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Rerelease of the first Dennis Alcapone album with six additional tracks. The early 1970′s were a transitional time in Jamaica, which Alcapone played an important part. Sounds were moving to bigger sound systems, deejays, using original tracks for new voices to interact with, an end of ska. U-Roy was the #1 deejay but big attention went to Alcapone who gave U-Roy a run for his money. “Forever Version” captures this time of transition. Some tracks are very much ska influenced or straight up ska. Others head toward the tradition of reggae. Most of the songs are about love, getting the pretty girl, partying at the dancehall and not the stuff of Jah and Sellasie. Dennis Alcapone has a distinct voice as he delivers his lyrics over the sounds of classics from the Heptones, the Wailers and others. He does have this unique, high pitched yelp that he drops in each song, sort of accentuating key parts. It’s clever and infectious when listening to one track. A fine addition to the library.
Capital Letters is a British reggae group and this album was originally released in 1982. Reissued for us again in 2015, this is a solid album. Good smooth musicianship and rootsy vocals. Lyrics sing about political injustices and inequalities of the times without sounding preachy or overly “Rastafied”.
I heard influences in the vocal styles of Mighty Diamonds or Israel Vibration, and also a slight haziness like Singers and Players. All tracks are solid, but I wish they had included some bonus dub versions. Alas, enjoy the roots.
King Of Dub is an old- school assembly of all the heavy hitters, inspired by Lee Perry and Bunny Lee productions. Check the line-up and you will see a star studded cast. Crunchy thumping bass and drums dominate in fine fashion. Straight outta Channel One studios and then edited at Bullwackie’s. It’s raw and sweet, unrefined and super deep.
It’s hard to go wrong with any of these cuts. Twist up a spliff and let it rip.
What is old is now what is new.
In the spirit of the show Game of Thrones, we take an old theme of knights and ladies, and make it modern to suit our current tastes. Old school dub styles meet modern recording methods. Not heavily synthed out, still very real-rock and Rasta, but none of the scratchy and crunchiness we get from vintage vault recordings.
I didn’t know much about Alborosie, but he has several releases under his belt, and is a fitting partner to join the master King Jammy. They alternate cuts, reminiscent of the albums like the Big Showdown.
A-1 and B-5 have vocals, the rest is smooth stoney dub instrumentals.
Leading up to a three-day celebration of Exodus this
Burning Spear (aka Winston Rodney) is a stalwart of serious roots reggae music. This is the live performance of a great in-depth collection of tracks representing almost four decades of work. The tracks are all energetic, swaying, and rolling with a great bass-line and punctured with a great horn section. Complete with a skewering of Columbus and Slavery, as well as tributes to Marcus Garvey, Haile Salassie, and … Jerry Garcia.
Favorites: Tumble Down, Marcus Garvey, Slavery Days, Not Stupid
Lots of cool jazzified-reggae and some instrumental funk from local artist. Has very nice roots bass lines, with plenty of sax, keyboards, and guitar melodies woven in. Vox on last track Woman Be Free. Also, an array of other interesting instruments appearing: sitar, tabla, baritone sax, and melodica.
Favorites: Praying Mantis, Not Even, Desert Sand, Heartbeat
Originally released in 1977, Peter Tosh’s “Equal Rights” is seen as his grand opus and one of the best records of its time. And it still holds up. Written and recorded during a time of extreme political turmoil in Jamaica as well as the rest of the world, Tosh’s original eight songs sang of the challenges and difficulties of living in the world and how pride in yourself, being African, was a thing to recognize and proclaim. Sly and Robbie held down the rhythm, with Bunny Wailer doing background vocals. This was a sure fire hit. Tosh’s vocals sore over the music, igniting his lyrics with emphasis and cause. This rerelease adds 22 cuts: outtakes, alternate versions, unreleased and/or limited release dub plates. These are solid tracks that add to the original giving the listener a fuller understanding of what Tosh was doing and trying to express.
Lee “Scratch” Perry did it again, or in this case of “The Return of Pipecock Jackxon”, almost didn’t do it again but for the help of some very patient and persistent Englishmen who nurtured this release out of Perry. According to the extensive, informative and very interesting notes that go with this album, Perry was having some sort of conflict of ideas. You and I might call it a nervous breakdown or a schizophrenic break. Others call it a vision. Whatever, it made Perry stop trusting Rastafarians, made him destroy his studio, made him write extensive notes on the walls of his studio (see album cover photos), made him channel Pipecock Jackxon. From all of this and much more (I suggest you spend time with the notes: it’s a fascinating story) many were able to pull together this wonderful collection of stripped down buzzing dub and reggae that continues in the vein of the Super Ape and Roast Fish works. It’s got sex (“Bed Jammin”), politics (“Babylon Cookie Jar A Crumble” and “Some Have Fe Halla”), and Jah praise (“Give Thanx to Jah”). It has the solid dub and reggae feel he is known for besides hints of Central African jamming and blues touches. It is the music of a breakdown and a destructive personality that still was able to provide a stellar piece of music that should be listened to. READ THE NOTES AND UNDERSTAND.
