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Eugene Weekly : Music : 5.3.07

Love is His Religion

Ziggy spreads the love with latest solo album

BY STEVEN SAWADA

Over the last 30 years, Ziggy Marley has carved a giant niche in the reggae world by marrying the roots-oriented sound of his father with crisp studio production and a very "sunny" island vibe. With the Melody Makers — a familial group comprising Ziggy, sisters Sharon and Cedella and brother Stephen — the heir to the Marley legacy went on to release 11 albums in nearly 20 years, garnering three Grammy awards during that time. However, as the pop-music world found a new darling within Jamaica's music — shifting its focus from the "happy-go-lucky" root sound of the '80s to the hip hop infused riddims of today's dancehall scene — Ziggy's market share began to wane.

Ziggy Marley, Robert Randolph and the Family Band. 8:30 pm Thursday, May 10 McDonald Theatre. $28.50 adv, $33 door.

Through the '90s, as declining sales trailed releases like 1993's Joy and Blues and 1995's Free Like We Want 2 Be, Ziggy began laying the groundwork for his solo career, establishing the Tuff Gong-affiliated Ghetto Youths label and eventually releasing his first solo album, 2003's Dragonfly. Opting for a slightly grandiose sound, Ziggy's first solo record employed giant guests from the rock world, including John Frusciante and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers as well as members of Incubus. Polished and met with good reviews, the album acted as impetus for Ziggy to continue exploring other solo endeavors.

Ziggy reached out to the world of film with a voiceover bit in the Dreamworks animated film Shark's Tale, where he played a Rasta jellyfish. For the film's soundtrack, he also collaborated with Sean Paul on a cover version of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds."

While Ziggy hasn't succumbed to pop music's insatiable demand for dancehall reggae, as a solo artist he has evolved and matured his sound to achieve some freshness while maintaining his positive message. His latest solo work, last summer's Love is My Religion, found Ziggy blossoming as a songwriter, musician and producer. In addition to writing all the songs on the album, Ziggy played most of the instruments and produced nearly all of the tracks.

Glowing and diverse, Love is My Religion melds the glistening melody of island life and the infectious rhythms of African percussion with socially and politically charged lyrics. While reggae musicians commonly examine the corruption of government and the hardships of society in their lyrics, the direness of the situation is often reflected within the music itself. But with Love is My Religion, Ziggy manages to always keep his tone uplifting and celebratory. From the shimmering guitars on the upbeat hip-shaker "Into the Groove," where Ziggy delves into topics of self-exploration and emancipation, to the more meditative, solo-acoustic version of "Love is My Religion," Ziggy maintains his refreshing optimism in both his sound and lyrics. As the title implies, this time in Ziggy's career is all about preaching love.