Damian Marley: Halfway Tree

Jason MacNeil

Damian Marley

Halfway Tree

Label: Motown
US Release Date: 2001-09-11
UK Release Date: 2001-10-15

When you're the offspring of a famous person, especially a musician, one is often found in a no-win situation. If you decide to follow in the same footsteps in the same genre, media can't satiate its need to either name drop or compare parent and child. Do the opposite, and in most cases criticism or indifference comes to the fore. For Damian Marley, he is one of the few who while continuing to develop his own style, still uses the unmistakable assets papa Marley became legendary for. Although Ziggy Marley, another sibling, has paved a credible way, Damian is intent on doing it his way. His new album, Halfway Tree, is his strongest album to date, mixing hip-hop and rap with reggae, man!

With an unusual amount of collaborators, the album gets off to a great start with "Educated Fools", a rap and orchestral reggae tune. The tune talks about the current global and political landscape using a style which resembles P. Diddy's contribution to the Godzilla" soundtrack, "Come with Me". Bounty Killer and Bunny Wailer contribute to the track in an abrasive yet attractive rap in style artists like Shaggy has maximized commercially. The dub reggae sounds are found on "More Justice", one of the better numbers here and with another social message. One noticeable trait is how concentrated the lyrics are, saying so much in so little time without any catchphrases or "bling bling". "King of Kings and Lord of Lords / Everlasting Everlaster / Inspire I and I to be a microphone blaster / We nah goin bow down to no slave master" he sings with sincerity while mentioning "spiritual pollution" in "It Was Written".

The topics range from the institution of slavery and current institutional slavery in "Catch a Fire", a tune consistent more with a Clash arrangement more than Bob Marley. A few of the lyrics here could be considered controversial, but the overall tone is more about ending oppression than revenge. But Damian doesn't mind a nice, simple pop friendly love song if "Still Searchin'" is the criteria. A very lighthearted, upbeat and uplifting tone is taken with the Salsa and Latin groove running throughout "She Needs My Love", which has some vocals from Yanni Bolo as well as Sabor. The best track could appear to be little more than fluff pop and r'n'b, but "Where Is the Love", which features a duet with Eve, is far better than it deserves to be when listening to the lyrics closely.

Although the record lists 16 tracks, two of them are brief interludes, but those perhaps tell more than one or two other of the filler songs within. The first interlude "Harder" features dialogue from the classic film "The Harder They Come", a possible way of saying thanks to those that came before him as he continues to fight the good fight. Unfortunately, "Born to Be Wild" (no, not the Steppenwolf song) is far too unoriginal to be given credence, particularly since the last of the song repeats the previous interlude. Only adding to the song's weakness is the same malaise lyrically. The second interlude, also one of two songs dubbed the title track, is a brief spoken work track about the best of both worlds.

Another positive of the album is how fearlessly Marley approaches each song, regardless of what arrangement is used or how the message is transmitted, so long as the point is driven home. A seventies guitar riff and assorted sounds in "Stuck in Between" adds to the song's funky, hip-hop groove. But the guitar sounds similar to Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits", that same wah wah atmosphere. "Half Way Tree" is a more electronica friendly song, despite the fact it has some funny, puppet like vocals. The lyrics also hit close to home with the following, "And watch everybody run / To the record outlet / Tell me who CD / Do you think they get / The one closest to the Bob Marley boxset".

On the whole, the album is perhaps his best work, but there could be some improvement in the track order as well as the removal of some songs that act as nothing more than filler. The inclusion of his father's "Could You Be Loved" near the conclusion of "Stand a Chance" exemplifies that although he might not reach such lofty heights, Damian Marley is still moving in the right Rastafarian reggae direction.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.