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Reggae Legends

Luciano

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Luciano
By Jeff Tamarkin

Published August 1, 2005

When Luciano emerged as Jamaica’s next big thing in the early ’90s, it wasn’t because he was breaking new stylistic ground or hitching his wagon to reggae’s latest trends. It was because, at a time when it was less than fashionable to do so, he looked toward classic roots reggae, gave it a booster shot and reminded the genre’s audience that saying something still meant something.

That’s not to say that Luciano was a revivalist. He wasn’t about aping the greats of the past but, rather, bringing the values of reggae’s masters into the present. His earliest full-length recordings—albums such as One Way Ticket (largely a collection of early singles), Where There Is Life, Messenger and Sweep Over My Soul—were startling in their honesty and refreshing in their maturity. Luciano’s vocal delivery was both warm and authoritative. Producer Philip “Fatis” Burrell emphasized simple but exciting arrangements and stirring backings that enriched the passionate commitment that Luciano brought to his lyrics. The cultural and spiritual themes and lovers rock ballads that Luciano embraced had largely fallen out of favor during the rise of dancehall, but Luciano reclaimed them and brought them up to date.

Born Jepther McClymont in 1974 in Davey Town, the future Luciano started singing in the church before moving to Kingston and cutting a series of recordings for a number of producers and indie labels. It wasn’t until Luciano teamed with Burrell in 1993 that his career truly kicked in, first with a handful of singles and then with a series of consistently fine albums. Luciano’s work has appeared on numerous labels, among them Island, VP, Ras, Shanachie, Jet Star and Burrell’s own Xterminator. Even as of 2005 his output remained prolific but confusing, although quality rarely wavered—Upright, Luciano’s first release on the Kingston label, is as moving as anything he’s done.

Luciano has been called “The Messenger,” and it’s a fitting title. He remains a leader among those next-generation reggae artists who’ve held fast to the music’s original intentions. His unyielding faith has driven Luciano, and his innate sense of song structure and soulfulness has helped keep his message alive.



Recommended Recordings

 

Where There Is Life (Island)

Ultimate Collection (Hip-O)

Upright (Kingston)

 

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