The newest addition to Germany’s Jahtari label is New Zealand based producer Naram. March of the Gremlins is his debut album and it’s a showcase set featuring veteran singers and deejays like Peter King, Asher Senator, Jah Screechy and Sammy Gold.
The riddims are gritty, haunting and in the minor part of minor key. They are obviously designed to create madness on the dance floor and mash down the walls of Babylon.
The first Naram produced riddim that reached the Jahtari label was March of the Gremlins. It was initially created on a battered iPod while he was on a bicycle trip across the Middle East. They were obviously impressed by what they heard and I’m not surprised. The riddims that Naram have crafted on March of the Gremlins are rock-hard and better suited for a turntable than an iPod.
March of the Gremlins is in the same style and fashion as the usual Jahtari output – futuristic, yet vintage, digital and dubby 80s reggae. Fans will not be disappointed.
The Upsetters’ The Good The Bad and The Upsetters was released by Trojan Records in 1970. And since The Upsetters was sound alchemist Lee Perry’s band one might think he was involved in that particular release, but apparently he was not.
Following the success of Return of Django in the UK in 1969 Lee Perry and The Upsetters were booked on a UK tour that very same year. When the tour ended the musicians in The Upsetters had nothing to do while still in the UK. So Bruce White and Tony Cousins – two former singers that ran the booking agency responsible for the tour – persuaded The Upsetters to record an album, which Trojan then released.
Lee Perry had nothing to do with it, altough it had the Upsetters name on it. It was released without his invovement or permission. Frustrated he issued his own version of the album in Jamaica using the same artwork but with totally different songs and a new stickered tracklist on the back.
And this little known gem is now made available for the masses for the first time ever. The Good The Bad and The Upsetters – The Jamaican Edition collects 14 tracks, of which 13 are instrumentals and one is a deejay cut from an uncredited deejay. Four of the songs are versions of The Wailers material – Mr Brown, Who the Cap Fit, It’s Alright aka Night Shift and Soul Rebel all receive the Lee Perry sonic treatment.
The album is not as cheesy as many other reggae instrumental albums released in the same period. It is darker, sparser and more like a precursor to dub.
Be aware of one thing with this album though. The last track is too short and is abruptly cut-off a few seconds too early.
Sister Carol’s new album Live No Evil is a somewhat unbalanced set. It offers plenty of conscious preaching about organic living and sing-a-long choruses, but also plastic instrumentation and poorly arranged vocal parts.
Sister Carol has been around for a long, long time and is an important female deejay and is hopefully a role model to many up and coming female artists. Born in Jamaica, mentored by no other than Brigadier Jerry and nowadays living in the U.S., she has dropped more than ten albums, always being culturally aware and always staying true to her deejay roots.
On Live No Evil – put out on her own label – she chants in an old school style over a broad variety of riddims. The tempo is often high and the riddims are built on a combination of electronic and acoustic instrumentation.
Live No Evil is a serious title, but the music is mostly uplifting and fun. This is partly thanks to several bawling choruses and familiar melodies, for example Yellowman’sMorning Ride on Jill-Cuzzi and Paul Simon’sMother and Child Reunion on Muma n Pickney, a duet with her daughter Nakeeba Amaniyea.
Highlights are, however, Mama Earth, a version of Dennis Brown’s Melting Pot, the nyabinghi-flavored album opener Go Green and the moody The World.
Despite a few faults, Live No Evil as an exciting musical affair.
Was recently recommended to have a listen to U.S. reggae/jazz piano maestro Jaime Hinckson’s instrumental debut album Take Flight, released late last year. And it was certainly a pleasure to my ears.
Jaime Hinckson was introduced to classical piano at the age of seven through his piano teacher Miss Mac, referred to as an angel in disguise on his website. She later introduced him to Leslie Butler, a piano wiz that helped him to bridge the gap between classical music and contemporary jazz. Born in Miami to Jamaican parents, reggae was in his blood.
On Take Flight he cleverly covers old classics such as Bob Marley’s Waiting in Vain, Ken Boothe’sMoving Away, Michael Jackson’s Human Nature and The Maytal’s 54-46 Was My Number, but also more contemporary hit songs like John Legend’sOrdinary People and Bruno Mars’When I Was Your Man.
The piano-driven and airy music is sparsely arranged with only drums, bass and guitar. A number of tracks however also include horns. The piano does most of the talking and drives the melody forward. It’s as much a jazz album as it’s a reggae album and today you don’t come across that mix often enough. Definately well worth checking out. Visit Jaime Hinckson’s website for a free listen to all of the tracks.
On April 27 the controversial and versatile Jamaican deejay Sizzla drops his long-awaited album for Australian producer Jake “Mista Savona” Savona. It’s titled Born a King and collects the already released single I’m Living.
Mista Savona and Sizzla have previously recorded the Middle Eastern-flavored Why Does the World Cry, a tune put out on the excellent compilation Warn the Nation.
Mista Savona is a clever and inspired producer not afraid of trying new ideas or breaking musical boundaries, and Born a King will most certainly be one of the highlights this year.
While waiting for the new Sizzla album Mista Savona and his label Muti Music have outdone themselves with remixing and versioning I’m Living and its ethereal riddim.
On February 26 Muti Music drops I’m Living (The Versions) and I’m Living (The Remixes). Together they collect 17 cuts, including the original mix, which is one of the strongest, but actually not THE strongest. The gold medal goes to Cornel Campbell & Burro Banton and their Pressure. A five minute long masterpiece where Cornel Campbell sings the chorus and Burro Banton gravels in the verses.
