October 2001

Ernest Ranglin - Gotcha!
Telarc CD-83533
Released: 2001

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

[Reviewed on CD]These days, world music comes in many different shapes and sounds. It seems that nearly everyone is trying to capitalize on this current trend to help sell a few records. There are, however, musicians who have been playing "world" music since long before that moniker had even been though of. Ernest Ranglin is such artist. A glance at his recorded history provides a glimpse of a man who has been shuffling the musical deck for nigh onto 50 years. A proponent of ska, reggae, and jazz, Ranglin has been combining those forms, along with Afro-Cuban, Latin and West Indian elements into his music for so long that should he ever record in just one style, audiences would think a new star had arisen fully formed from the primordial ooze that is music today.

Gotcha! returns Ranglin to the sounds he was weaned on during his youth in Jamaica. With a guitar style that follows closely in the footsteps of the legendary Wes Montgomery, and a taste for the music of Bob Marley, Prince Buster and Jimmy Cliff (to name but a few of the artists he has produced records for), Ranglin has crafted an album that will make it difficult to discern where one style leaves off and the other begins, so deft is his ability.

There is much that is attractive on Gotcha!, but all is not rosy. While the beat and guitar work can -- and do -- catch your attention, all too often the music seems to fall into an "adult contemporary" groove that it finds hard to climb out of. But, and this is a big but, it never collapses completely into that rut. It’s eminently danceable.

And Ranglin’s guitar work is stunning in its understated simplicity. Ranglin never tries to dazzle with technique or pyrotechnics. He prefers to use space and individual notes to say what a lesser man would have to use a flurry of chords to express. And when you add in the support of Antonio Hart on sax, Warren Burnhardt on piano, Anthony Jackson on bass, Steve Jordan on drums, Errol "Crusher" Bennett on percussion, and Gary Mayone on keyboards, well, it’s hard not to be rewarded with music. That reward is given on Gotcha!

The sonics are superb. Telarc again uses Sony’s DSD process to bring to this CD some of the best sound available. Each instrument is easily followed in its own space on a wide and deep soundstage. The bass (albeit a tad indistinct) sets a solid foundation for the balance of the sound. About the only nit I can pick here is the lack of treble extension and ambience. Oh well, nothing's perfect.

Gotcha! is another in the long list of fine recordings from Ernest Ranglin. Enjoy it, dance to it and listen to it, again and again. Just don’t try to pigeonhole it.