Inner Visions is very definitely staying alive as a great reggae band. But Stay Alive!, however enjoyable, is not a great reggae album. Too predicable. Too many re-used melodies and tired themes, too much dependence on reggae’s clichés. Lots of the band’s usual vibrancy and spirit, but too little inspiration.
Good examples of what I’m complaining about lie in the very track listing: there’s a “Mama Afrika” and a “King of Kings” along with, yep, a “Burn Down Babylon.” The well-intentioned but rather lame tribute to Culture’s Joseph Hill is another example – a creative artist of his stature cannot be adequately served by pedestrian lines like “Joseph Hill, you’re gone but you won’t be forgotten…you’re gone but your memory still lingers on.” (In fact it lingers within the very next song, which begins “I tried, I tried, I tried…,” an eerie echo of one of Hill’s most affecting vocals.)
Not that you shouldn’t pay attention to Stay Alive! This is Inner Visions, after all, and those who enjoy roots reggae will appreciate large chunks of it. But assuming you’ve already heard, for example, that “love is a must,” you won’t likely be amazed or delighted or challenged or awakened to new insights, that’s all.