Cornel Campbell meets Soothsayers
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Cornel Campbell meets Soothsayers


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"Soothsayers - Human Nature Review"

Human Nature is a momentous offering from Soothsayers, and could well be the apex of a band that already have an impressive history of albums, collaborations and legendary live shows under their belts. Soothsayers are a collective of London-based professional musicians who between them have played with everyone from Martha Reeves to Aswad. Human Nature displays the confidence of a band who have crafted their sound and message with great precision. Rarely is an album such a perfect blend of bold lyrical themes, stellar musicianship and confident production.
With extensive links to reggae artists both in the UK and JA, in the past Soothsayers often utilised guest artists such as Cornel Campbell and Johnny Clarke. But Human Nature sees band regulars Julia Biel, Robin Hopcraft and Idris Rahman come together to offer politically-engaged, cliché-free lyrical sentiment delivered in spine-tingling three-part harmony. Alone, their voices can be a little rough around the edges, but together they sound mesmerisingly sweet and strong. In the tradition of roots-reggae groups like The Mighty Diamonds or The Congos, these beautiful harmonies carry the album and are a perfect vehicle for the poignant themes which Human Nature takes on.
Throughout we are offered worldly, topical musings, in a tone which enables the audience to reflect and engage without feeling like they are being preached to. The outlook is idealistic but realistic: "To find a solution/ is gona take some time" ('Judgment Day'); sombre but defiant: "I will not see myself defeated/ Keep your head above the water" ('One Day'). The title track itself is a heartfelt plea for action against global warming: "We fight wars while fires burn and waters rise/ Don't close your eyes". Meanwhile, 'It's Not Easy' deals with the endemic nepotism and cronyism in our society.
Based around Brixton, Soothsayers are disciples of the areas rich musical heritage. Although previous albums have been Afrobeat heavy with a springling of reggae, Human Nature readjusts this balance, tending towards warm, hard-grooving roots-reggae. The fabulous 'One More Reason', however, is pure Fela Kuti, complete with the muscular horn-lines and dodgy Casio keyboard tones which made the Nigerian legend's sound so recognisable.
Thankfully, it doesn't go on for 20 minutes as many of Fela's tracks did. You won't be surprised that the Soothsayers' horn section recently worked on the acclaimed Fela! musical. The title track and 'One Day (Dub Reprise)' are the strongest examples of Afro-dub, a sub-genre which Soothsayers have pioneered in the UK. Dub-maestro Prince Fatty (whose studio the album was recorded in) offers a hypnotic dub outro which is teasingly short.
Overall, little on Human Nature disappoints. The only cover, Ralph McTell's 'The Streets of London' (recorded for the Cultural Olympiad's London Calling compilation) starts somewhat unconvincingly but eventually finds its feet. The acoustic mix of 'We're Not Leaving', meanwhile, seems somewhat tepid and redundant after last year's release of a number of splendid versions. But this does little to detract from an album which offers a fresh, contemporary approach to vintage 70s roots-reggae and Afrobeat that will please purists at the same time as engaging new audiences. Similarly, the lyrical explorations address modern day crises in a way which reflects on issues as old as.... Well, human nature itself. The Soothsayers have far surpassed expectations which were already high.
Human Nature, unfortunately, is never going to find huge mainstream success. Yet it can't be simply labelled as 'world music'. This is one of the strongest and most inventive albums to come out of any of London's numerous scenes in recent years. Human Nature is an important testament to the broad heritage and musical explorations of our capital and its world-class musicians and composers.

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We're Not Leaving/ I'll Never Leave Dub We're Not Leaving/ I'll Never Leave Dub -

"Album , Soothsayers - Human Nature - Red Earth Records"

Although this London band have shifted focus towards a more roots reggae vibe, the emphasis is still on capturing the spirit of the 1970s Jamaican and Nigerian music that inspires them.

The grooves are solid, the playing immaculate and the three-part vocal harmonies the icing on the cake. Only occasionally, though, do they steer a more interesting course between funk, reggae and Afrobeat and thereby escape being merely nostalgic or generic.
- The Independant Newspaper

"Soothsayers - Human Nature Review"

The fifth album by South London's jazz and roots collective Soothsayers finds them still celebrating the reggae sounds they embraced with third outing, One More Reason. Gone are that record's guest vocalists, but the core group sound more confident in their own singing, songwriting and genre-splicing than ever before.

Where immediate predecessor Red Earth Dub was all sound and studio wizardry, here trumpeter Robin Hopcraft, saxophonist Idris Rahman and singer Julia Biel's voices intertwine over rhythms that sit at a previously uncharted meeting point of roots reggae, Afrobeat, soulful pop and dub. Their harmonies carry lyrical themes of loneliness and nonconformity, of standing up for nature and for oneself.

At the reggae end of the spectrum is the colossal Hard Times (a version of which appeared on Red Earth Dub). At the opposite extreme is the title track – its moralising environmental warning offset by its infectious rhythm and blazing horns. In the middle lies hybridised hymn to struggle It's Not Easy, whose organ knowingly references The Specials' Ghost Town.