“Ba Ba Boom Duke Reid” is a wonderful Trojan Records compilation release from 1988 showcasing the master producer Duke Reid and his classic rock steady and reggae works from 1967 to 1972. Starting in the 50′s in Jamaica, Reid had established himself as a producer of note, for a number of reasons. Seen as a perfectionist with a gun (literally), it took a certain personality to work with Reid. Those that did were able to come up with some of the classic representations of ska, rock steady and reggae of that time. The sixteen cuts on this compilation demonstrate the skill of Reid and the ability to pull stunning performances from the groups he worked with. With an emphasis on US soul, these cuts play out a smooth, solid, classic sound. Check out Phyllis Dillon’s version of “Midnight Confession”. Simple, to the point production, quality instrumentation without overkill, and Phyllis’ strong voice. Ummm Umm good. Justin Hinds and the Dominoes pull out two tracks, one being the classic “Carry Go Bring Home” which was brought to US fame by Selector back in the early ’80′s. This is a bit different take, but oh so strong. Each group/ singer on this collection puts forth a whole lotta rock steady fun. Play this and get ready to dance.
This is Lee Perry, better known as Lee “Scratch” Perry, and his illustrious Black Ark Studio house band, The Upsetters, doing it up all right with a 1978 sequel “Return of The Super Ape”, to the 1977 magical “Super Ape”. As sequels go it is really wonderful, with seasoned dub, superb production, and Perry’s vocals going form low to high. This album of one of the classics of the genre and for good reason. From the opening toe tapper “Dyon Anaswa”, with it’s recognizable rhythm and singable chorus, Perry and the Upsetters set up an album that is fun and revolutionary. The jangley metal objects and bells, the heavy base line, the strong thud thud of the drum— it all works so well. Do NOT pass up on the cover of Rufus/Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good”. It is a great surprise and the reason cover versions should keep on being attempted.
There is this practice in the reggae music culture where a track is laid down and then various artists each interpret that track in their own style. It can be an evocative, inspirational practice or it can fall flat on its face. “Culture Dem”, a reggae collection, plays with this practice. And as it goes with collections, some tracks are inspired and fresh while others, though not falling flat, just seem average. Within 18 tracks showcased, the 13 artists approach the beats as they see fit, in their own singing and or toasting style. These cuts are filled with synth driven reggae beats, bass, dub sounds, etc. The lyrical topic is most obvious: Jah Jah Jah Selasie Jah. There are five rhythm tracks that are approached by 2 to 5 different artists who treat each track as his own, bringing in their own unique sound and style. Watch out for tracks 9 and 16 by SIZZLA. They are HOT! His raspy, nicotine filled vocals destroy his words and twist the beats. It is in your face good time. Worthy of our attention.
Reggae producer Nkrumah Thomas has put together this unique compilation of, what else, reggae tunes but mixed in the showcase style (stylee). That means that two songs are mixed together, one after the other, with different singers but using the same rhythm recording. The drum beats are the same. The guitars are the same. The bass is the same. The vocals and lyrics are different. It all makes for great reggae roots dancehall partyin’ dance music. These are pretty standard party reggae songs about dancing, dancing, sexy girls, dancing, and a good Sunday meal. Plus the singers are top notch: Jah Thomas, Barrington Levy, Sugar Minott, Triston Palmer, etc. Get rub a dub.
When I first saw this album I thought,”oh oh” because this is a 1991 release of Desmond Dekker, the true King of ska, redoing a lot of his early songs from the early days. I most often like the original recordings. Like, why mess with a classic when it has already achieved greatness? But then I thought, why not. Many of the biggies like to go back and try again on their hits. Why shouldn’t Desmond? Hmmmm…… well what can I say? Keep it positive. He’s still got the voice, that super voice full of enthusiasm and bounce. And it is ever present on the ten tracks that Trojan Records choose to release. It’s great to hear him keep on singing at that point in his life. Yeah, those are good reasons. Exclude the flat production and kind of predictable instrumentation which weighs down the ska. Maybe it’s like, ska lite, or ska for the cocktail lounge. I could handle that. I mean I don’t want folks bouncin’ around while I’m trying to drink my Manhattan when I’m trying to listen to the guy on stage. But I digress. Remember, he has a SUPER voice.
Heeeee’s back. After over 20 years of not recording, Frenchie, England’s reggae producer supreme, convinced Captain Sinbad to come out from behind the boards and work his dancehall magic for a new reggae recording. Remember “The Seven Voyages of Captain Sinbad”, that early ’80′s classic? Well, Captain Sinbad sounds like he just picked up where he left off. With a heavy hitter team of musicians (of course including Sly and Robbie), Sinbad sings of his life, honors the history of Jamaican reggae and gives reverence to THE favorite plant. His voice is solid, strong and commanding, grasping the listener on his first note and taking you through to the last heavy bass thump. Each song is followed by a bouncing dub version. The cover art will make you feel like it’s the summer of 1982 all over again.
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