When it comes to musical collaborations, they often, bring out the best in musicians. Especially, when you bring together musicians from diverse musical backgrounds. Often, they drive each other to greater heights. This was the case with previous installments of Strut Records Inspiration Information series. Sly and Robbie collaborated with Amp Fiddler, while Horace Andy collaborated with Ashley Beedle. Then there was the captivating collaboration between Mulatu Astatke and The Heliocentrics. Equally compelling, was the collaboration between Jimi Tenor and Tony Allen, one of Afro-beat’s legendary drummers. So given how diverse previous collaborations in the Inspiration Information series have been, the next installment had a lot to live up. However, Strut Records have surpassed everyone’s expectations with a collaboration between reggae legend Cornell Campbell,, and one of London’s best bands, the Soothsayers. Cornell Campbell Meets The Soothsayers’ Nothing Can Stop Us Now will be released on Strut Records on 8th July 2013. Here, one of reggae’s legendary figures Cornell Campbell, joined forces with one of London’s hottest live bands, The Soothsayers. This is a real heavyweight musical pairing, one who I’m sure, will produce some intriguing and captivating music. Before I tell you about the music on Cornell Campbell Meets The Soothsayers’ Nothing Can Stop Us Now, I’ll tell you about this heavyweight musical pairing.

Cornell Campbell was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1948, and by the early sixties, had embarked upon his musical career. Starting as he meant to go on, Cornell worked at one of reggae’s legendary labels…Studio One. Then in 1967, Cornell joined The Uniques, who proved to be a short-lived group. Two years later, in 1969, Cornell decided to form his own band, The Eternals, with Ken Price and Errol Wisdom. The Eternals recorded just four singles, including Stars and King Of The Minstrels. Then when The Eternals split up, Cornell Campbell embarked upon a solo career. Not only did his fortunes change, but he released the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed music of his career.

Having embarked upon a solo career, Cornell hooked up with one of the greatest reggae producers of all time, Bunny Lee. He produced Cornell’s eponymous debut album Cornell Campbell, which was released on Trojan. 1975 saw the release of Natty Dread In A Greenwich Farm and Dance In A Greenwich Farm. By 1976, when Cornell released The Gorgon and Stalowatt, his popularity had soared. Featuring Santa Davis’ trademark flying hi-hat sound and Bunny Lee production skills, Cornell was one of reggae’s most successful artists. However, by the late-seventies, his popularity began to wane. Cornell concentrated on Lovers Rock and then, in 1979, reformed The Uniques with Lloyd Chalmers and Jimmy Riley.

During the eighties, Cornell wasn’t as prolific an artist. He continued to release albums, but between 1984 and 2000, Cornell didn’t release a solo album. That wasn’t the last we heard of Cornell Campbell though. Not at all. The man who’d worked with producers Bunny Lee, King Tubby, Coxsone Dodd and Winston Niney The Obsever was back in 2005 with My Destination. Then three years later, in 2008, Rock My Soul was released. That was the last we heard of Cornell Campbell until he hooked up with The Soothsayers for Nothing Can Stop Us. However, who are The Soothsayers?

Since the were formed, Brixton’s Soothsayers have established a reputation as one of the best live bands on the London music scene. That’s not easy, given how many talented bands play in the English capital. Lead by Soothsayers’ supremo saxophonist Idris Rahman, he’s joined in the horn section by trumpeter Robin Hopcroft. Then there’s Zoe Raham, Pat Illingworth, Westley Joseph, Julia Biel, Phil Dawson and Derek Johnson. Their unique fusion of funk, jazz, Afro-beat and dub has won the Soothsayers fans much further afield than the stages of London. They’ve also become firm festival favorites, playing throughout Europe and at the Glastonbury festival. Whilst honing their sound, the Soothsayers have released three albums.

It was back in 2008, that the Soothsayers released their debut album The Time Is Now on P-Vine. Tangled Roots followed in 2009 and then Lost City in 2012. Apart from this trio of albums, the Soothsayers have been involved in numerous collaborations, including two albums. The first was 2009s Soothsayers Meet The Red Earth Collective’s One More Reason. Then on 2010, it was just the Soothsayers’ horn section that was called into action. This was for 2010s The Red Earth Collective featuring The Soothsayers Horn Section’s Red Earth Dub. So given the Soothsayers’ live experience, plus their experience accompanying and collaborating other artists, they should be the perfect group to accompany Cornell Campbell on Nothing Can Stop Us? Is that the case though? That’s what I’ll tell you.

Opening Cornell Campbell Meets The Soothsayers’ Nothing Can Stop Us is the title-track Nothing Can Stop Us. Slow and melodic, meandering reggae rhythms accompany Cornell’s heartfelt vocal. Tender and gentle, veering between pleading and joyous. Stabs of blazing horns courtesy of saxophonist Idris Rahman and trumpeter Robin Hopcroft accompany him. Tender harmonies sweep in, as Cornell rolls back the years, revisiting late-seventies Lovers Rock for inspiration. Although just one song in, the collaboration between Cornell Campbell and the Soothsayers seems inspired.

Straight away, Conqueror has a tougher, dubbier sound. It’s as if Cornell is seeking inspiration from the legendary producers he’s worked with. King Tubby, Niney The Observer, Bunny Lee and King Coxsone, have all influenced this track’s sound. While the drums reverberate and echo into the distance, a pounding bass line and grizzled horns accompany Cornell’s earnest vocal. Moody, broody and atmospheric describes this track perfectly.

As I’ll Never Leave begins, you hear similarities to Nothing Can Stop Us is Nothing Can Stop Us. Meandering, churning rhythms accompany Cornell’s impassioned, thoughtful vocal. With pride and a spirituality in his vocal, he sings: “I love my country” and “we don’t no war.” Accompanied by a punchy, rubbery bass-line and stabs of growling horns, the arrangement fuses reggae, Lovers Rock and jazz, thanks to the frantic, grizzled horns. What makes the song though, are the lyrics and Cornell’s delivery of them.

