UK’s Fashion records had such a diverse output when the label was alive and kicking. Dancehall, roots and lovers rock as well as jungle and hip-hop mixes are for example presented on the second volume of Fashion in Fine Style – Significant Hits. A majority of the 20 tracks still sounds excellent, even though some of the plastic synths are very dated and downright painful at times.
Lovers rock was one of the label’s strongest cards and as with volume one, this genre is well-represented with a number of tracks from crooning and honeyed singers like Barry Boom and Michael Gordon. Included are also a few dancehall-tinged lovers cuts from, for example, General Levy and Philip Leo & C.J. Lewis.
When I wrote about the first volume about a year ago I called for Nereus Joseph’s huge 1985 hit Sensi Crisis and a tune or two from producer and melodica player Glen Brown. And my call was heard. The skanking Sensi Crisis is now included, so is Glen Brown’s swirling and echoing Detrimental Music.
There is a good amount of significant hits on this album. And the two volumes together collect a healthy 40 tunes of essential UK musical history. You get all the hits and more. Much more.
The new album from bass boosted Scottish production team Mungo’s Hi Fi and UK sound system veteran Kenny Knots contains enough wobbling bass lines to be mixed up with jelly.
Mungo’s Hi Fi has always been forward-thinking and Brand New Bangarang is no exception. Far from it. The eight tracks – ten on the CD version – showcase a fresh and futuristic approach to reggae with an almost industrial sound. It’s introvert, complex and dry, but firmly rooted in the 80s digital era.
Kenny Knots has been nicing and mashing up dances worldwide for the past 30 years and has developed his own smooth and fierce brand of delivering positive and conscious lyrics. He has been part of the UK sound system movement since he was a teenager and often manages to capture the raw excitement in the dancehall onto wax.
On Brand New Bangarang he’s inspired and chants and sings with roaring enthusiasm, especially on Gimme Gimme, probably the single greatest highlight on the album.
Available now on LP, digital platforms and CD, the latter includes the bonus cuts Don’t Let Them and Rasta Meditation, both previously released.
A new release from Nick Manasseh is always exciting and highly welcome. He’s one of the most consistent UK producers and now he has worked with Jamaican veteran roots singer Earl 16 on the showcase album Walls of the City. The first in what seems to be a series.
The set collects eight newly recorded tracks that balance live instrumentation and computer generated sounds. Four cuts are vocals and they’re directly followed by an inspired dub version. It includes a new version of the duos 90s classic Zion City, here titled Zion Holy City. It’s a completely new version, and even better than the original.
Walls of the City is excellent throughout, especially the title track with its deep and growling bass line and the uplifting Ease Up with its bright horns. Two very different tracks, but equally tasty.
Hopefully another set is due soon, but until then this album will be getting a lot of spins. Available now on LP and digital platforms.
New Scroll is the new album by foundation Jamaican singer Cornell “Original Gorgon” Campbell. In a press release it’s describes as “evoking that timeless sufferah’s sound and spirit of the golden era of Jamaican reggae within a treasure trove of original roots music”.
It boasts nine new songs penned by Cornell Campbell, as well as four dub mixes. New Scroll is furthermore described as injected with “the musicality and poetic flow that brought Campbell early and unparalleled success in the 1960s and 70s with solo recordings like the iconic Queen of the Minstrel or as a member of Jamaica’s most beloved harmony groups, the Eternals and the Uniques.”
The album bears Zion High Productions’ sweet sound crafted by the Zion I Kings production team – Jah D on bass representing Zion High Productions, I Grade Records’ Tippy I on keys and guitarist Moon, who co-founded the Lustre Kings label and is credited with writing on Snoop Lion’s debut album.
New Scroll hits the streets on CD and digital platforms on June 18.
U.S. reggae pioneers John Brown’s Body’s new album Kings and Queens is the band’s first full-length album in five years, and just like its predecessor Amplify it debuted #1 on the Billboard Reggae Chart.
The album is the second set without Kevin Kinsella, one of the group’s founders. And former backing singer Elliot Martin now handles singing and songwriting and the result is a contemporary U.S. reggae album with dub-infused echo-laid grooves, poppy vocal hooks, startling horn lines and a dense, thick sound.
Elliot Martin has a strained, moaning and compelling singing style and his melodies are frustratingly infectious. On album opener Step Inside his voice is distorted and swirling around in the mix with a gripping result.
Some of the tracks lean towards rock music with power guitar and fast drum patters. Just listen to Invitation where it sounds like the drummer uses a double-kick-pedal, popular in harder forms of rock music.
John Brown’s Body has been around for close to two decades and has now dropped eight studio albums. But more importantly they’ve managed to evolve and update their sound and also been vital in putting U.S. reggae on the map.
Kings and Queens is now available now on LP, CD and digital platforms.
Bass-fueled Canadian producer and multi-instrumentalist Dubmatix is back with his fifth studio album Rebel Massive, a set collecting twelve songs, of which one is built on separate instrumental parts and gives the opportunity to create an own remix.
Dubmatix has over the years created his very own eclectic blend of contemporary reggae made up from an equal amount of early roots, dancehall, dub, drum & bass and electronica spiced with sounds effects such as sirens and laser beams. It has assaulted fans from all over the world, but it has also attracted lots of attention from acclaimed singers and deejays and Dubmatix has on his albums invited lots of guest singers, including Michael Rose, Alton Ellis, Mighty Diamonds and Dennis Alcapone.