Other vocalists featured on the versions album are Prince Alla, Ilements and Pinchers. The electronic remixes are courtesy of 3redeye, B.R.E.E.D, Ed Solo & Stickybuds, Gaudi and Mista Savona himself.
20 years after the first release – The Dreads at King Tubby’s – If Deejay Was your Trade – the mighty reissue label Blood and Fire Records rises from its ashes thanks to Steve Barrow, one of the founders, and reggae powerhouse VP.
On Monday February 17 Steve Barrow wrote on social networking site LinkedIn – quoted on several forums – that the label will be relaunched the first quarter of 2014 and that the initial release will be a limited edition 12″ of Gregory Isaacs Mr Know It All. It’s scheduled for Record Store Day in April and will be followed by reissues in various formats from the acclaimed Blood and Fire catalogue.
An official press release will be sent out shortly according to VP Records.
The latest Studio One compilation on one of the world’s premier reissue labels – Soul Jazz Records – is all about pure quality and as usual with these compilations an an all-star selection of artists is featured – Ken Boothe, Marcia Griffiths, John Holt, Dennis Brown and more. Sure, a number of these lovely tunes have been reissued plenty of times before, for example The Eternals’ Stars, The Heptones’ Party Time and The Gaylads’ Joy in the Morning.
The title – Studio One Rocksteady – doesn’t tell the whole truth though. It surely includes lots of rocksteady, but also early reggae, like Alton Ellis’ Hurting Me, Jackie Mittoo’s Our Thing and Duke Morgan’s Lick it Back.
The sounds are gorgeous, bouncy and optimistic, but also moody and melancholic as in Cecile Campbell’s Whisper to Me and Ken Boothe’s When I Fall in Love.
Studio One may not have been a rival to Duke Reid’s Tresure Isle when it comes to putting out beautiful rocksteady, but Coxsone Dodd had two aces up his sleeve – master organist Jackie Mittoo and bass virtuoso Leroy Sibbles. Together this trio created countless of classics, and several of these are collected on this essential album, an album with excellent sleevenotes by Lloyd Bradley, author of the classic book Bass Culture – When Reggae Was King.
Addis Pablo – son of the late and great melodica player and producer Augustus Pablo – has over the past years taken up a career as a performer and producer following in his father’s footsteps.
Addis Pablo was raised by his father in a musical environment on Orange Street in Kingston, receiving the teachings and morals expressed by Augustus Pablo, and continued to be instilled by his mother.
Last year he dropped a number of strong cuts, and one of the best was a melodica cut on the Unfair riddim and a version of Selassie Souljahz.
In 2013 he also teamed up with Amsterdam based reggae powerhouse Jahsolidrock for his debut album. The Dutch label, known for albums from Apple Gabriel, Brinsley Forde and Chezidek, is likely a great partner for his musical project called In My Father’s House.
In the same tradition as Augustus Pablo and his Rockers International label, the Dutch label and Addis Pablo embark on a musical journey where rootsy reggae meets Rastafari mysticism and first class musicianship.
The Marc Baronner produced album will be available on February 25 and features artists like Earl Sixteen, Prince Alla, Sylford Walker, Chezidek and Exile the Brave. In the meantime, check this documentary about the project.
Curtis Lynch has managed to create what every artist wants – a signature sound. It’s easy to recognize a Curtis Lynch production thanks to its heavy wobbling bass lines, sparse arrangements, grim organs and clever samples. He has created his own contemporary take on 80s dancehall.
And Mr. Williamz’ debut album Set the Standard has all those ingredients.
Mr. Williamz chats old school style over the 15 tracks, of which four are previously unreleased. It’s hypnotic and engaging at the same time. He deejays about ganja and romancing over tough beats, fresh relicks and tons of sonic wizardry.
With this album Mr. Williamz and Curtis Lynch set a new standard for how contemporary dancehall can sound in the 21st century.
A while back the crew at UK’s Reggae Archive Records headed from Bristol to Wolverhampton to meet Capital Letters’ bass player JB. When they headed south again they brought with them tapes and a scrapbook with photos and press clippings from Capital Letters’ short career in the late 70s and early 80s.
Capital Letters only released one album – the acclaimed Headline News in 1979. They also dropped a number of successful singles, and they’re probably best known for the marijuana anthem Smoking My Ganja.
Could the treasure found in JB’s house be a second album from Capital Letters? Yes, but the original tapes were unusable. But that didn’t stop Reggae Archive Records. Instead of shelving the tapes they gave the unmixed recordings to producer and mixing engineer Dave “Oldwah” Sandford.
Reality is the result. It’s a brand new, yet vintage, 14 track Capital Letters album from 1985, the year when everything was recorded. Five of the tracks are the band’s original 1985 mixes, one track is a live recording and the other eight are newly mixed from the original session tapes.
Among the 14 tracks are several dub versions and another mix to their hit song Smoking My Ganja. The album is mostly up-tempo in a punchy, almost ska-driven, style. Check the skanking This is Club Dance or Cocaine.
It also no less than four versions of the title track – the original vocal and the original dub as well as Sandford’s vocals and dub.
Not as great as the band’s rootsier debut album, but it’s nonetheless nice to hear previously unreleased vintage British reggae.