Review: 10Ft Ganja Plant – Shake Up The Place

Review: 10Ft Ganja Plant – Shake Up The Place

10 FT Ganja Plant – Shake Up The Place
Track Listing:
1.) My Roots ft. Sylford Walker
2.) Strength
3.) Shake Up The Place
4.) Ringer’s Rock
5.) Africa ft. Prince Jazzbo
6.) Hard Times ft. Sylford Walker
7.) Pharoah’s Army
8.) Rush Me
9.) Strongback
10.) Recession ft. Prince Jazzbo

The Pier Album Rating:

Release Date: Aug 30th, 2011
Record Label: ROIR Records
Official Website: 10Ft Ganja Plant Website

Group Background:
Based in Boston, fairly little is known about 10 Ft. Ganja Plant except that it was originally a side-project of several John Brown’s Body members. The band plays reggae with a purist mentality, is supposedly based out of Boston, and, on this album, worked with classic roots-reggae artists such as Sylford Walker, Prince Jazzbo, Winston Watson of the Meditations and Blood & Fire veteran mastering engineer, Kevin Metcalfe.

Album Review:
10 Ft. Ganja Plant’s latest album Shake Up The Place is filled with creeping urgency, dread and rhythm, or at least it sounds like that tonight, as the winds of Hurricane Irene batter and shake the foundations of my hometown. Tree branches soar, the rain cascades sideways and lightning bolts spark fire across dark clouds. Thunder shakes the walls, but 10 Ft. Ganja Plant retaliates from a battery powered boom box in the corner of my room.

The album’s lead-in track, “My Roots,” begins in a whirl of smoky echo, as Sylford Walker chants, “This is MY roots.” Walker’s vocals on this track narrate his deep connection to “roots and culture” through three various stages, each linked to a verse. The concept is separated from music and expanded to include the collective experience of a people. That which we have come to call culture, becomes foundation, becomes legacy, becomes prophecy.

As Walker’s heavy-handed musings pass into the instrumental “Strength,” 10 Ft. Ganja Plant takes control of the soundboards, with ghostly horns echoing against shattered snare hits. Ras Jay Champany then takes the lead on the title track “Shake Up The Place.” The track begins as a roots-rocker party anthem, celebrating the importance of a dancehall, a place to relieve worries and insecurities. After two verses and two choruses (a simple chant, “Shake Up The Place”), an extended guitar solo enters, and upon its exit, Ras Jay returns, but this time with a renewed focus. “Winds of change,” he sings, “blowing freedom my way.” The song’s original theme takes a 180-degree spin, shifting focus from parties and good vibes to revolution, to progress, to freedom. “Shake Up The Place” is no longer a party anthem; it’s a call to arms.

The remainder of Shake Up The Place is essentially an album of two faces. Some tracks such as “Ringer’s Rock” bounce and shuffle with an almost light-hearted air of musical mischief, while others such as “My Roots,” “Africa,” and “Pharoah’s Army” lurch and creep, like phantoms cloaked in reverb and echo. Only one track, album closer “Recession,” featuring Prince Jazzbo on vocals, seems to properly combine the two aesthetics. The instruments and vocals sound as if they were recorded beneath an ocean but the groove remains light and airy, strutting across the sound waves with ease. Jazzbo approaches the plight of worldwide recession with the playfulness and naivete of a childhood favorite. “Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?” he cries, followed by the poignant refrain, “RECESSION!”

I’ve read hundreds of articles explaining the economic recession, but, sometimes, as reggae is prone to do, all it takes is one simple line to explain in just one line what thousands of scholars have scoured millions of pages over. And such is the real genius of 10 Ft. Ganja Plant and the style of roots music they follow. Simplicity is the key. What Hemingway was to literature, roots reggae is to music: concise and understated, yet still immensely powerful.

10Ft Ganja Plant Links:
10 Ft Ganja Plant Exclusive Interview
10 Ft Ganja Plant Website
10 Ft Ganja Plant Facebook

Written & Reviewed by: Chris Castro

[Editors Note: All reviews are reflective of the album in it’s entirety, from start to finish. These reviews are the honest opinion of each writer/reviewer, expressing their feedback as a genuine fan of the music. Each star rating reflects their review of the album, not the band. Music is subjective. Regardless of the review or star rating, we encourage you to listen to the music yourself & form your own opinion. Spread the awareness of all music in its art & contribution]