As we all know, Bob Marley had many, many sons. Perhaps the most famous being his eldest son, Ziggy. Then, of course there’s Stephen, Ky-Mani, Rohan and Damian Jr Gong, but what do you know about Julian “Juju” Marley? Well, for starters he was born in England, but then moved to Jamaica later in life. He’s released three albums thus far, the first being “Lion In The Morning” in 1996, followed by “A Time And A Place” in 2003 and “Awake” in 2009. At this point he’s released some new songs here and there, but a full album still has not been released since. Eventually there will be, of course! For now, let’s take a look at Julian’s “Awake” album, beginning of course, with the first and title song:
Awake: There’s no other way to say this, other than it’s a very Bob-like song, especially its message, which is to wake ourselves up and to free our minds, which are still in shackles, as far as Julian is concerned. Essentially it’s just another way of saying: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery.” Marcia Griffiths of the I-Threes is on backing vocals.
Boom Draw: A bass heavy dub track co-produced by his brothers, Damian and Stephen. The song’s clearly about smoking marijuana, or, rather taking a huge hit from a spliff, which is what a “Boom Draw” translates to in Jamaican Patois. Julian informs us that the herb is a sacrament to himself and many Rastas, as it was left on Solomon’s throne. It’s therefore quite a spiritual song, with many references to giving praises to Emperor Haile Selassie. Unfortunately Julian acts a bit silly in the video, but it’s still a great tune.
On The Floor: The late great Sticky is on percussion on this dance-orientated reggae tune, where Julian is quoting his father’s line, “You’re young and you’re strong.” It’s quite funky actually. But it’s not really all that deep, he’s just talking about feeling the vibes and dancing. It would be ideal for a party.
Rosehall: Given that reggae is traditional Jamaican music, Julian has decided to use it to deliver us some Jamaican Folklore: The Pale Witch Of Rose Hall was an incredibly evil woman who would bite you like a serpent because she had no love for anybody. Or at least that was the metaphor that Julian has chosen to go with. Nobody has ever really made a song like this one before, so it’s brilliant. And yes, again it’s very Bob-like.
A Little Too Late: Another collaboration with Stephen Marley. This time he’s vocally featured on the track, not only introducing it but also doing some dance hall chanting about midway point, where he dubs the girl a “bad putty tat.” Julian sings of a girl who left him and broke his heart, hence the chorus: “She’s a heartbreaker, yeah.” Some of his vocal inflections on this one are also reminiscent of his father.
Just In Time: The first twenty-two seconds feature Julian playing his acoustic guitar, which would then give you the impression that it’s going to be some kind of folk song, but then a much more hip-hop oriented beat kicks in, programmed by Jr Gong. It’s quite clearly a dedication to his god, Emperor Haile Selassie I.
Jah Works: Another dedication to His Imperial Majesty. This one is a much more roots reggae type of tune, so all of the instrumentation sounds crisp and clear. Evidently, Julian is a very devout Rasta. “None of the riches of the world can’t stop Jah works.” Indeed.
Oh Girl: Julian teams up with rapper Mr Cheeks and brings us a hip-hop influenced tune, with the help of neo-soul singer Omar Lyefook’s brother Roland, known professionally as Scratch Professor, who handled the drum programming. Given the subject matter, Julian has chosen to sing the song in an occasionally raspy falsetto. It’s therefore difficult to determine exactly who he was channelling.… was it Prince? Or Curtis Mayfield? Possibly the latter, given that all reggae artists quote Curtis as a big influence.
Violence In the Streets: Damian and Julian team up for this rugged hip-hop tune about what goes on in the streets of Jamaica at night: People can’t get a job because they’re not qualified enough, so they steal and rob instead. Of course Damian sounds amped up, occasionally chanting in a slightly higher pitch. This is the REAL Jamaica, people.
All I Know: Julian is bringing forth another modern Hip Hop type of feeling and he’s slipping into his “old codger” persona, giving advice to all of the listeners out there, using metaphors like, “If you keep on taking water from the well, it will all dry up and you end up having nothing for yourself.” Yep. He’s definitely Bob’s boy. For sure. Sounds just like something he would’ve come up with back in the day.
Stay With Me: Marica Griffiths is on backing vocals once again, as Julian and his band bring forth another straight up reggae tune, with a very twangy bluesy guitar riff. It’s quite a sad break up tune, in which he’s crying tears and then comparing them to the rain falling. It’s another one of those “I’m Hurting Inside” types of jams, but he wants his woman to stay with him regardless. The harmonica (Or is that the melodica?) helps to create that sad type of vibe.
Sharp As A Razor: Now it’s time for Julian to get militant on us. “Chew you up and spit you out,” he sings all the way through this one. Can somebody say Angry Rasta? Yes, that definitely seems to be the case right here. Although it’s unclear what he means by “Heading for a Brrr.”
Things Ain’t Cool: Of course no Marley album would be complete without a song about wanting to unite everybody in the world because “things ain’t cool,” as Julian says. Interestingly, in the lyrics sheet, the number four is replaced with the actual word, “FOR.”
Trying: This song begins with Juju strumming his guitar and virtually rapping! Uh-oh. Thankfully it then turns into another straight reggae tune, which essentially is just another message of encouragement where he’s telling us that he’s trying to be a better man, but of course he’s also telling us all to, well… try harder in life. What better way to close the album, right?
Verdict: We need more reggae music in these times we’re living in right now, because we most definitely need to be uplifted. Spiritually or otherwise. Julian has certainly done that with this very consistent album. Hopefully he brings us something new, because it’s been far too long… like this site says.