Barrington Levy: ‘AcousticaLevy’ Album Review

It was 2013 when we first heard that Barrington Levy was working on an acoustic album of his hits. The forthcoming album, titled AcousticaLevy, represents the first studio album by the enigmatic singer since 1998’s Living Dangerously. Levy burst upon the scene in the late 1970s, a diminutive youth with a signature golden voice who, along with producer Henry “Junjo” Lawes and the Roots Radics band, ushered in the early dancehall era of reggae, changing the sound and vibe of the music forever. Throughout the early 1980s, Levy was one of the most popular and prolific artists in the game before moving to the UK and teaming up with producer Jah Screw. With Screw, Barrington Levy would record many of the timeless hits that made him one of the most celebrated vocalists to ever emerge from the Jamaican music scene. Songs like “Murdera,” “Under Me Sensi,” “Prison Oval Rock,” “Black Roses,” and “Here I Come” are modern classics that are still highly regarded by fans today, allowing Levy to pack houses throughout the US and Europe.

AcousticaLevy is produced by Barrington Levy and musician/producer Handel Tucker, and features “Bull” singing his most beloved hits acoustically. Tucker is a hitmaker’s hitmaker whose credits include the platinim-selling Bonafide by Maxi Priest, The Score album by the Fugees, and Etana’s brilliant 2014 album, I Rise. Tucker has worked with Levy previously, having played keys on Levy’s 1993 debut album for MCA titled Barrington. The album, which will be released April 15, 2015 on Doctor Dread’s DDP record label, includes tunes like “Murdera,” “Under Me Sensi,” “Prison Oval Rock,” “Be Strong, ” She’s Mine”, “Black Roses,” “Teach The Youth,” “Here I Come” and “Vibes Is Right.” Also included on the album are three new tracks: “Life is Great” (featuring Patrice), “Things Friends” and “Times Rough.”

AcousticaLevy is a phenomenal album which features the unmistakable signature voice of the man known affectionately as the “mellow canary.” Featuring brilliant guitar work from Lamont “Monty” Savory of the C Sharp band, the album includes fifteen tracks, all of which were voiced by Barrington Levy between 2012 and 2014 at Mixing Lab Studios. Levy’s voice is raw and unfiltered – every bit as soulful and smooth as it was when he burst upon the sound system scene in the late 1970s, catching the ears of Jamaica’s top producers. Unlike many of today’s lackluster singers, whose voices often require modulation, Levy’s voice stands alone, unmodulated, and backed by nothing more than an acoustic guitar.

AcousticaLevy is the kind of album that many artists are afraid to record. Unlike the typical studio recording where the vocal can be masked in the mix by the instrumentation, AcousticaLevy is an album that requires a nearly flawless vocal performance by Levy as each track is constructed solely around Levy’s vocal.  “Under Me Sensi,” “Prison Oval Rock,” and “Black Roses” are given new life by Levy who freestyles and adlibs new lyrics in this unique re-imagination of these timeless tracks. One of the highlights of the album is Levy’s performance of “Be Strong” which features a flamenco-flavored guitar, a stellar echoed-out vocal effect and angelic backing vocals from students from the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in St. Andrew.

With the release of AcousticaLevy, Barrington Levy reminds us all that pop reggae singers and self-described stars come and go but the truly gifted vocalist endures. Payola and “follow fashion monkey” will get you noticed but it is talent, hard work, and experience that “separates the weed from the weevil.”