|In the context of bloated reggae CDs, where 10 tracks are unacceptable, 15 the norm, and 20 the maximum, Ijahman Levi's four-track, 35-minute HAILE I HYMN (CHAPTER 1) seems a total rip-off. It's not. Instead, the 1978 album represents the golden roots era of Marley and the Wailers, and Chris Blackwell's crossover-oriented Island Records.
|HAILE I HYMN stands as Ijahman Levi's masterpiece. His plaintive vocals convey Babylon weariness and uplift simultaneously, while the inspired lyrics reaffirm simple faith and Rasta beliefs. The rhythms are late-'70s reggae rock, the riddim-makers men like Sly, Robbie, and Earl "Chinna" Smith, as well as rocker Steve Winwood and Afro-popster Del Richardson. "Jah Heavy Load" is a reggae classic, its soaring melody and sweeping lyrics flowing like a brook into the lovely "Jah is No Secret," which borrows from Psalm 137 ("By the rivers of Babylon..."). With its foundation of Nyahbinghi drumming, "Zion Hut" approaches a more modern reggae sound, albeit poppier and less sparse. Ijahman's dramatically audible and emotional intakes of breath occasionally get the best of him, but HAILE I HYMN is a classic, and a beautiful musical testament to belief and hope.