Hasidic reggae artist Matisyahu performed for 30 minutes at Tower Records in Northridge on March 9 in front of hundreds of screaming teenagers that had come out for the free concert and signing of his new CD “Youth.”
Packed in the parking lot outside the record store, the crowd got to see Matisyahu and his three-man band, Roots Tonic, perform songs from the new CD and from his previous albums, to which the audience sang along in the choruses.
He performed old songs like “Close My Eyes” and “Raise Me Up” as well as “Dispatch the Troops” and “Jerusalem” from “Youth.”
Matisyahu is on his way to become a household name with his religious lyrics over groovy reggae beats and an enchanting energy. His music not only appeals to the Jewish fans, but also real Rastafarians and mainstream audiences.
His third album “Youth” dropped on March 7 and it has a slightly different sound than “Shake off the Dust?Arise” and “Live at Stubb’s.”
“Youth” doesn’t have the same reggae feel to it as the previous two do. It starts off promising with “Fire of Heaven/ Altar of Earth,” which has a nice reggae vibe to it, but after that it gets hard to classify this CD as a reggae album.
On songs like “What I’m Fighting For,” “Indestructible” and “Jerusalem” the music is anything but reggae. That doesn’t mean they are not good songs, but it is not what was expected from an artist who held his own on the same stage as reggae greats Gregory Isaacs and Ras Michael at the Ragga Muffins Festival a few weeks ago.
The Caribbean vibe is missing on half the songs, which was hard to accept at first. After listening to it a couple of more times, however, it gets better. On “Jerusalem” Matisyahu sings about the atrocities Jewish people have been through in history and the importance to remember that today. “Jerusalem, if I forget you, let my right hand forget what it’s supposed to do,” he sings in the chorus.
In “Late Night in Zion” Matisyahu’s words flow poetically with lines like, “Wisdom reigns like water/ from the heavens to below/ crush my earth/ seeds sow/ garden starts to grow/ you know you’ve got to rise/ although you like to flow.”
On “Indestructible,” Matisyahu does some background beatboxing, showing that he still has the hip-hop flavor in his repertoire, which is otherwise neglected on “Youth.” He sporadically throws in sections of rapping in other songs, changing up the tempo from the melodic pace he otherwise uses.
Somehow “King Without a Crown” found its way on to this album too, probably making it the first time in history one song has been on three consecutive CD’s by the same artist, not counting greatest hits albums. This is kind of a studio version of the way he performs it live, but you can’t capture the atmosphere and energy from “Live at Stubb’s” so why even bother putting it on here?
For the people who buy the album early enough at a Tower Records store, there is a treat waiting inside. An exclusive Tower special edition dub EP with five tracks on it, which is where all the reggae vibes were hiding.
Overall this is a good CD, but expectations grow with fame and personally I had higher expectations for Matisyahu’s third album.
Johan Mengesha can be contacted at email@example.com.