Firstly, this Hebron Gate is not new and I have not just discovered it but it is one of my most favourite albums of all time so I thought I would write a review for it. If you ask a dedicated reggae fan about this album he will probably think it's a mainstream album but at the same time he will most likely hold it close to his heart, while casual reggae listeners may not have discovered this beauty yet.
From seeing the names featuring on this you know that you're in for something special; reggae giants Don Carlos and Congos. Groundation is no small name either and mix them all up together and you create a behemoth of a super-group.
The album starts with a surprisingly jazzy feel, with the rattle of a snare rim, the trumpet exploring the scale, the keys playing some nice extended chords and the bass also joining in on this little noodle, you could be forgiven for thinking that you've stumbled across something other that what you expected. But, in reggae, the introduction is always a chance to explore and why not, these artists certainly are influenced by a large range of musical styles, particularly jazz.
Having said that, after nearly forty seconds the staccato stabs and chops of reggae come punching through the speakers. The first thing that you notice (or maybe it's just me) is the quality of the production. The album sounds incredibly clean and well recorded, every instrument sparkles and the whole is something warm and clear, a masterpiece of engineering and production.
And these skills are not wasted on the songs, they live up to this standard, each one on the album being a classic. The chorus of the first song, Jah Jah Know, explodes with such pace and energy, with the organ skanking along playing a lovely line and the lead vocal being backed up with great sounding female singers accenting key sections and ooohing and aaahing behind the scratchy tones of Don Carlos. In the middle the song stops and veers of into a jazz interlude, expanding and exploring the theme of the intro. Shimmery organ, syncopated drums and the modal trumpet improvising around the theme, this section is well written and somehow does sound right in the song. In fact, I would love to hear a pure jazz album from these players.
After the jazz the song slips back in to the staccato rhythm and the wonderful vocals. The jazz part actually creates a strong contrast to the rest of the song and contributes the dynamic pace, which just keeps on building up and up until the end.
I could write pages and pages about Hebron Gate, as I said before, every song is as strong as the rest and are all classics, there isn't a weak track on the whole album. The pace varies a little, and sometimes styles as well, but all the time the impressive vocals, instrument playing and production is present and never lets up.
It is albums like this that make reggae fans annoyed that everyone else only really knows Bob Marley. If you do only really know Bob Marley as far as reggae goes then please have a listen to this album because, in my opinion, this is as strong (or perhaps stronger) as any of his albums. It is easy to listen to and I can't imagine anyone listening to it and being disappointed. It is broad enough for anyone to like but strong enough that reggae heads love it as well.
This album also stands up to hundreds of listens without making you not want to listen to it again for a while, I have been listening to it for years now and I still love it and am not bored or sick of it at all. Every time it is soothing and simply beautiful.