Joseph Israel Gone are the Days

It’s not hard to make a bona fide roots recording if you travel to Tuff Gong studios and enlist the likes of guitarist Earl "Chinna” Smith and drummer Wilburn "Squidley” Cole. And, true to form, Gone are the Days is a well produced and played nu-roots reggae record. Other than someone getting a little overzealous with the synth strings ("Jah Kingdom” and "Perfect Love”) and the forgivable mistake of letting Dean Fraser get too Kenny G with his saxophone solos, the majority of the album sounds exceptionally hot. "Jah Souljahs” and "Be Together” have stellar, dread-soaked backing tracks and "A Tougher Battle Dub” is a gorgeously mixed slice of dub. The album’s main drawback though is that Arkansas’s Joseph Israel sounds untested and green. His singing lacks confidence (and occasionally, pitch) and his lyrics rely too heavily on common proverbs, biblical quotations and ubiquitous motivational adages. The result is that even though Israel grew up listening to Marley and wants to continue the reggae king’s legacy, all that he has succeeded in thus far is creating highly listenable Marley-lite. (Universal)