Following the Grammy-winning success of_ Strictly Roots_, Morgan Heritage returns with Avrakedabra, and another melodically bright collection of contemporary reggae. The Morgan siblings invite a lot of guests to the fold, leading off the 14-song album with Mr. Talkbox (Bruno Mars) accenting the vocals of Peetah and Gramps on the one-drop, horn-driven “Want Some More.” There is the advisory “Live Your Life,” that leads to the brothers Marley, Stephen and Ziggy, sharing in the vibe on “One Family,” and its reggaeton interlude. The late Bunny Rugs of Third World fame appears on his own brassy homage, “Tribute to Ruggs,” that asks for unity, while DreZion spices up the evening on the ‘80s throwback keyboard tones of the danceable “Reggae Nights.”
It’s not unusual for the generational band to expand their circle on their continuing musical journey. That atmosphere of inclusion resonates through the music, abundant with major key constructions and breezy lyrics rising over good days for reggae parties and setting on good nights for love. No accident the closing track is “Dancing in the Moonlight.”
The influence of soul, particularly in the vocal melodies, is prevalent; especially with R. City on “Ready for Love.” Still, there is no shortage of introspective moments when Morgan Heritage makes an argument against injustices; “Selah” being the darkest of the album’s tracks, commenting on the lies of history, made and continuing to be perpetuated. And there are “We Are,” with Kabaka Pyramid and Dre Island, imploring the youth to be stand up for change and “Harder Than U Know” empathizing with economic struggles of drug-addled communities. The album is not lit only with spiritual light, but also secular enjoyment, sipping “Pineapple Wine” and searching for that Caribbean “Dream Girl.”
While Strictly Roots felt like a career-defining summary in many ways, Avrakedabra is the wind at the group’s back furthering their momentum. If anything, the Grammy win seems to have given Morgan Heritage some space to relax, as the grooves and performances on this follow-up feel as lifted, fun, and grinning as they do thoughtful.