Odel Mind and Body Sold

Think roots reggae doesn’t sound the way it used to? Think again. Odel Johnson made his name as drummer for Messenjah, and here he steps out as a front man on his debut disc. Playing with the heart of the famed Soul Syndicate (Niney the Observer’s band of choice) and engineered by the legendary Scientist, he’s got a lot going for him. From the opening "Fire in the Hole,” the band achieves a tightness that would give Burning Spear’s present band a run for its money. Scientist’s dub wise days are long behind him, but his engineering experience is a big plus in creating the full sound. With a band of this calibre it would have been enough to simply show up, but Mind and Body Sold is a very solid collection of riddims with real thoughtfulness to the lyrics. Odel also successfully takes on a number of different influences; the Latin-esque beat that propels "Mantos Santos” doesn’t sound clichéd, and "Signs” is a legit R&B ballad, although he overplays his hand with its rock-ish remake that closes the album. All the elements are balanced, however if there is a weakness, it’s Odel’s voice — he sings with a growling low tenor, not unlike Peter Tosh, but he’s not a naturally gifted vocalist. Fortunately the songs, the band and the mix make this disc a winner. (Ohm éditions)