Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Pablo Moses

  • I Love I Bring [United Artists, 1978] A-
  • A Song [Mango, 1980] A-
  • Pave the Way [Mango, 1981] B
  • In the Future [Alligator, 1983] A
  • Reggae Greats [Mango, 1984] B+
  • Tension [Alligator, 1985] B
  • Mission [RAS, 1995] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

I Love I Bring [United Artists, 1978]
A lot of these charming, moralistic reggae ditties have the lyrical and melodic simplicity of Sunday School hymns--"Be Not a Dread" could almost be a roots "Jesus Loves the Little Children." And whoever devised the synthesizer riffs that set off Moses's spacey singsong deserves a gold star. A-

A Song [Mango, 1980]
Definitely unprepossessing, Moses lays his murmured chants amid standard reggae instruments that sound like they were placed in different studios so as not to gang up on his voice so mild. At first you don't believe anything this simple can also be this cunning, but unlike the Fall, say, Moses is nothing like an amateur, and neither, Jah knows, are his instrumentalists. He's also kind and hopeful, not vain enough to dream his music could tear Babylon down: just wants to grant us a glimpse of paradise before it goes. A-

Pave the Way [Mango, 1981]
It's the same for Sly & Robbie as for Stax-Volt, Gamble & Huff, or for that matter Richard Perry--if a great studio style is going to break out of its formula and zap the listener, the record had better offer identification, inspiration, or hooks. But me, I'm no Rasta, or any other kind of theist or cultural nationalist; are you? And the gain in vocal competence strikes me as a dangerous thing--because Moses always "projects" now, he deprives his basic singsong of the nursery-rhyme lucidity that makes his best work so winning. B

In the Future [Alligator, 1983]
With his precise, delicate, discretely dubwise production--sly horn part there, elegantly understated percussion effect here, bass and drums measured into the groove--and quiet, even timid vocal manner, this poet-turned-rootsman sounds like the most live-and-let-live of ital mystics. In fact he's not only urban but interested in subways and Bellevue, not only militant but smart about it--which is to say among other things that he doesn't seem to think his natural is the only natural. A

Reggae Greats [Mango, 1984]
The first three cuts of this "compilation" are the first three cuts of A Song, which everyone knows is the better of the two albums he cut for Island. The fourth appears later, as does one from side two. "Each Is a Servant," A Song's purest song, does not. The fine-as-can-be Pave the Way selections represent an aural break just like always. Sure, buy the sampler if you can get it cheap. And if A Song gets sent to the bins to make room, steal 'em both. B+

Tension [Alligator, 1985]
Moses's singsong melodies have always been simplistic even by reggae standards, but on these cautionary ditties neither lyrics nor groove manage the sly, subtle grace of the best of them. Catchy, yes, and righteous too, but as annoying at times as a Sugar Crisps commercial. B

Mission [RAS, 1995] Dud