During a long and varied career spanning five decades, Jah Wobble has recorded more than thirty solo albums and contributed to innumerable projects. On the route from the post punk of Public Image Limited (PiL) via dubby dance music (epitomised by Jah Wobble's Invaders Of The Heart) to world music and ambient in all its facets, the exceptionally gifted bass player hasn't left out any genre of note in modern music.
With "Inspiration", Jah Wobble returns to his roots, the love of his youth: reggae music. With the singer PJ Higgins, he found the perfect companion, voice and songwriter to accomplish this endeavour with flying colours – a match made in heaven. Higgins has collaborated with a host of artists over the years, lending her quirky and distinct anecdotes to many a project and recordings. Currently, she co-fronts the critically acclaimed Dub Colossus, who were winners of the Songlines Cross Cultural Collaboration 2013. The album was co-written and co-produced with Alex McGowan at his London-based Space Eko Recording Studio. His previous collaborations include Tricky, Martina Topley Bird, Wilko Johnson and many more...
The opener "My Heart's Burning" sparkles with the magic that arose during the recording sessions between Wobble, McGowan and Higgins and sets the groundwork for the next seven tracks to come. PJ Higgins’ vocals are piled layer upon layer and weave seamlessly in the deep, dubby basslines and the mellow guitar sounds. This masterfully delicate reluctance is present over the full length of the album. Now and then, for instance with “I Did Bad”, it hints at trip hop and you wouldn't be surprised if Tricky raised his head. However, the mastery of these musicians show off their craftsmanship on each and every song. It's only with the third track, “King Of Illusion”, that you finally notice that the foundation of this album is actually reggae. The trumpet of Sean Corby and the offbeat keys by Wobble himself make slight references to the bygone sound of Studio One. On the oth er hand, you can clearly hear that the separate instruments have been mixed in a lavish way to create what we might label “spherical reggae”.
The core of this masterpiece is, not unsurprisingly, the title track “Inspiration”. Alex McGowan caps it all off with his distinctive guitar playing and the thriftily applied Fender Rhodes add extra virtuosity to the already complex arrangement. “Floating On High”, sings PJ Higgins, referring to the transcendence achieved when you align yourself to all your inspirations and consider yourself as an aggregate of them. And this album is, figuratively speaking, jam-packed with influences and ideas, as many as it needs to make your head spin.
Giddiness is nowhere in sight, though, thanks to Jah Wobble's extra-experienced bass playing that pieces all the individual songs together to one big beautiful picture. It's the common thread to everything that's going on and the grounding of the electrifying voice of PJ Higgins. On “What Have I Become”, there's no holding back anymore and she catches fire delivering a performance that goes right through you. The drums and percussions played by Marc Layton-Bennett add a heavy dose of voodoo to the mix. Even a spiritual (“Chaingang”) find its way on to this immaculate and, after repeated listening, truly impressive collection. The call & response by PJ Higgins is simply accompanied by hand claps and foot stomps and, of course, Jah Wobble's restrained bass.
All in all, this is a well-rounded package which reaches beyond classic reggae by turning out to be much more than that. If PJ Higgins, Jah Wobble and McGowan were new kids on the block, they'd be a team to keep an eye on. Keeping an ear to the ground doesn't hurt though.