Earl Sixteen – Roots Foundation

by Mar 25, 2024Artist, Reviews

Earl Sixteen - Roots Foundation

Release Info

JahSolidRock Music
Street date
March 21, 2024
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01. Brave Enough
02. Brave Enough Dub
03. Natty Dread A General
04. Natty Dread A General Dub
05. No Love
06. Every Nubian Is A Star feat. Mutabaruka
07. Nubian Star Dub feat. Mutabaruka
08. Ghetto College
09. Ghetto College Dub
10. Amazing

Following a thirteen-year hiatus after releasing Earl Sixteen’s album The Fittest, during which he collaborated on several JahSolidRock projects including two Addis Pablo albums and Kenny Smyth’s Powerful Dread LP, the Dutch reggae label has finally released the long-awaited and highly anticipated follow-up album from the respected UK-based veteran singer/songwriter. The new release, titled Roots Foundation, includes six vocal tracks and four dub versions.

Earl Sixteen

Born Earl Daley in Kingston, Jamaica, Earl Sixteen, also known as Earl 16, released his first single in the early 1970s as a member of The Flaming Phonics. However, it wasn’t until he joined forces with Lee “Scratch” Perry at the Black Ark Studio that he began to establish himself in the music industry. Between 1975 and 1980, Earl recorded several well-known tracks for producers like Lee “Scratch” Perry (Cheating and Freedom), Augustus Pablo (Changing World and Rastaman), and Derrick Harriott (Malcolm X). Collaborating with Mikey Dread on sessions supported by the Roots Radics Band and mixed by Scientist at King Tubby’s studio, Earl released hits like Reggae Sound, Jah Is The Master, African Tribesman, and the album Reggae Sound, which solidified his reputation as a songwriter and vocalist. His mid-1980s album Showcase, produced by Coxsone Dodd of Studio One, was the first full-length record that truly pleased from start to finish. Earl Sixteen has since released numerous albums with different producers, with some being excellent and others falling short of expectations. The acclaimed The Fittest set was among the former.


As soon as the first notes leap off the speakers, it’s already clear that Earl Sixteen’s fanbase and reggae lovers who appreciate JahSolidRock’s past albums by artists like Chezidek, Apple Gabriel, and Brinsley Forde will find another gem in their latest release – a modern reggae album with a true roots reggae feel. Anyone familiar with projects coming from the JahSolidRock knows what can be expected from the label and its producers Ras Denco and Marc Baronner. Sonically, their releases sound superb and this new Roots Foundation set is no exception. In addition, Earl Sixteen’s distinctive soulful lead vocals sound amazing as always, complemented by his expertly delivered backing vocals. The Tuff Gong All Stars provide fresh original riddims, with Kirk “Kirkledove” Bennett on drums, Jason Arthur Welsh on bass, the late Garth “Duckie” Forester on guitars, and Andrew “Stringy” Marsh on piano and hammond organ. Additional musicians such as Dean Fraser, Everton Pessoa, Hornsman Coyote, Tommie Freke, Okiel McIntyre, Dwight Richards, Vivaldo Brown, Hector Lewis, Marcus Hillman, Marc Baronner, and musical director Mario “Djeynah Delbety” Delbe also add their undeniable talents to the mix.

Originals & Remakes

The first track on the album, Brave Enough, is a a top-notch love song on a gorgeous riddim where Earl Sixteen skillfully steers clear of clichéd romantic tropes. The cool and easy vibe he adds to the song is just candy to the ears. Right after the opening track, Brave Enough Dub kicks in. Even if you’re not a dubhead, this track is a delight to listen to as it excels in every aspect. Earl Sixteen explores his wide range of songs and presents an impressive reinterpretation of Dread A General, a track originally recorded for Mikey Dread in 1981. Following this standout remake is a delightfully dubbed out version with a driving bass sound, lots of reverb and echo, and vocal snippets. A pure pleasure to listen to. In the thought-provoking No Love, Earl Sixteen reinterprets Bobby “Blue” Bland’s 1974 classic song Ain’t No Love In The City to address contemporary issues plaguing society. Following that is the collaborative track with Mutabaruka, titled Every Nubian Is A Star. This song is another reinterpretation, this time inspired by Boris Gardiner’s Every Nigger Is A Star. The original song was the title track for the soundtrack of the 1974 Jamaican film of the same name. While Earl Sixteen mainly sings the chorus in Every Nubian Is A Star, the Rastafari dub poet recites his own lyrics in the verses in his instantly recognisable style. It’s followed by the entertaining dub cut, Nubian Star Dub. When listeners hear Earl Sixteen’s rendition of the Meditations’ Ghetto Is A College from vocal trio’s 1999 album Ghetto Knowledge, they are once again treated to a revisited classic tune. The powerful vocal piece is followed by a compelling dub cut that truly brings the music to life. Amazing, the last track of the album, is a solid love tune in which he gives praise to the woman in his life.

In all, Roots Foundation is filled with class and delivers everything you would anticipate from a great album by Earl Sixteen. A worthy addition to anyone’s reggae collection.

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