By Sam Jeffery
Released April 26th, 2013 - Frequency Media
The third studio album of Jamaican reggae singer Etana, Better Tomorrow, showcases a 14 track blend of soulful, melodic vocals and slick beats. Pure reggae it isn't, though majority of recording did take place at the iconic Tuff Gong studios once famously inhabited by Bob Marley, but a fuse of gospel, soul and (slightly diluted) reggae sound make for a sassy and genuinely uplifting album.
Better Tomorrow is an infusion of different styles and sounds. Etana's voice is rich in soul and is sublime throughout, intertwined with a reggae backbeat, along with an occasional dollop of funk and gospel. It's an album that, from the outset, deals with the unending challenges of love and life - the traumas involved, along with the insatiable highs. And while a couple of the tracks are somewhat metronomic (Beautiful Day springs immediately to mind), the underlying feelings are heartfelt, there's no doubting that.
The listener is thrown something of a surprise with the opening track, Spoken Soul, as Etana, rather than delivering a major vocal entrance, instead opts to present something of a monologue of thoughts and primary reasons for the album. She speaks of an older generation lost amongst "selfish, sexual, demonic days"; and it's all a rather underwhelming and slightly aggravating opening.
Thankfully the "musical journey" Etana promises to take us on in her opening is then started and the listener is treated to a series of mellifluous tracks. Queen and Whole New World deliver a rasping, soulful and funky sound, whilst All I Need portrays the sort of uplifting charm associated with reggae music. It's the sort of track that makes you want to immediately pack your bags and head to warmer climbs without second thought.
Etana's belief in a "Better Tomorrow" shines through on Til You Get Old. It's a ballad actually somewhat reminiscent of an early Alicia Keys, featuring a genuine birth, though a screaming baby and wailing mother are unexpected, and a little unwelcome. Nonetheless heartfelt warmth is evoked.
The album-cover for Better Tomorrow shows Etana with the broadest of grins, and whilst it's an album that probably won't pull up trees, it's nonetheless deserving of a smile. A really pleasing listen, in reality if you're looking for a deep, genuine reggae sound you'd be wiser looking elsewhere, but for an uplifting, relaxing hour of music you won't be disappointed.
3 / 5