An excellent overview of King Jammy and his music

unnamedReggae and dancehall powerhouse VP Records continue their Reggae Anthology series with an excellent overview of King Jammy and his productions.

King Jammy – initially Prince Jammy but crowned after a sound system dance in 1985 – is one of Jamaica’s most successful and influential producers and mixing engineers responsible for several game-changers, including Wayne Smith’s massive hit Under Me Sleng Teng, which has since its release in 1985 been versioned a thousand times.

The new compilation Roots, Reality and Sleng Teng collects both culture and entertainment and is a comprehensive collection covering King Jammy’s productions throughout the various styles and eras of reggae, including the biblical messages of dread 70s roots to boastful early dancehall and ragga.

Collected are several well-known cuts, for example Johnny Osbourne’s Water Pumping, Junior Reid’s Boom-Shack-a-Lack, Half Pint’s Money Man Skank, Chaka Demus’ Original Kuff and Pinchers’ Bandelero.

But there are also a number of rare items to found. Check for example the 12” mix of Black Uhuru’s Bad Girl with deejaying from Scorcher & Nicodemus or The Fantells’ – previously known as Beltones – eerie, yet beautiful, Where You Gonna Run. Several of these rare cuts are also available on the vinyl release of this crucial anthology.

The three discs – including the DVD documentary King at the Controls – shows King Jammy’s range and diversity as a producer as well as his unique talent for keeping up with the times and driving the music forward.

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Reggae Roast and Brother Culture got the flava

a1970370828_16In June 2015 Brother Culture and Nick Manasseh released the excellent showcase album All a We and now it’s time for another rough and tough set from one of UK’s most consistent deejays.

Brother Culture has this time teamed up with Reggae Roast for the seriously weighty EP The Flava. It comes with five deadly tracks, including the anthemic Soundsystem. It kicks off with bouncy 80s vibes on The Flava followed by the uncompromising Bring di Weed with its earth-shaking bass line.

On Same Ol’ Story Brother Culture takes the role of a history lecturer with lyrics like “then World War Two led to Hiroshima when everything in the world get nuclear, the nuclear bomb led to the cold war, the East Germans build the Berlin Wall…” and “the invasion of Kuwait, it was the first Gulf war, Saddam Hussein against Bush Senior, the first Gulf war led to 9/11, when the place came down with flames and destruction, 9/11 led to Afghanistan, America went to wipe out the Taliban, but wars don’t finish, the wars don’t end, it’s the same ol’ story all over again…”.

Reggae Roast has over the past seven years brought forward several earth rocking singles and riddims and this compilation with material recorded with Brother Culture hits hard.

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The five best reggae EPs in 2015 so far

This is the fourth and final best of 2015 so far list. It collects the five best reggae EPs. But the list could actually have been a bit longer since the year so far has been very strong when it comes to EPs. Just outside top five comes efforts from Naptali and Christopher Martin. Included is only single artist sets and the list is presented in no particular order.

Best EPs 2015 so far

If you’re curious about the EPs – check out this Spotify playlist with all sets. Enjoy!

Artist – title
Keida – Ebb and Flow
This fresh set showcases a mature singer comfortable with both up-tempo and hard-edged dancehall as well slower roots.

Randy Valentine – Still Pushing
Another beautiful set from Randy Valentine and after two EPs and several strong singles and one riddim album cuts I’m definitely ready for this emotive singer’s debut album.

Toian – Retrospect
An excellent and youthful debut from a fresh new voice.

Omar Perry – Be Cool
Produced by Sly & Robbie. And as usual with this ground breaking duo the set is well-crafted, expertly executed and with intriguing arrangements and song structures. And when Omar Perry shows no mercy on the microphone there is need to put up a fight against a set like this.

Clay – Clay:List
Clay is an emotional singer with a deep feel for catchy melodies and infectious choruses, which was showcased already on his debut. And Clay:List continues in the same vein.


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Nyacoustic Chants offers a stunning ethereal and spiritual journey

NYAcoustic CVR_1At U.S. based label and production house Zion High Productions they go their own way. That was clear last year when they issued saxophone player Jah Bless’ excellent instrumental album Redemption. Now they have released another daring set.

Nyacoustic Chants probably isn’t the multi-million selling, Grammy award winning and cross-over-tinged set that other labels are looking for. No, this set is something else.

Nyacoustic Chants – produced by Zion High Productions’ own Jah David along with partners from powerhouse roots reggae production team of Zion I Kings – offers 13 percussion-driven tracks greatly inspired by the likes of Count Ossie and Ras Michael.

The rhythms are slow and atmospheric with spiritual depth. Chanters and singers range from reggae luminaries such as The Congos, Earl “Chinna” Smith and Michael “Mykal” Rose to more contemporary artists like Pressure, Jahdan Blakkamoore, Lutan Fyah, Jah9 and Midnite.

