RIGHTFUL RULER returns the legendary Jamaican vocalist Earl 16 to the center stage of international roots reggae music. This four song showcase style EP demonstrates that matching a virtuoso veteran singer/songwriter with the unmatched talents of production gurus Zion I Kings (ZIK) serves to revitalize the musical forces long associated with the classic reggae tradition- roots, reality, and culture.
Earl 16’s career now spans five decades and is marked by hits and highlights throughout. His Jamaican recordings from the cornerstone studios like Studio One, the Black Ark, and Channel One are still sought after gems from the golden age. But, unlike many of his peers, Earl 16 successfully adopted the changing sounds and styles of reggae in his U.K. home and collaborated with top producers like Mad Professor and Nick Mannaseh. He has remained relevant into the new millennium with “Release The Pressure”, a notable vocal to LeftField’s breakthrough drum & bass hit.
The all star lineup of musicians on RIGHTFUL RULER is anchored by drums provided by ace producer and multi-instrumentalist Roberto Sanchez (A-Lone Productions). Keyboards by Pau “Nattykeyz” Dangla Valls and trumpet by Patrick “Aba Ariginal” Tenyue complement the rhythmic foundations set by ZIK core players David “JAH David” Goldfine (bass) and Laurent “Tippy I” Alfred (rhythm guitar, piano, organ). Sheldon Bernard’s flute and Errol “Blacksteel” Nicholson’s background vocals are heard on the title track and lead guitars by David Prout and Andrew “Moon” Bain appear on “Find A Way”, a feature with the dynamic toasting of Mr. Williamz. All dub mixes are done by JAH David with cover art by Ato K.D. Roberts .
The RIGHTFUL RULER EP opens with the rollicking roots reggae anthem “JAH Earth” which features Earl 16’s distinctive voice over a righteous Zion I Kings riddim track. JAH David lays it on thick with heavy and steady drums and majestic horns – a quintessential Zion I Kings production. Of course, the opening track is followed by “JAH Dub,” the atmospheric and expansive dub instrumental featuring JAH D on the mix which brings to the surface the most essential elements of the song.
The track titled “Rightful Ruler” has Earl 16 vocalizing over a driving steppers riddim – a truly upbeat tune with a positive message. Earl 16 has worked with only the very best producers over the past 50 years of his illustrious career, from Herman Chin Loy to Joe Gibbs to Lee “Scratch” Perry to Linval Thompson to Augustus Pablo to Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, Sugar Minott, Yabby You, Derrick Harriott, and Mikey Dread. Over these years of recording with the masters of the genre, Earl has honed his vocal to pitch perfection. It is only a natural progression that he finds himself working today with the most talented production team in the game with Zion I Kings and with a top ranking producer like JAH David.
“Find A Way,” the album’s first single, finds Earl collaborating with original sound system toaster Mr. Williamz. Williamz has recorded and performed with the likes of Chronixx, Damian Marley, Gappy Ranks, Stephen Marley, Supercat and Topcat. He recently made his acting debut in the feature length film YARDIE, directed by Idris Elba, and has also recently featured on two tracks on Shy FX’s album. The collaboration here works well, with both artists trading verses in fine form over a brilliantly produced modern roots riddim track.
I cannot heap enough praise on JAH D for bringing in A-Lone Musik multi-instrumentalist and producer extraordinaire Roberto Sanchez to lay down the drum tracks. JAH D first talked about the idea to bring in Roberto Sanchez in my 2021 interview with the producer.
“Roberto is really amazing. He’s got a great studio with excellent equipment. On the drums he is a tuning master. We had a great drummer in Junior [Richards] and we always recorded in real nice studios with Tippy or someone engineering but our drum sound would vary a lot. The sound of Roberto’s projects is very cohesive because of the consistent tones and style of drumming he uses. So when we mix an album, that is something we are always striving for, this cohesiveness in sound. Roberto is always set up at his studio a certain way, mic’d a certain way, so it makes my job as a mixing engineer so much easier.”
Two of the very best producers/musicians in reggae today collaborating with a foundation artist on a modern roots showcase set that will surely stand the test of time. I only hope we see much more of this brilliant collaboration in future Zion I Kings projects.
Be sure to check the brand new video for “Find A Way” featuring Earl 16 and Mr. Williamz.
Also, the RIGHTFUL RULER EP will be available for purchase electronically on all streaming platforms and on vinyl at your favorite reggae vinyl store on November 18, 2022.
A nice teaser from Before Zero Records…