You know when something is the real deal, you can just hear it. Link & Chain are certainly the real deal and Ready is one of those songs which just oozes with authenticity and charm. There is much talk these days about music evolving, about things having to move on and push boundaries. Whilst that might be true in some quarters, you can also make a good argument for reggae music having already found its perfect form. And for this reason, Ready is that perfect blend of a song that shimmers and shines with a freshness and modernity but which also echoes sonic traditions and timeless style.
But then again, this Jamaican/Floridian musical band of brothers has a wealth of experience to draw on and have been making music together since the mid-eighties. And like all good music, it isn’t short of something to say. Reggae has long been a voice for change, for talking about social injustice, as a rebellious, rabble-rousing voice in the wilderness. And whereas the likes of punk advocated change through chaos, reggae has often taken a more considered approach, making its arguments through choice words and eloquent dialogue.
And these are all things that you find at the heart of Ready. Since 1990, Link & Chain have favoured a conscious roots reggae style, an extension of their Rastafarian beliefs, an approach that means that this is a song that is as much about education as it is entertainment. But then shouldn’t all music be? After all, if you have a great song and use it to deliver pointless or throwaway lyrics, arent you just wasting the opportunity and platform that making music allows you?
Musically too, Ready is a gorgeous weave of sonics. Guitars skank and strut, brass stabs and punctuates and cool washes of vocal harmonies bathe the whole in gorgeous tones and textures. It grooves and moves, bobs and weaves. And then on top of this, you have this gentle but heartfelt vocal call to arms. But it is a call to arms that is uplifting rather than forceful, which speaks to the heart and soul as much as it does the brain, which talks of freedom and unity and aims to prepare the listener for change. Change through personal development and evolution, through doing the right thing and standing up for your rights. Are you ready?
Reggae music has always had a strong feeling of identity. Of knowing where this sound and the people who make it come from, the importance of their African roots and of remembering the injustices which lead to those peoples being transported to new lands and ocean away. But also understanding that Reggae is an important voice for today and like all folk music it speaks for and of the people. And if you find the term folk music a bit odd, remember the famous Louis Armstrong quote, “All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard a horse sing a song.”
But perhaps more importantly, Reggae music has something to say about where things go next, about the future of the cultures and people that it is a champion for. And in doing so, it also speaks for people and oppression all over the globe. Even if the music comes from a very personal or at least culturally specific place, it is universally relatable no matter what the colour, culture or creed of the listener.
It is easy to hear some of the band’s influences echoing through their music, iconic musical pioneers such as Steel Pulse, Third World, Jimmy Cliff and particularly Bob Marley and the Wailers. Then again, is there a reggae band working today that doesn’t owe some sort of musical debt to such seminal outfits? I would think not. But as I say, this isn’t the sound of a band resting on the reggae’s past glories, this is the sound of a band picking up the musical baton and running with it. The sound of a band, although tipping their hat to the past, heading full tilt into the genres bright new future.
Ready does everything that a modern reggae song should do. It links the past with the present whilst looking to the future, it plays to the established audiences whilst seeking out new ones, it combines sunshine infused music with lyrical depth, it is fun and full of life, it is poignant and important. And that is a lot to fit in 4 minutes and 10 seconds but such is the skill of the band that not a musical second is wasted. Fantastic.