Album Reviews: Throw Down Your Arms by Sinéad O'ConnorLike a lot of British pop music fans, Sinead O'Connor claims to have discovered reggae in London in the '80s. Despite the weirdness that has often punctuated the artist's work, it's still a bit of a shock that she has actually gone through with an album of reggae covers -- not to mention that she has reportedly converted to the Rastafarian faith.
Recorded at the legendary Tuff Gong Studio in Kingston and produced by internationally renowned producers and musicians Sly and Robbie (who also played drums and bass, respectively, on the album), Throw Down Your Arms has been described by O'Connor as her "way of expressing gratitude to the Rasta people." She event insists that she "would not be alive today if it was not for the teachings of Rastafari."
Surprisingly, the album is really good, thanks in no small part to the wealth of fine musicianship, production, and material that O'Connor is dealing with. Her earthy brogue is often at odds with the rootsy grooves that propel this album, especially in her readings of patois, but the consistently excellent tracks backing up her vocals make these songs work. While she wisely chooses to bypass obvious material (i.e., no Wailers hits), she does touch upon a few classic protest songs that will be recognizable to reggae fans, notably the track "War," which was written by Eric Allen and Carlton Barnett (although it's often associated with Bob Marley). The album starts off in somewhat striking fashion with an a cappella track called "Jah Nuh Dread" by Winston Rodney, whose band Burning Spear is covered several times here ("Marcus Garvey," "Door Peep," title cut). Other artists getting the cover treatment include Lee "Scratch" Perry ("Curly Locks", "Vampire") and Peter Tosh ("Downpressor Man").
O'Connor appears very respectful with the material throughout, and although she's rather out of her realm, she pulls it off much better than you'd think an Irish singer singing reggae tunes possibly could. - Cory O'Malley
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