Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Gladiators [extended]

  • Symbol of Reality [Nighthawk, 1982] B+
  • Country Living [Heartbeat, 1985] B+
  • On the Right Track [Heartbeat, 1989] B+

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Symbol of Reality [Nighthawk, 1982]
Albert Griffiths has never been a musical fundamentalist--1979's Sweet So Till, the group's first self-produced LP and only previous U.S. release, placed too much faith in synths, and when that didn't go over they went in with Eddy Grant, which didn't go over either--so maybe he's joined the Itals on this roots-conscious label because he's got nowhere else to go. But the same sense of pithy conviction that made Proverbial Reggae a classic album makes this a good one. The revival of the anthemic "Dreadlocks the Time Is Now" is no more impressive than the proverbial "Mister Goose," which unfortunately is the only song about women here that bespeaks as much loving wisdom as the songs about Jah. B+

Albert Griffiths and the Gladiators: Country Living [Heartbeat, 1985]
There's nothing progressive and plenty idiosyncratic about Griffiths's quest for naturality, which is fine--in reggae, idiosyncrasy makes all the marginal difference. The interested will thrill to the sweetness of the gutturals, the placement of the harmonies, the shifting center of the groove. The bored will remain so. B+

Albert Griffiths and the Gladiators: On the Right Track [Heartbeat, 1989]
More than any other rootsman I'm hearing, Griffiths keeps his spirits up. Though it's no longer in JA's cultural mainstream, there's tremendous life and variety to this music--falsetto play and jazzy interactions and catchy dubs, even an Elvis cover. "It's Now or Never," in case you were wondering. And if you're still interested, it may just be definitive. B+