Benjamin Zephaniah - Naked
In the past acclaimed poet Benjamin Zephaniah has recorded reggae albums such as "Back To Roots", but for his latest project Benjamin decided to change musical direction for a fresh perspective. Zephaniah's friend, Carl Hyde from Underworld, suggested he hook up with the drummer and programmer Trevor Morais, a canny move as his musical friends are some of the best in the business. Critically acclaimed artist Banksy contributed to the 36 page booklet which contains all the lyrics and art work.
Title track "Naked" is a sprawling seven minute track with an ambient musical backing. It's a funny, unapologetic, angry, honest rant with a good sense of the ridiculous. Benjamin's authentic Birmingham voice of reason is so captivating. You hang on every word he says whether it be about his Jamaican roots or rastafarian beliefs. His delivery has rhythm and passion. Never afraid to be controversial (this is the man who after all turned down a knighthood). The line that sums him up so succinctly is 'Dis is me naked, jealous, passionate, listening'.
"Touch" has a wonderful acoustic guitar by Phil Palmer (who's toured with Dire Straits and Eric Clapton). Zephaniah is almost crooning on this chilled out track with his hushed, unhurried tones. It's a song, not just about the physical touch, but the soul and the mind also. The inclusion of saxophone, bass and use of strings elevates the mood magnificently. "Responsible" has pre-programmed beats and jazzy backing vocals. Musically it's quite laid back, which is in contrast to the questioning, reactive nature of the poetry. The manta is 'Gotta Be Responsible'. Good advice.
"Genetics" has a synth heavy techno beat with simply outstanding percussion. The backing vocals have a gospel flavour to them, while lyrically it's almost psychedelic in it's wonderment. Production wise it has much in common with the work of composer David Arnold.
Structuring a diverse range of music to the words of Benjamin Zephaniah is no easy task, but the talented musicians assembled on this album is a major coup. Where else could you have 80s synth king Howard Jones working in perfect unison with Dennis Bovell (who's performed with The Clash and Dexy's Midnight Runners)?
Nicholas Paul Godkin
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