KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Twinkle Brothers – “Twinkle In Poland” – [Twinkle Records]

Hemroid The Leader   3/13/2018   12-inch, Reggae

Radio Poland journalist Wlodzimierz Kleszcz brought Norman Grant to Poland in 1986, paying him with studio time. Kleszcz saw a connection between the roots music of Jamaica and Poland – a link between ex-slaves and the Polish Gorale ex-serfs. The music feels earnest but forced at times, like the material is not fully developed. Psalms 23 is Grant chanting the bible. Whatever its deficits, it is endearing. Just before the wall fell, searching for a connection.

Mungo’s Hi- Fi – “Serious Time” – [Scotch Bonnet]

rasbabo   2/7/2018   12-inch, Reggae

Mungo’s Hi-Fi Serious Times
Electro-Dancehall style reggae. Mungo’s Hi-Fi comes out of Scotland, but sounds like they are straight outta Kingston, JA. Great line-up of vocalists with many styles and dope rhythms from the sound system. DJs on the decks dropping bomb tracks, and MCs on the mics with excellent flows and vocals. Sides A and B are highlighted by female vocalists Warrior Queen, Soom T, and Marina, who help balance things out and add a sweet flava to a scene often dominated by dudes.
Sides C and D the Dudes are back in control and strutting their stuff. Cornell Campbell is a recognizable name on the last track, but all cuts are strong.
Ras Babo

Mad Professor Meets Jah9 – “In The Midst of The Storm” – [VP Records]

Hemroid The Leader   5/24/2017   12-inch, Reggae

9 digital-style dubs on a blue spatter transparent LP in an edition of 1000. Pressed exclusively for Record Store day 2017 by VP Records out of Jamaica, Queens.
Jah9 is dub poet and certified yoga instructor. Mad Professor got his name as a boy due to his fascination with electronics. He began his career in music in 1973, as a service technician.

Alcapone, Dennis – “Forever Version” – [Coxsone]

Naysayer   9/11/2016   CD, Reggae

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 – “Vinyard” – [VP Records]

rasbabo   4/6/2016   12-inch, Reggae

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.

Ras Babo

King of Dub – “S/t” – [Clocktower Records]

rasbabo   3/23/2016   12-inch, Reggae

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.

Ras Babo

 

Alborosie and King Jammy – “Dub of Thrones” – [VP Records]

rasbabo   3/23/2016   12-inch, Reggae

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.

Ras Babo

Undercover Presents a Tribute to Bob Marley’s Exodus [coll] – [Undercover Presents]

Thurston Hunger   5/6/2015   CD, Reggae

Leading up to a three-day celebration of Exodus this
upcoming (4/3/2015) weekend, the Undercover collective
targets Mr. Marley’s “Exodus” as their latest album to
explore. Super heartfelt, and mighty polished in parts,
the horns never disappoint, so Fogdub and Brass Band Mission
send out strong smoke signals. T Sisters acapella goes
hootenany on “Three Little Birds.” Some songs get really
altered which is always the challenge for a cover, “Turn
Your Lights Down Low” starts with a water music string
quartet and sultry Silke siren before Boots from the Coup
drops in for some bars, violin blitz hits too. Sean Hayes
tiptoes while “Waiting in Vain” with a soft spider guitar
line. Color me impressed by Empress Unification (this
cover of “Exodus” was the track Spliff dropped that caught
my ear). The album was curated if not birthed by Dr. Rupa
Mayra who takes a shaman’s hand and gently crafts out their
cover of “Heathen.” Broun Fellini’s jazz triphop take on
“Natural Mystic” drifts pretty high with Femi Andrades
soaring voice. Black Nature from the Sierra Leone Refugee
All Stars, gets down to “Jamming” some nice hiccup drums.
-Thurston Hunger

Burning Spear – “Alive In Concert ’97” – [Burning Spear Music Prod.]

selector   3/4/2015   CD, Reggae

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

–Selector

Left Hand Side, The – “Left Hand Side, The” – [BodyDeep Music]

selector   1/28/2015   CD, Reggae

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

–Selector

Luciano – “Messenger” – [Island Jamaica]

rasbabo   1/7/2015   12-inch, Reggae

Luciano- Messenger
The second studio album from Luciano, released in
1996, which resulted in him being anointed as the
best vocalist in the Jamaican reggae scene, a title
which has lasted him ever since. Formed out a style
reminiscent of Freddie McGregor or Barrington
Levy, he has a fantastic tenor voice, excellent
riddims, and delivers a positive Rastafari message
in a time when many vocalists were relying on a
more ???slack style???. Soulful, uplifting, and musically
solid.
Ras Babo

Doctor Dread – “Theremin In Dub” – [Tsosume Records]

Thurston Hunger   1/1/2015   CD, Reggae


Gary Himelfarb aka Dr. Dubenstein aka Doctor Dread hands
at the invisible helm, guiding the theremin over some
tasty dub action. Liner notes talk about dub’s beginnings
and the desire for the space dubstination, and how the
theremin’s haunting, alien vibe fits in nicely by hand.
Or it can stand next to the melodica and sort of fly
above a bassline like on “Muchas Gracias”. On “Shotgun”
it adds some zip to a soul-flavored dub of Dave & Ansell
Collins “Double Barrel”. Police saucer siren moves over
the horns and bongos of “U Mad?” Don Carlos’ plea in
“Hear My Motion” has synth kinda nubbed on the low end
and wavering on the high, so the theremin just crests
over all of that. “Tief Dem a Tief” could roll into an
old 808 techno set, the theremin is pretty subdued in
that one. Bob Dylan’s “I and I” is served up on “I For
an Eye” (Dread produced the popular “Is It Rolling Bob”
collection KFJC added almost a decade ago). “Equality”
is another heavy hitter, well tripped out. Hard to go
wrong here, and how many CD’s come up with a pop-up
art inside and a geography test on the back?

-Thurston Hunger

Pablo, Augustus – “Let’s Get Started / Eastman Dub” – [Greensleeves Records Ltd.]

humana   10/25/2014   CD, Reggae


Two albums for the price of one! Both are projects of the late, great Jamaican Pablo, who made the melodica famous and gave a lot to the reggae world in his too-short lifetime. The first part of the CD features music from his band Tetrack, and it is all upbeat. How could it not be, with Pablo’s keyboards? The second CD features Pablo with his Rockers International Band. It is more dub-y, but equally worth listening to. Props to the producer/musician!

Tosh, Peter – “Equal Rights” – [Sony Music Distribution]

Naysayer   9/10/2014   CD, Reggae

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 – “Return of Pipecock Jackxon, The” – [Honest Jons Records]

Naysayer   7/9/2014   12-inch, Reggae

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 [coll] – [Trojan Records]

Naysayer   4/23/2014   12-inch, Reggae

“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.

Upsetters, The – “Return of The Super Ape” – [Record Distributors, Ltd.]

Naysayer   3/18/2014   12-inch, Reggae

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.