There's something about reggae dub that fascinates me: it gets you up, by "getting down". This works in a metaphorical sense as well as a strict musical sense. The bass and kick drum falls on the down beats, dragging with them, as they sink, the chords and snare/rim shots (that sit on the upbeats), into a sort of lull, a spiral, that makes you casually nod your head in a downwards motion, traveling through your spine until, if you're standing, you find yourself swaying, and if you're sitting, you tap your foot and bounce around on the chair. The overall feeling is that of being pulled towards the earth, of being grounded, and the mood of this sort of music, by directly engaging with your body, makes your soul soar: you can't help but smile. That's the overall metaphysics of dub in general and as an album made up entirely of dub, "The Hardest" hits those vertebrae just right. But is there anything original going on here? No. It's the kind of stuff that is constantly verging on being great - often due to the incredible rasta flow of the vocals, and the smooth production - but never gets there; and in terms of song structure, well, I find it hard telling one track from another. Frankly, the album is saved from the drudgery of repitition by only a few things: the amazing guitar lead and piano that both remain distinctly behind the scenes, yet shine when they take the stage, the occasional interesting instrumentation ie. harmonica and saxophone, and the chilled and very smooth voice coupled with down-to-earth, cosy lyrics, that are uplifting and inspiring ("You'll never know until you try" is floating around in my head). In the end, it's not the sort of music you would pay for an album's worth, but would turn up if you heard one song on the radio, and would absolutely love if it were played live in front of you, especially if you were high. Having said that though, I've got a massive smile on my face now and never felt the urge to skip a track. Breezy, easy, flow: getting you up by getting down, but just not great album material unless you're a hardcore reggae dub fanatic, in which case you'll love it.
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