ERNEST RAGLIN IS STILL GOING STRONG AT 80 YEARS OLD, WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS

ERNEST RAGLIN IS STILL GOING STRONG AT 80 YEARS OLD, WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS

Summer was made for times like these: Fuji Rock, the Field of Heaven, sunset, Vikings, Ernest Ranglin.

Yes, you heard me right. A herd of Vikings were indeed huddled in a bunch at the front of the stage where arguably reggae’s most influential figure was performing a long-overdue set. They didn’t stay till the end (they along with a number of other people drifted off before the legendary roots/reggae guitarist finished his set), but they certainly would have heard enough to leave knowing that they’d just heard one of music’s all-time greats.

Born in June 1932, Ranglin is perhaps best known for his session work at the famed Studio One, giving birth to the genre we now all know as ska in the late ’50s. He is credited with the invention of the core style of guitar play (known as “scratching”) found in nearly all ska music. There was plenty of this on show this evening – and then some. When not picking at the strings in ways I can only begin to imagine, he was creating high-frequency reverb and scratch effects on his guitar that youngsters these days need electronic equipment to replicate. It was indeed a display of craftsmanship, a lesson for us all.

Highlights of the set included a song built around the bassline of King Tubby’s “Rockers Uptown.” From one legend to another, it was all class. He predominantly played tunes from his renowned “Surfin” album, with the title track standing out marginally from the others.

Ranglin did fall out of time on occasion, but the supporting band that was playing alongside him was more than accomplished in its own right. Frank (drums), Alex (keyboards) and Nick (bass) all did plenty on their own to perhaps even merit keeping a closer eye on their careers in future.

There was an odd moment at the end of Ranglin’s set, where the 80-year-old Jamaican appeared to lose all sense of timing, turned to his support band threw up his hands, stumbled a little and walked off with an air of resignation – as if that’s the best he could have ever done. And yet he returned for an encore – the first I have seen at the festival so far – that was rapturously received by those who had stuck around until the end.

By the time he finally walked off the stage for the last time, the sun had well and truly set. The same can’t be said for Ernest Ranglin though.

Earlier, he told the audience he wanted to return to Fuji Rock a couple more times, “if you don’t mind.”

Based on this performance, not in the slightest.

Photo by 花房 浩一  For more photos, go here.