Modern Answers to Old Problems
I picked this record up because I know Ranglin as one of the greatest ska and reggae guitarists that ever lived. To my surprise, though, there’s not a reggae groove to be found on Modern Answers to Old Problems — instead, it’s a straight jazz album. Once I got past my expectations, though, I realized that this record is just as masterful as any of Ranglin’s ska and reggae work. All the old-school ska and reggae guys started out playing jazz, so it’s no surprise that Ranglin’s more than capable of writing (he at least co-wrote all of the album’s ten songs) and playing with the best jazz guitarists of the day. His guitar takes center stage in this jazz format, and to no surprise, it’s absolutely stunning. Ranglin’s combo for this album includes several native African musicians, and their influence shows, as several of the tracks have distinctly African percussion and rythmic structure. The whole combo is highly skilled, and lends a smooth feel to the album as a whole. Sylvia Tella adds gorgeous vocals to a few tracks, but largely, it’s an instrumental album that concentrates on Ranglin and his talented collaborators. Though not the reggae record some (like myself) may have expected, Modern Answers is a must for any fan of Ranglin’s peerless guitar work.