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Music Reviews

Watch How The People Dancing [coll] – Unity Sounds from the London Dancehall 1986-1989 [Honest Jon Records]

Thee Opinataur   9/22/2021   12-inch, Reggae

These singles and instrumentals show no-name locals rocking mics over the toy-store electro-beats that marked reggae’s transition into modern-day digital dancehall. 

Presented as a next-generation companion to London Is The Place For Me: the mood is more defiant — a Jamaican secession from London — with themes of inner-city sufferation running alongside hymns to the dancehall & herb. Spot-on mastering from Moritz von Oswald. 

Tunes you would expect at the closing hours of the afterparty of a Jamaican dancehall mix. 

In the ’80s, when reggae was changing from roots to dancehall, the Unity sound system was already a big player in London. And when the digital sound started, they were inspired to start making their own tunes, instead of simply playing others. Using a Casio and a four-track cassette recorder, they laid down the rhythm tracks, then went into a real studio to add vocals and overdubs. On the majority of the vocal cuts, an instrumental “version” is appended (just as it would have played on a sound system). The result is true street-level British reggae from the dawn of the digital era, and all surprisingly good, given that none of the people involved were musicians — they all worked for Unity Sound, except for some of the singers. – Thee Opinataur

Perry, Lee ‘Scratch’ – Black Ark Classic Songs- [Ariwa]

Thee Opinataur   9/22/2021   12-inch, Reggae

Released in 2016 to commemorate Lee’s 80th birthday

Here we see yet another great collaboration with Lee Perry and Mad Professor giving us some classic Perry cuts a dub over. Cuts are re-recorded, re-vamped, and refreshed Lee has some fun with ‘No More Roast Fish’,  a play on his classic ‘Roast Fish and Cornbread’. Doctor Shit‘ sees Lee re-visit an old Ska classic ‘Doctor Dick!’

Many believe his Black Ark years were Lee’s peak period of creativity, and this album is a great representation with a fresh 21st-century facelift making it all brand new again. 

Amazing career, amazing life until the very end, RIP Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, 1936- 2021. 

 Thee Opinataur

Marley, Bob and The Wailers – "Burnin' (Deluxe Edition)" – [Island]

Hemroid The Leader   7/13/2021   CD, Reggae

2004 2CD set. CD1 the classic basic common groundation reggae thing that everyone knows so well from hotboxing again&again in high school parking lots.
CD2 previously unreleased live show. Roadblock thing. One of Tosh’s last shows as a Wailer. Bunny stayed in Jamaica & did not go to England. Skeletal. Melody Maker 12/1/73 called the gig an “instant classic,” that the Wailers had “rightness to the music that flows intuitively from them.” Lively Up Yourself runs over 13m. No More Trouble favors Tosh vocal in the arrangement.

Cliff, Jimmy – "KCRW Session, The" – [Universal Music Enterprises]

aarbor   1/27/2021   12-inch, Reggae

Born James Chambers, he started writing songs in grade school and became Jimmy Cliff at the age of 14 when he started playing professionally. This is a session recorded and broadcast live at KCRW on June 28, 2012 – one of his last recordings (he’s now 72). It’s just Jimmy and his guitar, it seems more folk or calypso than reggae. AArbor

Toots and The Maytals – "True Love" – [V2]

aarbor   12/30/2020   CD, Reggae

From 2004, this is Toots and the Maytals along with some other well-known musicians, mostly playing Maytals hits. Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Terry Hall, Bootsy Collins, Bunny Wailer, Keith Richards and others are featured on different tracks. Enjoy! AArbor

Molenga, Seke & Kawongolo, Kalo – “Seke Molenga & Kalo Kawongolo” – [Antarctica Starts Here]

cinder   12/2/2020   12-inch, Reggae

Two young Africans, Molenga Mosukola (Seke) and Kawongolo Kimwanga (Kalo), were musicians from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, then (1970s) known as the Republic of Zaire, were brought to Jamaica by a Frenchwoman named Nadette Duget, an executive at CBS France. Both men were vocalists, played guitar, and percussion. Duget had intended for the recording of this album to take place at Byron Lee’s Dynamic Sounds studio, but it ended up at Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s Black Ark. Perry of course loved them, and later said ‘I know they were sent from Africa, because Africa wanted to make that heart connection in the Ark Studio. So African have to appear in the Ark Of The Covenant to manifest the African drum.’ This 6 songs release is full of fantastic, upbeat reggae, dub and African music. It really gives you that warm sunshine summer vibe. Killer! 

Fraser, Dean – "Big Up!" – [Island JDamaica Jazz]

Hemroid The Leader   12/12/2019   CD, Reggae

Classic reggae sax sound of Dean Fraser, playing 11 reggae-jazz hybrid tunes. Light, groovy take on things. Idris Muhammad shares the drum credit with Sly Dunbar. Nimble rhythm section. Sometimes more jazz than others (9, 10) with sounds like George Adams. Opens with cool “Dick Tracy”

Pablo, Augustus – "Live In Tokyo Japan" – [Jet Star]