It takes a brave band to update Ralph McTell's busker favourite Streets of London – a song so well worn that it has become a comedy show staple. Yet update it they do, revitalising its message for the have-nots of today's capital. We're Not Leaving proves the group can write glorious golden reggae pop songs themselves - appearing in its single release and acoustic form.

Several of the compositions occur more than once but never outstay their welcome. This is thanks to the ingenuity of Patrick Illingworth's drumming and the album's hidden guests: engineers Prince Fatty, Raz Olsher, Nick Manasseh, Malcolm Catto and Yesking.

While the voices of past collaborators such as Johnny Clarke, Linval Thompson and Cornell Campbell would be useful on any record, Human Nature reminds that Soothsayers are a formidable creative force without them. If you're unfamiliar with their projects, this album will surprise. And if you know their capabilities, it may surprise you still.
- BBC website

"Cornel Campbell in London"

The South-London based collective Soothsayers have been shaking up the stagnant local music scene during the last few years. With a heady and appealing blend of jazz, Afrobeat, and reggae, the band has carved a space for themselves in the crowded musical jungle that is London, and they have made a strong impression largely because the musicianship of their members is of such a high quality. With the passing of time, they just seem to get better and better, the appeal widening as they continue to forge a unique sound by harnessing the diverse elements at their command.

Cornell CampbellPairing Soothsayers with the top-ranking Jamaican roots crooner Cornell Campbell is certainly an inspired idea. The band has already backed reggae greats such as U Roy, Rico, Earl 16, Johnny Clarke and Michael Prophet, and have recorded with 16, Prophet, Mr Clarke, and Linval Thompson. Cornell is an open-minded guy, and the Soothsayers have an uncanny ability to draw out the best of veteran roots singers by aiming them into territories they might not otherwise have gone.

When I got to the venue, there was a real feeling of expectation in the air. The Olympic Torch had passed through Brixton that same morning, and under glorious sunshine, the whole of the neighbourhood had gathered in the hopes of glimpsing it, with steel bands and costumed dancers adding to the festive atmosphere. That same atmosphere was present at the venue, where crowds gathered in the large courtyard, eating jerk chicken, as supporting sound Jah Revelation Muzik played warmup. When the band took the stage, nearing midnight, they opened with a new-ish number that hit with dramatic impact: ‘Human Nature’ had strong three-part vocal harmony, with jazz-influenced singer Julia Biel blending nicely with the voices of founding members Robin Hopcraft and Idris Rahman, whose trumpet and sax interplay really livened the tune. Next came ‘Serious Time,’ which rode the augmented rhythm of Johnny Clarke’s classic ‘Peace and Love in the Ghetto’ to fine effect. It was made all the more enjoyable by a fine keyboard solo from Kishon Khan, leader of Lokki Terra, while drummer Patrick Illingworth and bassist Kodjovi Kush kept the tune grounded in the ‘flying cymbal’ mode, aided by the twin guitars of Phil Dawson and Patrick Hatchett. Another newer track, ‘Hard Times,’ was a slow skank with a heavy dubwise portion, then the emotive ‘We’re Not Leaving,’ issued on a single a while back, drew a strong audience response.

When Cornell Campbell strode onto the stage, looking very relaxed and confident, the band started the rhythm again and he went into his answer cut, ‘I’ll Never Leave,’ for which the audience showed a startled appreciation. Then, as the first few notes of the familiar favourite ‘Boxing’ rang, out, whoops and hollers demanded a rewind – and the bright version that followed propelled the band along to a great version of ‘Rope In’, which Cornell playfully extended by toasting a few mutated lines from ‘One Love Jamdown’, as ‘Love Inna England,’ as well. ‘Up Park Camp/No Man’s Land’ had brilliant horn lines, and some call-and-response chants with the audience, before ‘Queen Of The Minstrel’ emerged, sounding absolutely grand. By the time singer and band reached for ‘Stars’, the packed audience was so enthralled that they demanded a double rewind, and the less common ‘Blessed Are They’ was another thrill. ‘I Am The Gorgon’ got another rewind, though Cornell quashed it to set the record straight, reminding the audience that Bob Marley adapted the concept in ‘Rat Race’, and that it was ultimately adapted by Ninjaman. Back into the song with gusto, his falsetto sounded just as on-form as the original. ‘Mash I Down’ on the ‘Right Time’ rhythm was another killer that resulted in a rewind, and ‘Jah Jah Me No Born Yah’ was made all the more dramatic by more trumpet and sax soloing, as Cornell’s vocals went into overdrive. We’d passed the hour mark some time ago but the audience was bawling for more, so it was up to the plate for a few encores: ‘100 Pounds of Collie’ was another excellent number that you don’t hear every day, and versions of the classics ‘Please Be True’ and ‘My Conversation’ reminded of Cornell’s group works with the Sensations and Uniques. Then, a stunning take of ‘My Country’ had wicked horns and a fearsome drum and bass interlude, before a closing cut of ‘Stalag’ let everyone know that ‘The Gorgon Returns’.

