Boasting 9 new songs penned by Campbell as well as 4 extraordinary dub mixes, New Scroll is loaded with Campbell’s steady musicality and poetic flow. Rich, resonant arrangements by Zion I Kings and soulful messages straight from the ‘Original Gorgon’ ensure that New Scroll will please those who celebrate when singers ruled the land and dub was a soundman’s weapon.
Set now within ZHP’s signature and award-winning ‘modern classic’ sound, the falsetto that brought Campbell early and then unparalleled success with Jamaica’s most revered producers (Joe Gibbs, Coxsone, Winston ‘Niney’ Holness, Winston Riley, King Edwards, Duke Reid and more) is given a new life and lift on New Scroll. Celebrating 10 years of making toppa top reggae music in 2013, ZHP guarantees that this, its latest release, will be an instant and enduring classic as well. New Scroll is available June 18 on the Zion High Productions label in conjunction with A-Train Entertainment.
The ‘scroll’ is an ancient form of transmitting as well as preserving information through text and visual art. Here, the musical art and lyrical message on the album New Scroll is also closely connected to the Bible due to Jamaica’s longstanding relationship with first Christian and later Rastafarian beliefs. Not surprisingly, New Scroll bears the stamp of both since Cornel Campbell grew up in the church and embraced Rasta early on as a performer.
His preaching style of song writing permeates New Scroll while Rasta chanting and emotive, soulful harmonies add a clear, yet hard to touch, spiritual element. Setting the tone with the title track, “New Scroll”, Cornel Campbell demonstrates how the veteran performer still has something new to offer. The dub conscious riddim is punctuated by wandering guitar riffs and trap synths, adding an other-worldly vibe to the commentary: ‘_Through all the years of ages the truth has never been told… New scroll, new scroll, I and I come to bring a new scroll_’. Written in proverb style, “Weed Out The Vampire” leads with a steppers riddim, chunky guitar lines and explosive cymbals softened by a warm organ sound on top of which Campbell has a message to tell but is in no hurry to tell it, ensuring maximum affect.
“Evil Woman” is more message music in which the harmonies fill the role of the community, backing up the singer/preacher while “People” embraces diversity using a minimalist jazzy melody, spacious organ and fat bass. Standing up for anyone’s ‘plans and all their ambitions’ where ‘everyone is a superstar whether home or abroad’ is a clear counteraction to dancehall values which focus on the local. With years of experience to his credit, tracks like “Seek JAH Love” where music and chanting are treated like sacraments in a larger moral message, or “Gun Powder” in which another vibrant steppers reggae riddim sets the stage for a serious conversation about the danger of drugs and guns, underline the fact that music is a weapon as well.
“Chant It Out” signals a new approach. Starting with a congo drum solo, “Chant It Out” channels an African spirit into a catchy roots anthem. As if perched on a mountaintop, Cornel Campbell’s voice carries the word of Jah love in a loop. Seductively similar to a work song, Cornel catches all within his lyrical grasp. Keeping the focus on simplicity, “Walking In The Rain” is a simple love song in which Campbell goes toe-to-toe with a subtle bass line, mimicking the steady heartbeat of his one and only. Walking turns to running on the (relatively) fast-paced “JAH Highway” where a driving riddim propels the singer forward.
Campbell gets swept up in the excitement with exclamations from the artist freely given in the spirit of the moment. The final chapters on New Scroll are left to three dub versions of earlier tracks: “People Dub”, “Weed Out Vampires Dub” and “Seek JAH Love Dub”. The musical explorations of these closing songs are an invitation to reflect on the message while enjoying the music. Indeed, not unlike its original purpose in ancient times, New Scroll combines art and commentary for the ages.