Sunday, March 2, 2008

Junior Murvin: Muggers in the Streets

Greensleeves (www.greensleeves.net)
(orginal release: 1984; reissue: 2008)

While not as infused with apocalyptic dread as Police and Thieves, Junior Murvin’s Muggers in the Streets is an overlooked minor gem of roots reggae (somewhat unfashionable in Jamaica in 1984, when dancehall was ruling the sound systems and airwaves). Here he’s ably backed by the Roots Radics Band and expertly produced by Henry “Junjo” Lawes (considered to be the creator of dancehall and one of the genre's most successful producers). Murvin’s achingly sweet falsetto sounds terrific on this set of mostly winning tunes, including “Jahovah’s Children,” “Strikes and Demonstrations” (this album’s “Police and Thieves” and its standout track), and “I’ll Follow You” (not Jah or Jesus, but a woman). The weakest track here is the remake of “Police and Thieves,” the title song “Muggers in the Street.” It pales—both lyrically and production-wise—in comparison with the classic, Lee Perry produced original. A very bad move—there’s no reason to mess with perfection.

It’s almost as if Armageddon’s failure to transpire in the year the two sevens clashed doused some of the fire in reggae’s belly (though, lord knows that there was wasn’t any less injustice and evil in the world in 1984). Instead of running riots in the ghettos of London and Kingston, Murvin worries about being robbed in the street—listeners are urged to “Stop the Crime” and to “Think Twice” to avoid landing in jail. Not bad advice, but not exactly the fire and brimstone of most reggae classics. When not dodging thugs, there is time for “Jamaican Girls” and “Champagne and Wine” (“I’ve got the money/you’ve got the time/C’mon let’s drink champagne and wine”)—enjoyable enough tunes, we all need some happiness in the face of day-to-day adversity, right?

All the above quibbling aside, Muggers in the Streets is a really good listen. If you’re a fan of Junior Murvin or roots reggae, you won’t be disappointed. (B+)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Considering the line up on this album I was really disappointed with the material. I gave it several listens and just couldn't get into it. I just sounded tired and washed out, and as you point out some lame lyrics.

-Andrew

Steve from Moon said...

Andrew:

Thanks for the comment.

Steve