This concert was one of the best I have seen in a long time. The band readily met the challenge provided by the pairing and Cornell seemed perfectly content with their backing. The whole night had an organic, unforced sound and no one was going through the motions, while the intimacy of the venue added to the authenticity of the night. Hats off to Cornell and the Soothsayers for such a brilliant pairing, and watch out for a collaborative album in the works. -


Nothing Can Stop Us (2013) Strut

Cornell Campbell (1973) Trojan
Natty Dread In a Greenwich Farm (1975) Total Sounds
Dance In a Greenwich Farm (1975) Grounation
The Gorgon (1976) Total Sounds/Angen
Stalowatt (1976) Third World
Turn Back The Hands Of Time (1977) Third World
Showcase (1978), Big Phil
Superstar (1979) Micron (reissued as Sweet Baby (1979) Burning Sounds/Abraham)
Yes I Will (1979) Micron
The Inspector General (1980) Imperial
Ropin' (1980) Justice
Boxing (1982) Starlight
Boxing Round (1982) Joe Gibbs
What's Happening To Me (1982) Joe Gibbs
Follow Instructions (1983)
Mobiliser (reissued as Press Along Natty (1993) Tappa)
Money (1983) Live & Learn
Fight Against Corruption (1983) Vista (reissued as Tell The People (1997) Prestige)
Big Things (2000) Don One
Rock My Soul (2008) Sip a Cup


Lost City (2000, Red Earth Records)
Tangled Roots (2004, Red Earth Records)
One More Reason (2009, Red Earth Records)
Red Earth Dub (2010, Red Earth Records)
Human Nature (2012, Red Earth Records)

EPs and Singles
Blinded Souls 10", featuring remixes by Quantic and Mad Professor (2005, Red Earth)
Bad Boys 7', featuring Johnny Clarke (2009, Red Earth)
Love Fire 7", featuring Michael Prophet (2009, Red Earth)
I'll Never Leave/I'm Leaving 7", featuring Cornell Campbell and Lutan Fyah (2011, Red Earth)
We're Not Leaving 7" (2012, Red Earth)
We're Not Leaving 12" (2012, Red Earth)

Compilation features
'Vibrations From The Motherland' ('Crocodiles' featuring Busi Mhlongo, 2008, Melt 2000)



Strut presents a new instalment in its acclaimed Inspiration Information studio collaboration series in June 2013 as reggae legend Cornell Campbell meets UK Afro / Dub super-group, Soothsayers for 'Nothing Can Stop Us'.

Soothsayers' unique fusion of dub and afro grooves coupled with great songwriting has been an essential fixture of the UK world music scene for many years. Following their acclaimed work with reggae greats such as Johnny Clarke and Linval Thompson, this new partnership with one of the all-time Jamaican reggae / soul vocalists, Cornell Campbell, represents an exciting new direction. After a handful of show case gigs in Summer 2012 and the completion of the new album, the project is ready to hit the road.

The pairing first took shape through a chance meeting between Cornell Campbell and Hopcraft in Kingston, Jamaica early in 2011. A session was arranged at Bunny Lee’s recording studio in West Kingston and, within days, the collaboration produced the sweet ‘I’ll Never Leave’, a homage to Cornell’s island home country in Parish of St Elizabeth. The dub version of the track was released alongside Soothsayers’ ‘We’re Not Leaving’ in August 2011 and the Cornell Campbell version followed on a 45 on Soothsayers’ own Red Earth label a month later.

Now signed to Strut, the collaboration has recorded a full album, a conscious and roots-based set with Cornell Campbell’s iconic, sweet vocals underpinned by deep, dubby rhythm section work and some intricate arrangements. Hopcraft says, “ we gave Cornell recordings of some ideas we had been working on and he took them away and developed some lyrics. At the same time, Idris and I wrote a few complete songs that Cornell loved and he blessed them with his vocals. ”

Within the tracklist, the collective revisits Cornell’s original sufferers' classic “Jah Jah Me No Born Yah” augmented by the addition of horns and Hammond organ that emphasise the Moorish melodies present in the original version. Soothsayers also bring their trademark fusion of influences to the table and move Cornell’s sound into bold new directions, rocking on a rolling Afro groove for the hard-hitting ‘Nothing Can Stop Us’ and delivering the simmering reggae soul ballad ‘There’s A Fire’.

The album carries forward the considerable legacy of Campbell’s recordings over the last half century, from his early work with “Coxsone” Dodd at Studio One to ‘70s and ‘80s classics with Joe Gibbs, Bunny “Striker” Lee, King Tubby and Winston “Niney” Observer. For Soothsayers, the album is the culmination of ten years leading the London live scene. Comprising musicians that have played with many top artists including Mulatu Astatke, Jerry Dammers’ Arkestra and Hugh Masekela, the band are known for their excellent collaborations with (Johnny Clarke, Maxi Jazz (Faithless), Keziah Jones and more) and formed the nucleus of the band that backed the London leg of the ‘Fela!’ musical during 2011. The band cemented their reputation with the self-released album ‘Human Nature’ during 2012. As The Independent On Sunday testified, “The grooves are solid, the playing immaculate and the three-part vocal harmonies the icing on the cake.”