With You My Heart Belongs has a real dubby sound that grabs your attention. It sets the scene for Cornell’s needy, lovestruck vocal. Delivered in a lover’s rock style, his vocal is drenched in reverb, as it drifts into the distance. Meanwhile, drums crack, subtle stabs of horns sound and melodic jazz-tinged keyboard sweep in. They soar high above the arrangement, with the help of echo and reverb. The result is a captivating fusion of styles, where dub, lover’s rock and jazzy keyboards combine. 

Continuing the dub influence is It’s Not For Me. Not only does it features some of the best rhythms, but some outstanding lyrics. The lyrics are a paean to peace, and an end to violence. Cornell delivers an inspired, impassioned vocal. Spurred on, the Soothsayers mix dub, reggae and rocky guitars. Then when they embark on a jam, a jazzy influence emerges. Feeding off each other, they reach previously unscaled heights. On Ode To Joy (Babylon Can’t Control I) the quality continues. There’s a real seventies influence and sound to the track. Again, Cornell and the Soothsayers prove to be the perfect foil for each other. Thunderous rhythms combine with Cornell’s fervent, enthusiastic vocal and bursts of rasping horns. Joyful, equally enthusiastic harmonies and jazz-tinged guitar prove to be the finishing touches to this infectiously catchy, hook-laden track.

Ae Want To Be Free has an understated introduction, but when it explodes into life, it’s dub-delicious. It’s as if the Soothsayers’ rhythm section’s raison d’etre is to grab your attention. The reason for this is so you focus one Cornell’s sincere pleas for freedom. With its combination of jazzy horns and dub-drenched sound, you can’t help but pay attention to Cornell’s impassioned pleas. Good Direction is another song with a message. Again, the song is about freedom and although people are free, the circumstances they’re living in, can make them feel anything but free. It’s delivered in a much more subtle way. With a meandering, thoughtful rhythm section, soaring harmonies and rasping horns for company, Cornell delivers a vocal that although it’s tender, becomes the focus of your attention. His message is delivered with an intensity and a belief. Despite the song’s message, the song is not unlike a musical slice of sunshine. So too is Never Give Up, an upbeat and joyous message of determination and persistence.

The Soothsayers drop the tempo on There’s A Fire. They provide a slow, sultry backdrop for Cornell’s impassioned vocal. With the rhythm section providing the arrangement’s steady heartbeat, percussion, keyboards and cooing harmonies join rasping horns. Just as good is Cornell’s emotive vocal. It brings to life the lyrics. Quite simply, it’s one of the best tracks on Nothing Can Stop Us Now and proves that Cornell Campbell Meets The Soothsayers’ is a musical dream team.

Jah Jah Me No Born Yah opens with the unmistakably atmospheric sound of the Hammond organ. They’re joined by growling horns, dubby drums and percussion. A brief burst of surf-inspired guitars signals the entrance of Cornell’s vocal. It’s as if the Soothsayers have realized it’s Cornell’s farewell vocal. Neither the Soothsayers, nor Cornell disappoints. Accompanied by harmonies, Cornell’s vocal veers between a jazzy scat, becoming heartfelt, emotive and sincere. As Cornell delivers bows out, the Soothsayers return with Jah Jah Me No Born Yah (Dub Outro). This allows them to showcase their considerable skills. It also gives you a tantalizing taste of what their live show sounds like. Dubby, with a slightly experimental sound, the Soothsayers decided to test the tolerance of your speakers. For four minutes the recreate the sound of vintage dub, albeit with a Soothsayers twist.

Earlier, I mentioned how many previously, musical collaborations haven’t worked. Instead, they’ve been traumatic episodes that gave many a music lover nightmares. Thankfully, Cornell Campbell Meets The Soothsayers’ are a musical dream team. The reggae veteran Cornell Campbell, and London’s hottest band the Soothsayers proved to be an inspired collaboration. From the opening bars of Nothing Can Stop Us right through to the closing notes of Jah Jah Me No Born Yah (Dub Outro) Cornell Campbell and the Soothsayers become a musical ying and yang. They prove to be the perfect foil, each driving the other to greater heights. Just as you think Cornell Campbell and the Soothsayers have reached the musical summit, they prove you wrong. Somehow, they better a track that you think was peerless. What makes this even more remarkable was this was the first time Cornell and the Soothsayers had set foot in a recording studio together.

What Cornell and the Soothsayers created was a captivating and eclectic collection of twelve tracks. Nothing Can Stop Us which will be released by Strut Records on 8th July 2013, is a musical melting pot that draws its inspiration Jamaica, England, America and Africa. There’s everything from dub, jazz, reggae, funk, lover’s rock, Afro-beat and even, rock-guitars on the twelve tracks that comprise Nothing Can Stop Us. Every time you listen to Nothing Can Stop Us, further nuances, subtleties and surprises reveal themselves. Layer upon layer of music unfolds. Key to this is the Soothsayers’ musical prowess. They provide the backdrop for Cornell Campbell’s vocal, which ranges from heartfelt and emotive, right though to enthusiastic and sincere. He rolls back the years to his seventies heyday, passionately delivering lyrics filled with messages and social comment. Along with the Soothsayers, Cornell Campbell has played his part in one of the best albums of 2013 so far. So when the lists of the best albums of 2013 are drawn up, the powerful, emotive and socially relevant Cornell Campbell Meets The Soothsayers’ Nothing Can Stop Us will be on it. Standout Tracks: Conqueror, I’ll Never Leave, We Want To Be Free and There’s A Fire.


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