Album Review: Clinton Fearon – This Morning [Chapter Two Records/Wagram Records, 30th September 2016]

At age of 66 and with a career spanning almost 50 years, Clinton Fearon could be peacefully considering retirement. But age must apply differently to Jamaican musicians. Just look at Kiddus I (72) and Cedric Myton (70), whose last effort – The Soul of Jamaica: Inna de Yard (Chapter Two) – is expected this March. Starting out in 1970, for almost two decades Fearon was a member of Albert Griffiths’ legendary Gladiators. He played on the band’s early roots masterpieces, including 1978’s Proverbial Reggae and 1979’s Trench Town Mix Up, crossing paths along the way with reggae supremos Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Vivian ‘Yabby U’ Jackson and Clement Coxsone Dodd.

He left the group at the end of the 80s, opting for the US as the base of his solo career. Since then, Fearon, a prolific composer, has recorded eight albums with his Boogie Brown Band and two albums of solo acoustic. His latest effort, This Morning, came out in late 2016 for the French label Chapter Two Records.

With a topical spectrum ranging from the intimate of ‘This Morning’ and ‘Waiting’ to the political and polemic of ‘No Justice’, Fearon distances himself from the more religiously driven vocabulary of roots reggae. The sonic palette is equally varied with xylophones, brasses and organs, giving each track a recognisable flavour. Even though the deft studio work and Fearson’s seasoned craft as composer make for a seamless listening experience, the album still struggles to leave a mark in the listener’s mind.

A notable exception is the record’s closing track, ‘We a One’. Here, Fearon abandons the customary upbeat tempo to lead a blissful, floral chant of true good vibrations accompanied by percussions and acoustic guitars.

Those seeking a renovation of Jamaican music and its heritage might prefer to look elsewhere. Fearon’s followers and all other reggae aficionados will instead find a familiar pleasure in this cohesive collection of tunes.