Title
Artist
Label
Format
Date

Legal We Legal
Half Pint
Artists Only!
CD
January 10, 2014

Track list
  1. Legal We Legal
  2. The Joker
  3. Let We Be
  4. You Can Enter
  5. Make Haste
  6. Malfunction
  7. Straight From The Heart
  8. One Big Family
  9. Too Rude
  10. Life Worth Living
  11. Reggae Rising
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 4 Production : 4 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 4
Half Pint - born Lindon Andrew Roberts - is a singer originally from West Kingston. Called Half Pint due to his diminutive stature, he released his first single, "Sally", in 1983. This was soon followed by "Winsome", and both these singles became reggae hits. Other songs released by him throughout the 1980s also became Jamaican and international reggae hits, such as "Mr. Landlord", "Level The Vibes", "Substitute Lover", and his biggest hit "Greetings", from 1986. Half Pint's career thus begun in this Rub-A-Dub (not yet digital), Early Dancehall phase of the 1980s, and though seemingly a bit in the same "singing school" as contemporaries Barrington Levy or Junior Reid, he distinguished himself with his catchy melodies and quite unique vocal style, a bit "screamy" and slightly hoarse voice, that sounded still pleasant.

Teaming up with the likes of Sly & Robbie and others, and probably due to the inherent catchiness of some of his songs, Half Pint's success would soon spread outside of Jamaica, and would even reach artists in other genres: the Rolling Stones covered his song "Winsome" (renaming it "Too Rude") in 1986. Less known is perhaps that California group Sublime from California more or less covered of a song of Half Pint ("Loving"), or that Half Pint songs were featured in some US movies, such as in the soundtrack of the Caribbean-set 'The Mighty Quinn' from 1989 and 'The Substitute 2' from 1998. What's more, his already mentioned song "Loving (Is All I Got)" was also bought in 2012 to be used in video games. Let's just hope that in this time Jamaican artists actually reap the financial profits themselves of such deals. He even achieved a major record label deal (BMG). All this is a great track record. Mild criticism, though, is given by some critics about Half Pint's overall limited melodic variation of a part of his oeuvre, but there's no denying the strength and appeal of his hit songs (including the recent "Just Be Good"). Between 1986 and 1993, Half Pint released three albums ("Victory", "Greetings from Half Pint", and "Pick Your Choice"), like so many Jamaican albums a collection of singles that appeared throughout the years before.

In the 1990s, Half Pint remained active and spent a lot of time touring the world, and he achieved quite a fan base in Europe, the US, as well as Japan. In studio recording he seemed to be relatively less active by then. It was in 1998 that Half Pint released his first studio album in about 5 years, called "Legal We Legal". For this 1998 album, he again teamed up with Sly (Dunbar) & Robbie (Shakespeare), being musicians, as well as co-producers of this album. While 1998 is also a year with much Digital Dancehall/Ragga, this album mostly continues the Rub-A-Dub, "live-band" sound of his earlier work, with the tightness and quality of the musicianship ensured by Sly & Robbie and other experienced musicians. While still rub-a-dub, rootsy dancehall, the music is one the other hand also a bit more modern in sound, with more digital touches than on his earlier albums, and even including some slight, though not dominant, hip-hop or rock influences. Even the recurring "rock-ish" electric guitar riffs (that some find out of place in reggae) are mostly tastefully added.

Also the type of songs on "Legal We Legal" follow in the same vein as Half Pint's work from the 1980s, as does his vocal style. The music is groovy, and the songs catchy, and here and there melodically a bit simple, though never too simple or lame. The old hit "One Big Family" recurs here, which in my opinion is not his most impressive song musically (though it has a nice message), being a bit boring to my taste. Also his old hit "Too Rude" (a.k.a. "Winsome") returns, working here well, with a funky, sparse sound.

Recalling old glory was not necessary to make this album good, though. It contains several "new", good, groovy songs, with the effective catchiness Half Pint is so apt at. Some have original/"fresh" riddims as well. The title track - a hit single - draws you in, as do "You Can Enter", the original but engaging "Malfunction", and the equally strong "Straight From The Heart" (on a love that is over). These last two good songs remind somewhat of the better part of Barrington Levy's later material. The love song "Life worth living" is nice and catchy, while melodically quite typical of Half Pint. Other songs like the Steve Mills cover "The Joker" is okay, though in my opinion not much more than that. Covering this song - especially with such lyrics - seems ill-advised for a roots reggae artist, but Half Pint, and Sly & Robbie, show they can pull it off. "Let We Be" is a bit simpler than the other songs, though still nice enough. "Make Haste" and "Reggae Rising" are somewhat better.

I think that the best songs are those on which Half Pint's engaging vocals, catchy melodies, and the Sly & Robbie-led groovy riddims combine to synergetic effect, such as on the positive title track, "You Can Enter", "Straight From The Heart", or "Life Worth Living". But most of the other songs are also at least okay, conveying a nice vibe, or are just good, with added interesting musical aspects, such as Sly's cutting-edge drumming. All in all, this is more than enough to keep you engaged throughout the 11 songs.