Music Reviews

Cocoa Tea – “Biological Warfare” – [Minor 7 Flat 5]

Grizzly Adam   10/29/2011   12-inch, Reggae

Good at the reggae inflections. Great at tongue twisters. From Jamaica, in the studio with Cocoa Tea. Beachy (A5) to serious (A2) to songs for the younger (A4 like Ele doing Sesame Street)
“War vibes I’m smelling. Freedom of speech but no safety for a split on the beach. War dust collects, winds blowing, war dust I’m smelling”, “Bun down Enron, Bun down oppressive power.”
-eveningly infinitely wipes scrub sonny atoms grizzly adam

Hammond, Beres – “Love Has No Boundaries” – [Vp Records]

Grizzly Adam   10/29/2011   12-inch, Reggae

Up-lift-ment. Emotional understanding and harmony. Most of all sad optimism.
Real heart and joy (A4) Christmas (A5) Reflective, ruminations, and inspiration
to action (A2) Integrity and strength, perseverance (A3) Percolating dub bloops.
Breaking Up (A7) Romantic Reggae.
-eveningly infinitely wipes scrub sonny atoms grizzly adam

Twinkle Brothers, The – “Dub Feeding Programme – Dub Massacre Pt 6” – [Twinkle]

abacus   8/10/2011   12-inch, Reggae

From Sunday school to dominating national competitions to international touring, Twinkle Brothers kept it fresh for over four decades. The solid Dub Massacre series features instrumental dub tracks from the 80s into the 90s with this one showcasing a groovin horn section and a handful of musicians switching off on the various rhythm instruments. Disregard the somewhat depressing cover picture, this is upbeat, very danceable party music. DUB IT IN A ROOTS STYLEE!!

Twinkle Brothers, The – “Dub Massacre Part 3” – [Twinkle]

abacus   7/21/2011   12-inch, Reggae

More heady dub from Twinkle’s Dub Massacre series! Headed by Norman Grant, this features steadily exploratory drum machine beats and sampling, driving and melodic bass lines, soulful keys and rhythmic guitar chops. Twinkle hails from Falmouth, Jamaica and have been playing since the early 60’s, producing their own music since the 70’s.



Congos, The – “Feast” – [Kingston Sounds]

aarbor   1/26/2011   12-inch, Reggae

The Congos are best known for their masterpiece Heart Of The Congos, which they recorded with Lee “Scratch” Perry in 1977. Since the release of that collection they have put out very few albums, most of them lacking the brilliance, the beauty and the quality of the debut set. Despite using the name The Congos these albums weren’t recorded by the original trio Watty Burnett, Roydel Johnson (a/k/a Congo Ashanti Roy) and Cedric Myton, but rather solo efforts from the latter.

Their 2006 album called Cock Mouth Kill Cock — which is a Jamaican proverb that essentially means: “watch what you say, it could be your undoing was released in Europe as FEAST it contains the fruits of sessions conducted between Cedric Myton and vintage producer Bunny “Striker” Lee. These are new songs voiced by Cedric “Congo” Myton over original recordings of classic reggae riddims from the seventies and early eighties, like Johnny Clarke’s “Crazy Baldhead”, “Satta Massa Ganna”, the original “Stalag”, Alton Ellis’ “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” and others. This set recalls the spirit captured by the Heart Of The Congos set. Vocally Cedric Myton is joined by the late Brent Dowe (a member of the Melodians) for a powerful set of harmonized vocal statements with a strong Rasta message. Cedric Myton’s inimitable falsetto shines bright. This is classic roots reggae with an impressive all star lineup of backing musicians. AArbor

Mittoo, Jackie – “Wishbone” – [Light in the Attic]

Sir Cumference   1/7/2011   CD, Reggae

What happens when you transplant a musician from Jamaica to the great white north? In this case, you get a fusion of reggae, soul and funk with a 32-piece orchestra to back it all up.

