Thursday, February 6, 2014

Classic Album Review: Third World - 96° In The Shade (1977)

The news this week of the death of reggae great Bunny Rugs had me fondly thinking about the music of Third World and just how much it has touched me at various points through my life – from the first year I left the bosom of the family home, right up to the present day.

One album in particular stands out for me as an almost constant companion from those teenage years, and it carries a lot of special memories for me. Although 1978’s Journey To Addis tends to get the credit as Third World’s most acclaimed album, you'd have to delve deep into the band’s long and illustrious discography to find a more complete or fully realised album than its predecessor, 96° In The Shade.

For many years I was actually under the impression that 96° must in fact be a compilation album, such is its quality. But the fact is, it isn’t a compilation, it’s simply a plain old ordinary regular long player from a band right at the top of its game.

What is most striking is the way Third World effortlessly manage to blend reggae with funk to produce something quite remarkable and unique. The quality of the musicianship is a joy to behold and that vital element is supplemented by soulful – verging on gospel at times – harmonies and a powerful set of lyrics.

In 1978, Third World struck disco gold with its own version of ‘Now That We’ve Found Love’ (originally an O’Jays number, and available on Journey To Addis), but the seeds of dancefloor crossover success had been nurtured over many years, and 96° In The Shade offered real evidence that the global breakthrough beckoned a year or so before it was achieved.

It’s the sort of album you can play right through without fear of hitting a bum note, and I’ve done exactly that many times across the last 30 years. It’s perfect for lazy summer weekends, and if you need a little sunshine during winter, I dare say it can offer you that as well.

One of the best reggae albums of alltime? … quite probably.

Highlights: ‘Jah Glory’, ‘Human Market Place’, ‘1865 (96° in the shade)’, ‘Tribal War’, and ‘Rhythm Of Life’.

RIP William Clarke, aka Bunny Rugs, Third World’s lead vocalist, who died in Florida, aged 65, after a long battle with cancer …

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