10 Ft Ganja Plant | Shake up the Place
Album review by John Powell
The mysterious group 10 Ft Ganja Plant, made up of some of reggae’s contemporary masters including Kevin Kinsella and members of Slightly Stoopid, does it again. Fairly prolific for a group that doesn’t tour, doesn’t live in the same state, and doesn’t always publicly admit their involvement in 10 Ft, even if the players in their other groups take on evolved forms of reggae, 10 Ft is straight-up old school. That’s the idea behind all their albums, which seem recorded off-the-cuff. Their last album, 10 Deadly Shots: Vol. 1, was an instrumental album that observed the use of saxophone, but Shake up the Place returns to their blend of reggae, rock steady, and dub, complete with guest stars.
The first guest is reggae legend Sylford Walker, who starts the album off with “My Roots”, a slow groove for him to chant, “I’ve been searchin’ for my roots.” The band pulls off roots grooves seamlessly, rhythm and lead guitars, bass that always moves, heavy drums, etc.
Prince Jazzbo is another guest, appearing first on “Africa”, much in the same vein as “My Roots”, chanting about roots, culture, homelands, and set to a slow reggae groove. Prince Jazzbo also appears on the album’s killer closer, “Recession”, a totally contemporary social commentary while simultaneously being a timeless look at denying problems until it’s too late, and then we complain. “Recession” is a stellar easy skank, propelled by light synth woven in and Jazzbo asking, “Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?” It’s a much better use of Jazzbo than “Africa” is, this time introducing catchy melody and a sing-a-long refrain.
There are three instrumentals, “Strength”, “Ringer’s Rock”, and “Strongback”, the last recalling early John Brown’s Body use of dubbed out horns and repetitive but progressive-sounding bass. “Strength” sounds like something one of 10 Ft’s first albums, and “Ringer’s Rock” takes the cake with lots of added percussion, fiery horns including a trumpet solo, and slick organ, the album’s best asset.
10 Ft. Ganja Plant, even by their name, has a certain mission, fighting a war of bad music with a platoon of infectious melodies, old school skanks, multiple singers with different voices and songwriting styles, and Shake up the Place is almost too sleek to criticize in any fashion. It sounds amazing on all stereos, is neither offensive nor cheesy. Kevin Kinsella’s lyrics on “Rush Me” sum up the group’s creed and method of awesomeness, proclaiming, “My friends are making music again/and they need me/to be there/to lend some harmony.”
The album’s peek is Sylford Walker’s “Hard Times”, dripping with hollow horns, a groove that will make you yearn to join in on the jamming, and a great vocal performance. Sylford sings the chorus melody in unison, creating an eerie quality. “Rasta keep on fighting for the daily bread,” he sings. “No matter what they say.” The hardship and sadness shine through in the performances, as well as the hope and strength of music and its people.
Like all their other albums, Shake up the Place is packaged in a plastic case with one cover slip, no information. This takes the pressure off the musicians. They aren’t living up to any standard of previous bands or styles. They aren’t apologizing for their love of roots reggae. They don’t even feel the need to be credited. This album, like the band, is all about the music: simple, respectful, and good vibes in hard times. If you haven’t sampled the Plant yet, it’s never too late.
Bottom line: Roots reggae revivalist doctor any worn soul with a sleek and sincere album.