Hemroid The Leader   12/12/2019   CD, Reggae

somehow. understanding partially the extremely high spiritual power of Augustus Pablo – he intends to give us the Love of God, with the understanding of our human position in this purgatory planet – I aimed in my mind to taste this nectar.
This is not just a band out for fun: this seemed more like a pilgrimage with a mission: to impart this taste of love of God in humility and human blues-reggæ: the music onto the King. 😊
That said: He plays all his distilled nectar.
Going back on these notes: He went with his herbalist doctor: armed with beautiful powerful herbs to help a dying Horace Brady/Augustus Pablo deliver this Crucial Message to JAHpan. this is I guess a vague idea of the instruction/communication imparted.
That said: rhythm section are headhunters: these guys ain’t jokin’. Difficult to mike and mix the melodica – but we get it. JAHpanese engineers must have been blown away. 😊
fans of: God: the JAHpanese Archipelago, refined”spaghetti” westerns depicting the struggle between Good and Evil – the good..- Pablo!: many quotes we recognize of Pablo’s melodies as sung!: “Africa must be free” even Wailers’ and many Studio One / Lee Perry recorded melodies: as Pablo was at home there. A hundred JAHmaican melodies here. after a few listens I am sure I’ll catch the Cuban Archipelago”Peanut Vendor / El Manicero”.
pss: indeed: on multiple relistens you hear I-JAHman Levi”s “Early in the morning”…
This album should be sitting comfortably between I-JAHman’s Haile I Hymn and Rico Rodríguez’s Man from Wáreika. tops

Amazon reviewer jorge gonzález -larramendi

Fire On The Mountain [coll] – [Pow Wow]

Hemroid The Leader   12/3/2019   CD, Reggae

Dread do Dead. Well-known reggae acts crossover. Good for turning off your mind, bad to think too much about. Grows on you like fungus. Kind of like it, but I also think it sucks. Distasteful. Entertaining.

Ranglin, Ernest – "Memories of Barber Mack" – [Island Jamaica Jazz]

Hemroid The Leader   12/2/2019   CD, Reggae

Blowin’ Smoke

10 instrumental reggae tunes, 4-7 minutes each, acoustic, bright jazzy sound, throwback “mento’ style. Dedicated to foundational mento saxophonist Barber Mack, who blew smoke into his sax and emerged from backstage with smoke “emitting from every orifice”(!).. Use it to nice up your show when you’re getting down. Sly on drums. They do ‘Stop That Train’ as well as ‘Fade Away’, and the rest are Ranglin tunes.

Levy, Barrington – "Here I Come" – [Time Records]

Hemroid The Leader   4/24/2019   12-inch, Reggae

1985 dancehall smash recorded at Channel One in Kingston, Jamaica, backed by Roots Radics. Ubiquitous classics “Here I Come” GTA: San Andreas; “Under mi sensi” #41 UK singles chart. But other tracks reward mightily “A Yah We Deh” “Cool and loving”.. all of them.

Tapper Zukie – “Man Ah Warrior” – [Kingston Sounds]

Hemroid The Leader   1/11/2019   12-inch, Reggae

1973 debut, 2015 reissue. Badness to rock your body line. Deejay/ toasting wasn’t yet an accepted form. He was the leader of the Zukies. He didn’t leave the ‘enforcer’ lifestyle behind for another 3 years. If you eat pork there is a message here for you. Other messages too! +++

Sizzla – “Praise Ye Jah” – [Xterminator Productions]

Hemroid The Leader   1/11/2019   12-inch, Reggae

Smooth R&B reasonings- but the sentiments are as contemporary as the production is dated. Great vocal performances. Lyrics convey profound deep wisdoms. Now-time meditations – see ‘homeless’. Many others

Released 1997, a month after the classic Black Woman & Child.

Talent Spotting Part Two [coll] – [Twinkle]

Hemroid The Leader   1/11/2019   12-inch, Reggae

1992 compu-rhythms from Nottingham UK’s Dub Judah. Vocalists showcase style with dubs in between. Norman Grant/Twinkle Brothers sound.
A1-4 Perspectives on famine in Ethiopia. B4-5 atypical rhythm.

Gainsbourg, Serge – “Aux Ames Et Caetera” – [Philips]

Naysayer   12/3/2018   CD, Reggae

Serge Gainsbourg, French sex icon and sultry singer of suggestive French pop tunes decided to put together a reggae album back in the late 1970’s. Pulling in the magic of Sly and Robbie, The I Threes for background vocals, many studio reggae greats and recording and mixing at Dynamic Sounds Studio, Gainsbourg nails it track after track. The propulsive bass lines and smooth backing vocals are a perfect match for Serge’s cigarette filled, raspy low tone almost monotone singing. These songs are most probably not about Jah. Most assuredly the pinnacle of a period yet so timeless. Get sexy.

Culture+-+%22Cultural+Livity+%3A+Live+Culture+%2798%22+-+%5BRas+Records%5D

Hemroid The Leader   10/30/2018   CD, Reggae

Culture live in South Africa 1998. CONs: Cheesy MIDI horns, “Shall I go away?” annoying pandering. PROs: Classic tunes. I like Culture. But the canned version presented here is tough. The best tunes are ones that dive headlong into the cheese. Check out the sick guitar on “I’m Not Ashamed” #14. Weed carol #13 “International Herb”. #5 “Christopher Columbus”
Guilty pleasure at best, otherwise shlocky. Jah gotta pay the bills after all

Moses, Pablo – “Itinuation, The” – [Editer a Paris]

Hemroid The Leader   10/30/2018   CD, Reggae

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Contemporary roots reggae. Slick Harrison Stafford production features the instrumentalists. Uncomplicated, straightforward pop approach. Like Moses sings on Living In Babylon, “Not everything good for talk.”

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