Cornell Campbell is part of Jamaica’s rich musical history, having been a part of the recording scene since 1956. He is best known for his sweet falsetto, most prominent on his hit with the Eternals “Queen of the Minstrels”. This one song has cemented his inclusion into the reggae “hall of fame”, as it were, and is arguably more important in the development of roots reggae (especially lovers rock) than the majority of Bob Marley’s output at the time. Marley will always be the man who brought Rastafari to the mainstream, but Cornell Campbell should be known as a forefather to the reggae crooners, a la Gregory Isaacs and Prince Lincoln. This falsetto he (still) possesses is a wicked weapon of musical seduction, and it shines beautifully in front of the Soothsayers’ sublime contributions. Nothing Can Stop Us brings back the comfort in Campbell’s voice by coupling it with the Soothsayers’ proper instrumentation and production…all roots.
A good bit of credit needs to be given to the label Strut, and the innovation shown in their “soundclash” series Inspiration Information (Shuggie Otis should be proud). Although the term “soundclash” does apply here by definition, there is no clash whatsoever with the Soothsayers and Campbell. Nothing Can Stop Us delivers cohesion, and a sweet idealism. Jamaica and London have collaborated prolifically in music over the past 60 years give or take, and here’s another nod to the notion that music is indeed the universal language. Kudos to ya, Strut. No pond too large.
Some highlights on this essential set include the opener and title cut, which demonstrates the mood of the LP as a whole: energetically gentle. “Conqueror” showcases tact in the use of dub effects while keeping Campbell’s vocal phrasing and lyrical content in the lead. Then there’s “There’s a Fire”. This is the tenth cut on the record (and I will say the journey to get to cut ten was immensely enjoyable), and by far the crowning moment of the latter years of Cornell Campbell’s career. If one song has the potential to perk up the ears of a few non-reggae appreciators, “There’a a Fire” could be it for 2013, just as “No Woman, No Cry” was it for 1975. If radio would just wake up and smell the Blue Mountain…well, that’s a whole other subject meant for another category entirely.
Cornell Campbell will turn 68 this November, and the years are evident in his vocals. The smoothness found in his “Queen of the Minstrels” delivery has been replaced by the rasp of experience, but there’s no love lost. If anything, Campbell sounds more assured and proud of this seasoned delivery, and I for one are thrilled with the results. Here’s a true reggae statesman and founder taking his place among the masters once again, and here’s to the ideal that the surname Campbell bring to mind only this man when uttered in future music circles. With the appearance of this album on store shelves and internet radio playlists worldwide, naming it Nothing Can Stop Us is apt, if not prophetic.
// Notes from the Road
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