[Skank Records, 2011-11-12]

The artist called Zion is hugely reminiscent stylistically, and in his vocal timbre, to Bob Marley (as opposed to, for example, the unique Ossie Dellimore as featured on another recent Skank Records release). Granted, Bob is a worthy template to adopt, and in any case, if what you’re looking for is enjoyable reggae, then the strength of Zion’s song writing and of his performances eventually make the comparison pretty much irrelevant.

Just listen to the opening instrumental riff of the first track and you’ll know that this disc will deliver a powerful classic roots sound. A few seconds later an expressive vocal urges “Children of Zion, you’ve got to know your destination” before continuing into reggae’s standard “sufferation” theme. So yes, you can quickly conclude where this album is going. But that’s okay, because there’s a lot of gorgeous music on the way, a generous mix of typical Rastafarian precepts, social commentary and love songs (which are all very pretty, and seem to tell a story of attachment, break-up and re-attachment, although not in that sequence).

The quality remains amazingly high throughout the album’s 70 minutes, but as with any listener, I do have favorite moments. I’m touched by the inarticulate vocalizing at the start of “Freedom City,” the singer almost overcome by emotion. There’s the memorable “Michigan City” with its faint echoes of Randy Newman’s “Baltimore” as performed by The Tamlins a few decades ago. The album closer, more a chant than a song, offers an extended plea for freedom and repatriation accompanied by hand drums and acoustic guitar. Very effective.

Crying for Freedom has its heavy Marley influence, for sure, but it would make an excellent addition to any collection of roots reggae. And don’t forget that this album is on the Skank Records label, therefore the packaging is as complete as you’ll find anywhere: photos, lyrics, credits, commentary, the lot.