.
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