Rebel Massive has twelve guests and some of the greatest performances are courtesy of the aggressive Tenor Fly on the hammering album opener Show Down, Luciano on the breezy Seeds of Love & Life and Tenja on the pulsating Can’t Put Us Down.
Eek-A-Mouse also lends his skills to the heavy as lead Pull Up Selector, a track sounding like it’s pushed forward by a steamroller.
This Toronto native and Juno Award winner continues to push sonic boundaries and cross-feeding traditional reggae with its bass heavy cousins and siblings.
Recently got home from three days in the mighty city of Berlin. Did the usual sightseeing – the Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, KaDeWe, a ride on the river Spree and lots of other tourist things.
But more importantly I managed to convince my wife that we should visit a few record stores. In the end we went to about 15. And the search for records took us all over town – Schöneberg, Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg, Mitte and Friedrichshain were the areas where we went up and down the crowded streets looking for a hole in the wall.
Prior to this trip I had read that Berlin was a great city for record collectors. And it was. If you’re into electronica. There are several record stores in Berlin almost dedicated to house and techno and Hard Wax, Oye, Rotation and Space Hall were filled with people digging out their favorite tunes heard at Berghain or Weekend the night before or the same morning.
I only found two albums – the various artists compilation Hits From the House of Jah Shaka and Born Jamericans Yardcore. The first one was bought at Hard Wax in Kreuzberg and the second at Da Capo in Prenzlauer Berg. Hardwax has lots of newly issued reggae in different formats, but I’m more interested in vintage records from the 60’s and onwards.
If you aim to find second hand vinyl reggae, Berlin doesn’t have much to offer unfortunately. Da Capo had a bunch of used vinyl albums, but nothing special really.
Check Reggaemani on Instagram for a complete list of the record stores visited. A big shout-out to Nils Kersten from German reggae blog House of Reggae for his help finding some of the stores.
I’ve recently spent some time listening to The Courtney John Project’s hard-hitting debut album Future. And if someone told me that this album was the work of smooth falsetto singer Courtney John and lovers rock giant Beres Hammond’s daughter The Wizard, I’d tell him or her to get the hell out of here. But this dubstep-flavored album is made by these two masterminds together with Grammy Award winning instrumentalist Steven “Lenky” Marsden, the one responsible for the ground-breaking Diwali riddim a few years back.
This hypnotic album showcases what the members describe as a brand new genre called rootstronic. It’s a little bit of everything with pounding drums and heavy bass lines – dub, roots, electronica, grime and hip-hop.
Future sounds like it has been produced and recorded in an abandoned industrial building in central Kingston. The beats are grim and intense with bodybuilders beating the drums and hitting the bass with sheer power. It’s the evil and lost soundtrack to movies such as The Matrix and Blade Runner. It is the future.
The ethereal voices of Courtney John and The Wizard echo between the thick walls of sound. Their version of Errol Dunkley’s Black Cinderella is a stroke of genius and so are the two cuts that use the haunting organ from the immortal Truths and Rights riddim and the schizophrenic Very Special with its bombastic tom-tom drums taken from the battlefields in Lord of the Rings.
Think that there isn’t any experimental and innovative music coming from Jamaica anymore? That all music from Jamaica is about chanting down Babylon or showing off a brand new Benz or Beamer? Think again. When you’ve listened to Future you’ll feel like you’ve been run over by a train.
To be honest, it wasn’t instant love for me. But then again, the future is usually intimidating. You need to get acclimatized and then you’ll learn to understand its beauty and truly appreciate it.
Michael “Mykal” Rose has mashed down babylon for quite some time now, both as a solo artist and as a member of Black Uhuru. He has put out a number of smashes over the years, including dancehall favorite Shoot Out, the haunting Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and the stomping World Is Africa.
On his brand new album Showdown Inna Bloody Town recorded for Californian producer Siahvash Dowlatshahi – probably best known for producing Earl Zero’s Market Place two years ago – Mykal Rose takes a new musical direction.
The eight track set, including four vocals and four remixes recorded with live instrumentation and Style Scott from Roots Radics on drums, has a distinct Ethiopian jazz flavor, especially album opener Gunfighter with its killer horns. Its funky instrumental version takes the Ethiopian spice blend one step further.
On Dutty Road Mykal Rose is back in his usual militant style and on an updated eerie version of Youth of Eglington he deals with violence and gun business in the U.S., especially in California.
Mykal Rose has been a leading light in reggae for almost four decades. He continues to be innovative and interesting and this set represents an artist that is still willing to experiment and try new musical styles and directions with an impressive result.
Showdown Inna Bloody Town is now available on digital platforms worldwide.
Malika “Mother Sister” Madremana is a New York City raised high school teacher of Puerto Rican descent who should quit her day-job and focus on music full-time. Both her debut and second album were solid scorchers and her recently released third album The Race is equally as strong, in fact, maybe even stronger.
The Race collects ten tracks of uplifting, inspirational and positive lyrics set to hypnotic grooves with deep bass lines, melodic synthesizers and beautiful harmonies. Malika Madremana has a natural tone and sings with great confidence and a nonchalant attitude.
The Race is produced by David “Hodge” Lodge, longtime musical director for Don Carlos and The Dub Vision Band, and together they’ve created a set showcasing a talent that should be getting more attention outside the class rooms. Education is important, but so is music.