Founding Skatalites keyboard virtuoso Jackie Mittoo emigrated from Jamaica to Canada in the later part of the ’60s, where he joined a burgeoning West Indian community in Toronto. Despite his fame back home, he just managed to survive as a gigging musician – playing a myriad of different styles, in a myriad of different clubs. As luck would have it, another Jamaican transplant had managed to convince the media company he was working for to start up a record label where – after a handful of other releases – they approached Mittoo to record for them. The rest, as they say is history – except that (despite the quality of the music and recordings) the fledgling record company didn’t have the distribution mechanism to back it up, and the record’s sales failed to make any money and the label folded after only three years.

After thirty-five years, this pioneering Canadian reggae album was rereleased allowing us the opportunity the relive a long-lost treasure from a musician who left us way to early.

Jah mon, eh?

Pablo, Augustus and The Rockers International Band – “Rockers Comes East” – [Rockers International]

humana   4/4/2010   12-inch, Reggae

Augustus Pablo and his Rockers International Band bring together melodica, keys, drums, and bass, as well as the smooth sounds of Pablo???s voice to create some upbeat, mellow roots dub on this album, which marked the rejuvenation of Pablo???s career after a slowdown in the 1980s. Just listen to the melodies burbling along like a happy stream and chill out as you enjoy the passage of time to this music.

Steel An’ Skin – “Steel An’ Skin” – [Honest Jon’s]

humana   6/20/2009   12-inch, Reggae

Steel drum lovers rejoice! This reissue from the late 70s group Steel an??? Skin is fast-paced and upbeat. Side A is ???Afro Punk Reggae Dub,??? a chance for the flavors of Ghana, Nigeria, St. Kitts, Trinidad, and the U.K. (the birthplaces of the musicians) to mix and mingle in a wonderful dub. Side B opens with a :39 ???Gadzo Drumming,??? followed by ???Reggae Is Here Once Again,??? a happy, disco-like beat that features vocals and lasts 4:29. A sweet step back in time.

Sly and Robbie – “Master of Ceremony “Dub”” – [Attack]

humana   6/6/2009   CD, Reggae

Reggae: Sly is the drummer, and Robbie the bassist, of this famous Jamaican duo who have been working together since 1975. The 10 songs on this CD are primarily instrumental except for the glorious intros. 3 has some vocals to ???Legalize It???, and 10 also has vocals as an outro. The rest is pure dub, upbeat and characteristic of this pair who have played on about 50,000 tracks together. 10 is based on George Benson???s ???Breezin?????? and provides a nice finish to the CD.
Try: 3, 5, 7, 10.

Aggrovators, The – “@ King Tubby’s Studio” – [Attack]

Cousin Mary   5/26/2009   CD, Reggae

The Aggrovators were a very popular band in 1970???s Jamaica that was used by all the top producers at the time. This CD is a collection of their dub tracks that were recorded at King Tubby???s studio that were produced by Bunny Lee.

All instrumental, all easy-going, includes a cover of the Lou Rawls??? hit ???You???ll Never Find???.

Toots & The Maytals – “Pass The Pipe” – [Mango / Island Records]

humana   5/12/2009   12-inch, Reggae

Reggae: This is feel-good music that you???d expect to hear coming out of a transistor perched on the sand next to a beach towel, the mellow, upbeat rhythms and the honey voice of Toots Hibbert adding to the overall warmth of a perfect summer day. Elements of gospel, ska, soul, reggae, and rock imbue these tunes and make you ???Feel Free??? for sure. Listen and hear why this group is credited for originating the term ???reggay???.
Picks: I like it ALL, but have a slight preference for Side A.
PGM: The last song on Side B fades out and then fades back in again, so don???t think it???s over till it really is!

Midnite – “Unpolished” – [Rastafaria – Roots, Dub & Culture]

humana   4/26/2009   CD, Reggae

Reggae: Vaughn Benjamin pens and offers lead vocals on some substantial songs dealing with solid themes such as loving the life you live and basing your faith in Jah and a woman who is ???worth all of the precious stones they???ve stolen from the earth.??? Read the lyrics printed in the liner notes to catch the abundant puns. Vaughn also offers percussion along with Dion Hopkins on drums and percussion, Joe Straws on bass, and Ron Benjamin on keyboards, guitar, and background vocals. The songs are upbeat and inspirational.
Picks: 2, 5, 6, 9.
PGM: Most songs end around :03.