The album is bubbling with consciousness and uplifting vibes. It’s the sound of natural mystic. It’s a melodic and pulsating feast, so gather your friends and prepare them for a journey to another musical dimension.

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The five best reggae reissues in 2015 so far

The third list summarizing 2015 so far collects the five best reggae reissues and as usual reissue giants like Pressure Sounds and Digikiller are represented, but also Hot Milk.

The list below collects five essential items and the list could actually have been a bit longer since the year so far has been very strong when it comes to reissues. Just outside the top five comes albums from Tetrack and The Inturns. Included in the list are both single artist albums and compilations and it’s presented in no particular order.

If you’re curious about the albums – check out this Spotify playlist with four of the sets. Enjoy!

Best reissues 2

Artist – album title
Gladstone Anderson – Sings Songs for Today and Tomorrow
U.S. based label Digikiller has teamed up with France’s Only Roots for the reissue of pianist Gladstone “Gladdy” Anderson’s rare Sings Songs for Today and Tomorrow. But this album is more than that particular set since it comes with its almost dub counterpart Radical Dub Session by Roots Radics

Jimmy Riley – Live It to Know It
This album has everything a great reissue should have – excellent music, discomixes, devastating dub versions, good audio quality, scarce material and vivid liner notes. It collects nothing but the best and it captures Jimmy Riley at his finest.

Yabby You – Dread Prophecy: The Strange and Wonderful Story of Yabby You
Don’t think for a second that you can sleep on this epic collection of mystic, powerful and anti-establishment music where Yabby You and his friends chant down Babylon again and again and again.

Various – Strong Like Sampson: Linval Thompson Presents the 12” Mixes
Nearly two hours of some of the most uncompromising early dancehall to be put on wax. The fearsome Roots Radics do not apologize for their sparse and heavy as lead riddims.

Mr. Spaulding – Twelve Tribe of Israel
I have listened to reggae for almost 20 years and I can’t say I have heard frequencies as low as these before. The bass line on cuts like Tell Me and Mankind are as deep as the Mariana Trench and custom-made for crashing down the walls of Babylon.


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Jah Cure returns to the rootsier side of reggae

unnamedJamaican vocalist Jah Cure returns to a more roots-oriented sound on his latest album The Cure, a 13 track set where he blends reality checks with bedroom ballads. It’s a well-rounded album influenced by roots reggae and lovers rock fused with elements from R&B and pop.

Jah Cure is a controversial artist and did not have the typical way to stardom. He had just begun his musical career in the late 90s when he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison for rape and possession of firearm. When in jail he recorded new material and his popularity started to rise and he became something of a folk hero. In 2007 he was released and since then he has released four albums True Reflections… A New Beginning, The Universal Cure, World Cry and now The Cure.

He has a golden voice and on World Cry he aimed for crossover success collaborating with artists like Rick Ross and Jazmine Sullivan. That album was a mishmash of hip-hop, pop, R&B and reggae. He strayed and lost his way, but on The Cure he has found his way back to his roots.

The Cure finds Jah Cure at his most passionate and emotive. His chart-topping cover of John Legend’s All of Me is heartfelt and slick, while nyabinghi-tinged album opener No Friend of Mine is powerful aiming straight at the chest. On Corruption he successfully battles a dubby riddim, Stay With Me comes with militant horns and Rasta contains a pulsating bass line along with a catchy sing-along chorus.

In the late 90s Jah Cure was a leading light in reggae, but since he was released from prison it seems that he has struggled to find his sound. The Cure collects several attractive ballads, but balances those with edgier cuts. With this new set Jah Cure has created a sound that might attract both crossover fans and reggae purists alike.

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Yet another fine EP from Clay

Clay_List_Cover_Ansichten_IUK-based singer and songwriter Clay dropped his debut EP last year and was soon picked up by one of Germany’s premier production crews – Silly Walks Discotheque. Their first collaboration was Only Love on Silly Walks’ Clock Tower riddim and now they’ve dropped an EP together, a set that’s also produced in collaboration with Jr. Blender and Bigdreams Production.

Clay:List collects five tracks and collects a number of tasty relicks, for example a version of Bob Marley’s So Much Trouble and the classic Stars riddim.

Clay is an emotional singer with a deep feel for catchy melodies and infectious choruses, which was showcased already on his debut. And Clay:List continues in the same vein.

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A solid collection of singles on new EP from Naptali

naptali-rastafreedom_epFive years have passed since the latest album release from Jamaican-born singer Naptali. Now he’s back with a new set, this time it’s an EP with nine tracks, and again it’s done in collaboration with Oneness Records.

Rasta Freedom is essentially a collection of previously released tracks taken from compilations and one riddim albums, including Boasy Slave on African Children riddim, Nuh Partial on Retro Locks riddim, Deceitful on Backstabber riddim and Rasta Freedom from One Love, One Heart, Oneness. Included are also two unreleased dub cuts mixed by forward-thinking producer and sound engineer Umberto Echo.

