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Like the recent PORTALS album which entered the Billboard reggae album charts at number 8, LIVICATED pairs the majestic Zion I Kings (ZIK) sound with the voice and lyrics of Vaughn Benjamin, creating a finely woven tapestry of musical textures. Akae Beka's inimitable style, developed over decades performing with Midnite and countless recordings (including 2014 iTunes reggae album of the year BEAUTY FOR ASHES and RIDE TRU), blends incisive and biting social commentary with prayerful entreaties to better living through faith and good works.
Produced by ZIK bassist, JAH David, LIVICATED is Akae Beka's debut release on the Zion High Productions (ZHP) label. The album features solid original riddims composed and arranged by the ZIK family with musical contributions from Aston Barrett Jr. (drums), JAH Bless (horns), Chet Samuel (guitar), and Yami Bolo (melodica). Particularly striking on LIVICATED are the strident, Burning Spear-like horn arrangements and the variety and range of Drew Keys' keyboard voices. The twelve songs of LIVICATED unfold like a panorama of shapes and colors comprising our contemporary human predicament. Coping with the refugee crises wrought by war and poverty, "Firmness" is an appeal to hold fast to love and kindness. On "Usward" we are encouraged to use focused meditation to confront confusion. "Discreet" alerts us to the fine balance measuring success and failure in our pursuits. The title track, "Livicated" uses a Wailers-inspired riddim to drive home the message that technological advance is empty without addressing collective needs. "Daughtaz and Sunz" is a healing incantation reminding us all that Rastafari love brings triumph and joy. The melodica-infused "Loose the Gates" is a rally cry to push back against the forces driving social inequality in the name of technological supremacy. The chiming keyboard intro to "Lifetime" brings an uplifting call to caring for others as the way to combat that which would otherwise desensitize. The testimonial tone of "Have Heard" reminds us that the throne of the Most High is a refuge for those who seek HIM. A bellowing baritone sax underpins the message to "let love rule and not complicate" on "Faith". The driving rim shots of Aston Barrett Jr.'s drums on "Handle Sumptin" spur us to consider the consequences of our decisions and judgements for others as well as ourselves. The bluesy interplay of clavinet and piano on "Eyelidz" reminds that the "emotion of the soul revived is sometimes not easy to find". The sublime orchestrated choral strings and piano of "Over Anti-Christ" make this final track a perfect conclusion to an album replete with truth and beauty.
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