Personnel: Alpha Blondy (vocals); Julien Lacharme, Julie Mourillon (guitar); Allen Hoist (violin); Guillaume Dutrieux, Eddy Deloménie, Vincent Aubert (horns); Loran Romain (keyboards); Charles Laube, Paco Sery (drums); Astride Danielson, Jocelyne Sozaya, Gneba Melissa, Koné Alpha Soukeina, Hallany Michelle (background vocals).
Photographers: Roch Armando; Alexandre Jovanovic.
Arranger: Evariste Yacé.
Positive Energy is a title that would have fit many of Alpha Blondy's previous albums, but the West African reggae vocalist's 16th LP does just what it says on the tin, even when it is rebelling. Case in point is the key cut and Tarrus Riley feature "Freedom," which is stern yet smooth as it argues that freedom is a human right. The anthemic call-and-response number "No Brain, No Headache" may wail with "no one understands me" in its lyrics, but it is really a cathartic cry out to console others who are highly empathetic; then "Ingratitude" attacks its namesake attitude with stately horns and angelic background vocals. As usual, Blondy's band, the Solar System, drives the music into more jam-like structures than studio albums usually allow, and the man up front is in fine voice, still able to drive home his emotional moments in full-bodied, Beres Hammond style while softly gliding over the more poignant bits in a way that influenced his earlier guest, Tarrus. If there's any complaint to be made, it's that there's nothing really "new" here -- just more fine songwriting, more spot-on singing, and more positive energy to add to the discography. Start with the Riley cut for a taste, and also check "Rainbow in the Sky" with Ijahman Levi plus the driving and punchy "Madiba M'a Dit," which captures the kinetic energy of the man in concert. ~ David Jeffries
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