Several of the cuts are collaborations with Jamaican deejay Arofat, but Naptali also shares the microphone with Indonesian singer Ras Muhamad.

Rasta Freedom is a solid collection of tracks and Naptali has a sadness in his voice that sticks like glue and gives most of the tracks a melancholic vibe.

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The British Midlands showcased on new compilation

a1942333125_10The British Midlands is an area spanning central England and its largest city is Birmingham, a town that has produced several successful reggae bands, including Steel Pulse, Musical Youth and UB40.

Reggae Archive Records now aims to spotlight this area and its importance in reggae history. The Midlands Roots Explosion Volume One is the first in a series of compilations that will showcase some of the unreleased, forgotten and barely known musical gems from the vibrant Midlands scene.

The set kicks off with Steel Pulse, a band that put Birmingham on the musical map. Their first release – the scarce Kibudu – Mansatta – Abuku – was originally released in 1976 and is a fine slice of raw UK roots and hints at what was about to come.

The other 14 tracks are in the same deep and spiritual vein. Musical Youth is best remembered for their successful and lightweight Pass the Dutchie, which was a top hit around the world. Political, included here, is something completely else. Fredrick Waite Sr, formerly with The Techniques, sings lead on this uncompromising roots effort from 1981.

Capital Letters also show a different side of their musical spectrum. I Will Never showcase a darker side compared to their hit single Smoking My Ganja. It’s slow and dread celebrating their faith in Jah.

The Midlands Roots Explosion Volume One shines light on Birmingham and other cities that make up the Midlands as well as putting forward some of the lesser known acts that spent years performing and recording without achieving any level of success. The area was certainly a powerhouse of British reggae and this compilation includes many tracks worthy of far wider exposure.

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The ten best reggae albums of 2015 so far

Last week I presented my 20 favorite reggae and dancehall cuts so far this year. Now it’s time to present the ten best albums so far. I’d like to say that the competition has been fierce, but it hasn’t. This year has so far been a bit disappointing actually. There have been a few truly excellent albums though, like Protoje’s Ancient Future, Brother Culture & Manasseh’s All a We and Jahdan Blakkamoore’s Order of Distinction.

Those were my obvious ones and compiling the other seven albums were rather hard. Not that these seven albums are bad in any way, but usually I can compile a top ten list quite easily. But not this time.

There are sadly no female artists in the list. Alaine’s Ten of Hearts was on an early version, but didn’t make it in the final run.

The ten best reggae albums 2015 so farAnyhow, the list below collects ten albums and is presented in no particular order. No reissues or compilations have been included. If you are curious about the albums you can download this Spotify playlist with all albums. Enjoy!

Artist – album
No-Maddz – Sly & Robbie Presents No-Maddz
A joy from start to finish. Cleverly produced and tailored to No-Maddz with engineered perfection.

L’Entourloop – Chickens in Your Town
A playful and creative album boiling with unexpected influences. It will heat up any dance floor with its multi-layered sound, sweaty grooves and electrifying beats.

Jahdan Blakkamoore – Order of Distinction
Well-crafted from beginning to end. Jahdaan Blakkamoore is an innovative wordsmith delivering positive and insightful lyrics, ranging from sexy lovers rock on Smood Blakk Skin and Everything I Love to the encouraging and electrofied Faith, the spiritual Come Back Around and the more boisterous and energetic Ting Tun Up! with Lady Leshurr and Melodic Yoza.

Mad Professor meets Prince Fatty – The Clone Theory
Two musical heavyweights mix five tracks each and the result is a soulful and warm dub album complete with blazing horns, rolling drums and pulsating bass lines.

The Skints – FM
The Skints pull influences ranging from grime, garage and punk to summertime sound system reggae, dancehall, rocksteady and soul. It’s a tour of urban culture in its latest guise.

Protoje – Ancient Future
A cohesive set that balances rootsy reggae with hip-hop beats. But it also offers a few tasty slices of lovers rock and joyous ska. It’s definitely rooted in the 70s and 80s, but embodies the energy of the present.

I Kong – A Little Walk
The riddims are powerful and the backing has a sweet and melodic richness. This is effective roots mixed by Spanish maestro Roberto Sanchéz.

Brother Culture & Manasseh – All a We
Follows the success of last year’s anthemic Sound Killer and on this new album Nick Manasseh unleashes some heavy as lead riddims for Brother Culture to ride upon. It’s socially conscious and spiritually devout.

Jah Sun – New Paradigm
Solid, cohesive and firmly rooted in contemporary and up-tempo one drop reggae. Jah Sun sings, deejays and even showcases his rapping skills on a few tracks.

Mark Wonder – Scrolls of the Levite
Offers a tasty mix of beats and riddims with forward-thinking arrangements and song structures. It’s definitely Mark Wonder’s best work to date.


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