Album Review

Aaron George
A genuine "Wow, really?" is the reaction that seems to be common when you tell people that Toots and the Maytals have released a new album. With their first release, the coincidentally named Never Grow Old dating back to 1963, it’s pretty clear that Toots have risen above the level of a normal musical act and are more "a force" than a group of musicians. The newest album, Flip and Twist, may sound a tad foreign to those of us who mainly know the band as "the people who wrote some of the best music Sublime ever played and got hardly any credit" and have since fallen in love with their greatest hits albums. The main (trivial it may be) difference with Flip and Twist is that, and this is no surprise since it is a modern album, it was recorded with modern techniques and doesn't have the grit and hiss that is endearing as hell about their earlier work. Yes, I am aware how empty of a critique that is, so feel free to ignore it, but for me it made a difference at the first listen. Soon enough though I was blissing out like it's almost impossible not to when you hear a Toots song.

Now to the meat of the matter: the music itself. I am pleased to say that at (my estimate) 65 years old, Frederick "Toots" Hibbert still has all the depth and subtlety in his voice that he has had all along. Seriously, when the first word (“yeah”) of the song "Good Woman" is sung, it sounds almost exactly the way he sung "yeah" all those years ago. And while "yeah" isn't exactly a profound bit of poetry, it's still great to hear. Instrumentally there are layers of music on this album from just about any genre you can imagine. When you have been around as long as these guys, you cant help but embrace all types of music and even if the opening to the song "Bye Bye" sounds like a very poorly composed country song, any odd sounding points are quickly forgotten once the songs really get going. You will hear on this album distorted guitars, hip hop influenced beats, jazz overtones, and even something that might remind you of early techno in the song "Jungle". Lyrically its mostly familiar ground: Love at first sight, doing what is right, and people coming together, all simple concepts that probably only ever work in music, but oh well, when sung like this they come across as good ideals to strive for instead of naivety.

Chances are this won’t go down as one of the best Toots and the Maytals albums ever. But with the history these guys have, both of making great music and seeing that music go on to have a very big, all be it largely underrated impact on music as a whole, to expect them to somehow outdo themselves would be ludicrous. More likely this album will simply be another great addition to one of the more amazing careers of the past forty plus years. The music here is almost like an overview of where the band has been over the years, and it does a fantastic job of avoiding the pitfalls of so many other bands’ late in life work. This isn't a group of elderly people trying to recapture some bygone glory, it’s a cohesive band that clearly has music deep within their blood, and as such will probably record until they physically can’t anymore. Until that happens (hopefully it takes a long, long time) anything they do will most likely be a welcome plus to the world of music.

As added bonuses on Flip and Twist there is a cover of the Stevie Wonder classic "Higher Ground" as well as a reworking of "Daddy's Coming Home" under the new name of "Rimi Nyah".. though it is still friggin’ impossible to tell what exactly the girl named Jean said his new name was...Santa the bone now? screw it, the song is great.