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The London Times - Keith's Natty Dread

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  • The London Times - Keith's Natty Dread


    He may be a rich, decadent superstar, but Keith Richards is still one of the brothers on the street at heart. At least, that is the message put across by Wingless Angels, an extracurricular project which for the first time brings to wider attention a 25-year association between the Rolling Stones guitarist and a group of Rastafarian drummers and singers from the village of Steertown in Jamaica.

    The songs, which place traditional chants such as "On Mount Zion" and "Roll Jordan Roll" alongside more recent standards including "Enjoy Yourself" ("It's Later Than You Think") and "Rivers of Babylon", are derived from old English Protestant hymns adapted as a celebration of the religious beliefs of the Rastafarians. Richards calls the music "pre-reggae, pre-Jamaican, really".

    Although great care has been lavished on making the album, it sounds more like a field recording than a contemporary pop or even reggae record. Everything seems to take place on the back of the mix and in slow motion. While the drummers beat out a ragged tattoo on the first and third beats of the bar, the massed vocals lilt and sway like a hammock in the tropical breeze, a rousing blend of approximate harmonies slung together with a spiritual fervour somewhere between a gospel meeting and a pub singalong.

    The instrumental shadings are so subtle that several hearings are required before ears attuned to the high definition of modern pop can adjust to such lightly dappled tones. But after a while the reggae bass lines, accordion and violin drones, and discreet splashes of flute, penny whistle and piano gradually reveal their charms.

    Clearly a labour of love for all taking part. It is rare to find an album involving such a high-profile artist that is so thoroughly and plausibly steeped in ethnic folklore. While the Stones continue to build their own Bridges to Babylon, here is a fascinating detour from the beaten track."

    Posted by: WebCrew
WebCrew's picture
on October 18, 1997


He may be a rich, decadent superstar, but Keith Richards is still one of the brothers on the street at heart. At least, that is the message put across by Wingless Angels, an extracurricular project which for the first time brings to wider attention a 25-year association between the Rolling Stones guitarist and a group of Rastafarian drummers and singers from the village of Steertown in Jamaica.

The songs, which place traditional chants such as "On Mount Zion" and "Roll Jordan Roll" alongside more recent standards including "Enjoy Yourself" ("It's Later Than You Think") and "Rivers of Babylon", are derived from old English Protestant hymns adapted as a celebration of the religious beliefs of the Rastafarians. Richards calls the music "pre-reggae, pre-Jamaican, really".

Although great care has been lavished on making the album, it sounds more like a field recording than a contemporary pop or even reggae record. Everything seems to take place on the back of the mix and in slow motion. While the drummers beat out a ragged tattoo on the first and third beats of the bar, the massed vocals lilt and sway like a hammock in the tropical breeze, a rousing blend of approximate harmonies slung together with a spiritual fervour somewhere between a gospel meeting and a pub singalong.

The instrumental shadings are so subtle that several hearings are required before ears attuned to the high definition of modern pop can adjust to such lightly dappled tones. But after a while the reggae bass lines, accordion and violin drones, and discreet splashes of flute, penny whistle and piano gradually reveal their charms.

Clearly a labour of love for all taking part. It is rare to find an album involving such a high-profile artist that is so thoroughly and plausibly steeped in ethnic folklore. While the Stones continue to build their own Bridges to Babylon, here is a fascinating detour from the beaten track."

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