Carlton and The Shoes – “This Heart of Mine” – [Quality Records]

humana   3/31/2009   12-inch, Reggae

Reggae: Once upon a time called Carlton and his Shades, but changed to ???the Shoes??? due to a typo, this Jamaican group headed by Carlton Manning is nothing short of charming. Earl Chinna Smith is on lead guitar, and Manning himself offers up the vocals. The songs are a mix of love songs and songs with a conscience and songs that are spiritually inspiring. All are upbeat, mellow, and worthy of a spin.
Picks: A2, A3, B1, B4.

Midnite-Lustre Kings – “Infinite Quality” – [Lustre Kings Productions]

humana   3/30/2009   12-inch, Reggae

Reggae: From St.Croix, Virgin Islands comes the sound of Midnite, founded by Ron Benjamin and his brother Vaughn, whose clear vocals are heard on every one of the songs he wrote for this album. Also appearing on every song in some way, shape, or form is Andrew ???Moon??? Bain, executive producer of Lustre Kings. As you can hear, reggae is valid even when not created in Jamaica. The society-conscious lyrics and upbeat riddims sometimes are reminiscent of hip hop. Give it a spin and listen to cellos and violas in addition to horns, guitars, and keyboards.
Picks: A2, A5, A6, B2, B6.

Mittoo, Jackie – “In Africa” – [Quartz Records]

Cousin Mary   3/18/2009   12-inch, Reggae

Jackie Mittoo was house manager of Studio One and is considered by many to be the most important contributor to modern reggae sound. His keyboard skills are highlighted in this album that was recorded in Accra, Ghana in West Africa.

Relaxing sounds that mix Jamaican and African music in a joyous way.

Perry, Lee Scratch – “Chicken Scratch” – [Heartbeat]

ArtCrimes   3/11/2009   CD, Reggae

Heartbeat has reissued their Lee Perry “Chicken Scratch” collection of ska-era tracks originally cut for Jamaican producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, replacing some songs with the authentic mono single mixes, and adding seven more tracks to the original LP’s contents. (“Chicken Scratch”, the title track, is the source of Perry’s nickname.) Before doing his own productions under the “Upsetter” name, Perry apprenticed under Dodd, learning the studio skills that would serve him well for many years to come. This is some of Scratch’s earliest recording work, both as a songwriter and an aspiring (mostly unsuccessful) singer during 1964-1966. On the oldest selections here, the ska rhythm is bouncier, with the influence of American R&B, but as time passes, the ska begins to slow down into what would become rocksteady (“Run Rudie Run,” the last listed track, also features a very different vocal approach from Scratch). The instrumentation includes various backing vocal groups plus the Skatalites, and the original Wailers trio sings backup on one track: the politically-minded “Hand to Hand” (the backing vocal groups are listed on back). Numerous tracks have sex as topics (some titles make this pretty obvious) but no language… it’s all innuendo. “Madhead” is a taunt directed towards Prince Buster and his hit, “Madness.” There are also a few religious statements as well. The unlisted bonus track “Welcome Aboard” is Perry toasting over a backing track. (crimes)

Scratch and Company – Chapter 1, The Upsetters [coll] – [Clocktower Records]

humana   2/13/2009   12-inch, Reggae

Lee Scratch Perry teams up with Brad Osborne to produce a fine offering of upbeat dub and reggae. Read the album cover for Brad Osborne???s glowing praise of Lee Perry. My favorite offerings are circled, and they include vocals. Osborne himself plays flute on A5, and B3 features Scratch???s distinctive voice. The Barrett family and Reggie Earl ???Chinna??? Smith are on this album as well. Enjoy!

Yellowman Feat. Fathead – “Just Cool” – [Vp Records]

humana   1/31/2009   CD, Reggae

Jamaican Yellowman (so-called because of his albinism) exhibits his signature rude reggae and dancehall DJ skills here on these tracks from 1982 that have been remastered. Fathead joins him with his ???oinks??? and ???ribbits,??? among other vocalizations. Every tune is upbeat, if not clean. The last two are bonus, longer tracks.
FCC: 1, 3, 10, 12

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