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Modern Answers to Old Problems

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Audio CD, September 26, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

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Ernest Ranglin is a grand old man of both jazz and Jamaican music, a creator of "world music" before the category existed, adding his bubbling guitar lines to the earliest ska and reggae recordings. Following In Search of the Lost Riddim, recorded in Senegal, New Answers to Old Problems is a mix of jazz and Afro-pop, a thick and stimulating brew cooked up with seven other musicians in a London studio. Many of the musicians have Nigerian backgrounds, including bassist Orefo Orakwue, keyboardist Joe Bashorun, and percussionists Olalekan Babalola and Olakunle Ayanlolo. Famed drummer Tony Allen worked with Fela Anikulapo Kuti. There's more here than the percolating polyrhythms of West Africa, though, with ska and Afro-Cuban touches working their way in as well. Ranglin's world-pop connections have likely interfered with his getting his due as a jazz guitarist. He's simply one of the best, whether he's digging into the rhythmic mix or letting his high-speed, chromatic runs float, tumble, skitter, and twist in joy across the warm layers of percussion and electric keyboards. Bashorun and tenor saxophonist Denys Baptiste share the solo space with Ranglin, planted deep in the percussion and bass-heavy grooves. Sylvia Tella's gritty voice ups the pop quotient on several tracks, and tenor saxophonist Courtney Pine makes a forceful guest appearance on "Inflight." It's entertaining, danceable music, and Ranglin's guitar ensures there's a lot going on. --Stuart Broomer

Review

The fluid inventiveness of guitarist extraordinaire Ernest Ranglin first reached beyond Jamaica with reggae's global insurgency in the mid-1960s and thereafter. Anyone who dug the Wailers' "It Hurts to Be Alone" or the Melodians' "Rivers of Babylon" has encountered the inimitable Ranglin sound. The guitarist penned eight of the album's ten compositions, influenced by recent work with West African musicians, including present sidemen Orefo Orakwue (bass guitar), Olalekan Babaloa (congas, percussion) and Olakunle Ayanlowo (talking drum). Ranglin incorporates the lyrical wellspring of Afro-pop guitar styles, but this is essentially a jazz outing, given to extended improvisations, as in "Swaziland," complete with a witty "Reveille" quote by tenor saxophonist Denys Baptiste. Sylvia Tella adds a throaty, wine-sweet vocal presence to five tracks, including a West African-flavored "Many Roots" and the haunting, reggae-tinged anthem, "Profiles." The latter features some blistering organ work by Joe Bashorun, who also solos on Ranglin's Latin-jazz invocation, "Inflight," further seasoned by tenor sax wizard Courtney Pine's superb guest turn. -Michael Stone -- From Rhythm Magazine


1. Memories Of Senegal
2. Outernational Incident
3. Kunene
4. Many Roots
5. Profiles
6. What A Day
7. Swaziland
8. Sound Invasion
9. Inflight
10. Alpinos

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 26, 2000)
  • Original Release Date: September 26, 2000
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Telarc
  • ASIN: B00004Y6S7
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #317,451 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert Hammond on June 24, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Sensational from start to finish, I have heard them all and this up there with best of music ever made. My hair stands on end every time I hear it. The music is fresh, vibrant and balanced in such a way - only a true master can. The band is very tight, the vocals a sublime embellishment. One of my favorites ever, don't listen to the nay sayers here - BUY IT it will stay with you forever no mater what your taste.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Barry McGloin on February 10, 2012
Format: Audio CD
Modern Answers to Old Problems

Ernest Ranglin must be the most under rated guitarist in modern music. I don't recall having seen his name in any lists of top 100 axe slayers which inevitably include the usual pomp of posturing pluckers. Tell me, how would strummer Liam Gallagher make any list of top 100 guitarists? Well he has I kid you not!

Yet Ranglin's skill is astounding, and has been so for decades. Reputedly Les Paul gave Ranglin a guitar in admiration of his talents - and Les appears on those lists! Legend also has it that when Ranglin asked to play at the famous Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London in the mid 60s, Ronnie assumed he would hear an instrumental of the tired old calypso hit Yellow Bird, but was so awed by Ranglin's playing that he 'sat at the feet of the master' and then made him resident guitarist. Ranglin's credentials are mighty, check Wikipedia.

I have five studio albums by Ernest Ranglin. Of these I would rate two as indispensable to any well balanced music collection, these being Below The Baseline, his instrumental album of reggae hits, and In Search Of the Lost Riddim, a fabulous fusion with musicians from Senegal. My remaining three studio albums are Memories of Barber Mack, a precursor to Below The Baseline on which the reggae tracks would fit comfortably, the intriguing Alextown which mixes ambient and techno/dub sounds, hip hop with jazz and African rhythms, and this one, Modern Answers to Old Problems.

Modern Answers to Old Problems is an adventurous and exciting fusion of jazz, Afro beat, ska (on the track Sound Invasion), and is tinted with techno tricks to add ambience, which I find appealing. Ernest always works with top flight musicians - eg.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Johnson on January 10, 2001
Format: Audio CD
I read about this artist in a recent "Guitar Player" magazine review and was intrigued by their comments. I LOVE the Afro-Jazz flavor! Ernest's guitar riffs complement the rhythmic bass well. The female vocalist also is a bonus. Lovers of saxophonists will find the Courtney Pine track a delight. If you are ready to experiment with a quality cd that is different from the normal jazz CDs in your collection, this will be a treat.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By nicjaytee on January 24, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Take an old Jamaican reggae-bluesman, a troupe of African drummers, a couple of young jazz stalwarts and a gutsy female singer, mix them up with some inspired grooves, light the fuse and stand back because this is a seriously hot combination!
True to its title, "Modern Answers to Old Problems" combines "acid-jazz" with "world music" to come up with some of the freshest sounds around. With more than a passing nod to Weather Report's "Black Market", each track combines Ranglin's marvellous rolling guitar playing and some of the tightest percussion work you'll ever hear with the inherently uplifting feel of African chord sequences to generate real enthusiasm & fun - a rare outcome when there is such complex inter-play around. And... if you're not already into Ernest Ranglin's unique form of Afro/jazz/hip-hop/blues, well, as my son said when he gave me this superb record, "you will be".
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16 of 28 people found the following review helpful By M. Scheiner on September 27, 2000
Format: Audio CD
If you are an avid Ranglin fan, I think you'll find his latest album to be disappointing. The previous albums, "In search of the lost riddim," "Below the baseline" and "Memories of Barber Mack," are ingenious light-hearted attempts to mix African/Jazz/Reggae and produce some sweet sounds. After listening to all three of those albums, you wish there was more, so naturally, when I heard about his new one-- I was anxious to purchase it. The album, right off the start is too produced and too 'modern,' solely propelled by the wurlitzer organ, which in my opinion is a terrible addition. Get some piano in there, some Monty Alexander-- The african musicians that are listed on the packaging trick you into thinking that the album is going to be real rootsy like "In Search..." Instead there is an unecessary flood of chintzy chimes and snythisizer sounds. Even the African singing that is usually so beautiful becomes marred by synthisizer effects. There is some good here and there, specifically by way of Ranglin's great guitar playing, but otherwise the music sounds like something being pumped in a dentist's office. Get some African drum circle work in there, get the studio produced mumbo-jumbo out- Ranglin needs to find his roots once again, in the jungles of Africa.
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