Israel Vibration

The reggae harmony outfit Israel Vibration has seen few member departures in its 23 years, save that of founder Albert "Apple" Craig, who left the group following 1996's Free to Move. Even that significant loss had little effect on Israel Vibration's musical approach: When the trio became a duo, it stuck to the soulful, call-and-response harmonies that distinguish Jericho, its new album, much as it did on the albums that preceded it. On Jericho, remaining members Lacelle "Wiss" Bulgin and Cecil "Skelly" Spence make one notable concession to their depleted ranks: They've added female backup singers to strengthen the sound of whichever member sings harmony (Bulgin and Spence swap lead singing duties on each song, a longtime tradition). Whether intended or not, the infusion of female voices makes many of the songs on Jericho pleasingly reminiscent of Bob Marley and the Wailers' music during their collaboration with famed backup singers the I-Threes. The backups here add particular poignancy and texture to songs of suffering like "Living on Borrowed Time" and "Trouble." Though Spence's voice -- once shaky and thin -- has grown fuller and his delivery more confident, there isn't much to distinguish the music on Jericho from Israel Vibration's last two albums. Tight musicianship from backing band the Roots Radics once again ties together the album's themes of suffering, praise and celebration. For those already familiar with Israel Vibration, this consistency is largely a good thing. For those newly arrived to these talented veterans, it's a fitting introduction to a vast catalogue of some of the most beautiful reggae harmony Jamaica has ever produced.


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