on life, music etc beyond mainstream

Michael: I discovered this album very late. And when it was reissued, I read a lot about this man’s history. He really was a very influential figure in reggae’s history …


Angus Taylor (BBC): Yes. Joe Higgs’ name is inextricably linked to that of Bob Marley. It was Higgs who taught the teenaged Wailers to sing and harmonise at his Trench Town home and was the first in a series of surrogate father figures who helped create and refine the Bob we know today. But Joe was also a respected singer and composer in his own right. He’d been present at key moments in the development of ska (as part of the duo Higgs and Wilson), rocksteady (with Lyn Tait) and reggae (touring and recording with Jimmy Cliff) before releasing Life Of Contradiction in 1975.


Michael: I heared that the European management withdrew the release of the album, it’s far away from being classical, groovy reggae for a mass market … 


Angus: It’s an outsider’s album from a complete insider. Recorded three years earlier but held back due to the all-too-familiar rights issues, Contradiction saw him teamed with the formidable and versatile Now Generation band. The result was a highly conceptual, deeply personal record by one of reggae’s true masters that deserves to cross over into popular music’s wider canon. Of the three Wailers, Higgs’ deep, rich voice sounds closest to that of Peter Tosh, but is a more mournful, weary instrument, the sound of one who has suffered great hardships with a shrug and a smile. From the battle-worn but hopeful Come On Home, to the poignant There’s A Reward, through to the clattering hand-drums and sad solo trombone of bonus instru-dub Freedom Journey, each song draws on universal themes of love, redemption and pain, while each note played by the band shadows Joe’s every ambiguous mood.


Michael: The music is low-key in every possible way. Everything is understated here, even the sound and the origin. Joe  Higgs really cared for his vision of that music coming from the poorest neighbourhoods, from the ghetto, and without big hymns. It’s music  with a „braveheart“ attitude – you really don’t get it in the first place that it’s a real reggae record :) 


Angus: The level of songwriting and the breadth of influences on display will impress the casual or non- reggae fan. Glimpses of Dylan and the Band, Simon and Garfunkel, Cat Stevens and Otis Redding bubble to the surface in this melting pot of jazz, country, roots, rock and soul. Unjustly ignored on first release, Life Of Contradiction is a work of astonishing depths and bruised, aching humanity. Give this album some time and you’ll get your just reward.

This entry was posted on Montag, 25. April 2016 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Comment

  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    JOE HIGGS (1940-1999) –

    „Music is a matter of struggle. It’s not good that it’s known you’re from Trenchtown. Reggae is a confrontation of sound. Reggae has to have that basic vibrant sound that is to be heard in the ghetto.

    It’s like playing the drum and bass very loud. Those are the basic sounds. A classical reggae should be accepted in any part of the world. Freedom, that’s what it’s asking for; acceptance, that’s what it needs, and understanding, that’s what reggae’s saying.

    You have a certain love come from hard struggle, long suffering. Through pain you guard yourself with that hope of freedom, not to give up…“

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