The Congos’ debut album Heart of the Congos is by many regarded as the greatest reggae album ever to be released. And this album is certainly something very special with its swirling soundscape and haunting vocals courtesy of Cedric Myton’s falsetto and Watty Burnett’s deep baritone.
The set was originally released 40 years ago, but was soon withdrawn by producer and engineer extraordinaire Lee Perry. A year later – in 1978 – it surfaced again, but this time with new and different mixes. That release also formed the blueprint for all subsequent reissues.
But now – for the first time ever – the original album from 1977 has been reissued by reggae powerhouse VP Records. The set was put out on LP on Record Store Day in April and in early June on digital and a deluxe 3CD edition. The 3LP version put out in June does not include the original mixes. The only way to get your hands on those are via digital, CD, the Record Store Day edition or the incredibly rare original from the 70s.
Some might argue that this release is for reggae aficionados only. But think again. The digital and the 3CD set is the most definitive edition of this iconic album. It comes with the album mixes from 1978, discomixes, versions, the previously unreleased Don’t Blame it on I and, of course, the original album mixes, which are quite different from the others. These originals are more stripped-down, cleaner and lacks the mooing cow on Children Crying and Ark of the Covenant.
Get it and compare and judge for yourself.
Legendary roots vocal trio Culture released their ground-breaking debut album Two Sevens Clash 40 years ago. And this is celebrated with an expanded edition of the original album.
Two Sevens Clash is a masterpiece of Biblical proportions and a set that helped to define roots reggae with its spiritual and apocalyptic messaging and close harmonizing. But musically the album isn’t the archetype of roots reggae. Two Sevens Clash is brighter and more uplifting compared to most of the sets released during the same period.
This new version comes with eleven bonus cuts – dubs mixed by Errol T and deejay versions by the likes of I Roy and Shorty the President. No fillers, only killers, even though a few of the bonus cuts have audio quality slightly below par.
Grammy-winning reggae band Morgan Heritage released their debut album Miracle in 1994 and a few years later their breakthrough album Protect Us Jah was put out. Since then they have released another nine studio efforts, including the recently released Avrakedabra, which follows Strictly Roots, a set awarded with a Grammy in 2016.
Morgan Heritage took a break from touring and recording about ten years ago. During that hiatus some of the members took the chance to record and release solo material. But the hiatus obviously didn’t last too long and in 2013 they released Here Come the Kings, which was something of a return to a more conscious and roots-oriented approach.
On Avrakedabra they use influences from pop, rock, country, hip-hop, electronica and dubstep to create an eclectic set full of feel-good vibes and infectious melodies. This brand of reggae is by Morgan Heritage labeled as rockaz.
The album was recorded in a wide array of countries and features several collaborations – the late Bunny Ruggs, Billboard chart topping duo R. City, Ziggy and Stephen Marley, Dre Island and Kabaka Pyramid. Its sounds ranges from the rootsy Selah via the dubsteppy anthem We Are to feel-good and seductive pop hits Reggae Night, Dream Girl, Ready for Love and Dancing in the Moonlight.
Compared to its two predecessors Avrakedabra is a slightly less rootsy affair and leans more towards Caribbean pop with sunny grooves and beautiful harmonized vocals.
Greensleeves Records – the iconic UK label that was acquired by reggae powerhouse VP Records in 2008 – has been operating for 40 years in the music business. That’s now celebrated with a new – and extensive – collection of classics cuts released over the years.
The 40 track – what else – double disc draws from Greensleeves wide-ranging catalogue of razor-sharp roots and dancehall from the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s. The label has managed to maneuver through a diverse set of sounds coming mostly from Jamaica and the UK.
The album doesn’t come with any gems for collectors, but it’s a great gateway to reggae, especially dancehall from the early 80s, a period when Greensleeves dropped a truckload of classics albums and 12” discomixes.
Featured on the set are scorchers like the Wailings Souls’ War, Johnny Osbourne’s Fally Ranking and Eek-A-Mouse’s Wa-Do-Dem. You can also find a truly international hit song like Shaggy’s Oh Carolina on Total Reggae Greensleeves.
This is a great introduction to one of the greatest reggae labels.
Jamaican ensemble and production crew Suns of Dub – led by the late Augustus Pablo’s son Addis Pablo – has created a mixtape for VP/Greensleeves by using the label’s extensive catalogue.
Riddimentary is a musical journey and a time travel back to the 70s and early 80s. Addis Pablo and Suns of Dub have selected crucial cuts that have inspired their musical output and in the continuous mix – without any sound effects or mixing wizardry – you’ll find classics from reggae legends like Sugar Minott, Dillinger, Jacob Miller and, of course Augustus Pablo, who kicks off the set in fine style with his Far East sound.
This set is an excellent introduction to conscious reggae and rootsy dancehall and be sure to check slightly lesser known cuts like John Wayne’s Call the Police or Tenor Saw’s Golden Hen.
Jamaican singer and singjay Teacha Dee dropped his debut album Reggae Souljahs: Beating Babylon With Music back in 2011 and now he has released his second album Rastafari Way, a set borrowing its title from his hit song with the same name.
The album is in the same musical vein as Rastafari Way and fans of the Teacha will be familiar with production and flow. This is contemporary, positive and uplifting roots reggae with bouncy bass lines and strong melodies.
Highlights among the 13 cuts include the infectious Do Today, on House of Riddim’s Danger Zone riddim, Jah Jah is Calling, also a House of Riddim production, and the sweet Keep Me Away.
Teacha Dee is a popular performer in Europe and with this release he will hopefully gain fans both in Europe and other parts of the world.
In 2011 premier Japanese reissue label Dub Store released the excellent compilation King Jammy’s Dancehall 1: Digital Revolution 1985-1989. At the time it was only released on CD and now six years later it was put out on LP. But that’s not all. Dub Store has also issued part 2, 3 and 4. Together these collects a whopping 80 tracks – 20 on each volume. If you also count the dub versions that comes with part 1 it adds up to a hefty 95 cuts of digital niceness.
King Jammy was with his Sleng Teng riddim almost solely responsible for the digital revolution in Jamaican music and he and his Jammys label dominated the dancehall scene between 1985 and 1989. During this period he released a vast number of singles, many of which included on these excellent compilations.
All four compilations have a similar digital sound, but lyrically they differ for each volume. Part 2 is more rootsy with killers cuts like Cornell Campbell’s Nothing Come Easy, Dennis Brown’s History and Wailing Souls’ Move on.
Part 3 offers soundboy burials with lethal tracks such as Robert Lee’s Come On, Tonto Irie’s Ram Up Every Corner and Johnny Osbourne’s Chain Robbery.
Part 4 is focused around closed curtains, satin sheets and affairs of the hearts with bouncy cuts like Home T’s If the Rockers Don’t Groove You, Super Black’s One Time Girlfriend and, of course, Gregory Isaacs’ Steal a Little Love.
These compilations showcase dancehall history and is a sound addition to any record collection.
It took eight long years for Queen Ifrica to put out her third album Climb, the follow-up to Montego Bay, which dropped in 2009 and included the moving single Daddy.
It seems like the album has been eagerly awaited since the set immediately climbed to #1 on the Billboard Reggae Chart. And this is a set that will appeal to a broad spectrum of fans. It’s an eclectic album showcasing a number of moods and styles.
Much of it is a crossover matter with romantic themes and affairs of the heart. Check the bouncy first single Trueversation with Damian Marley for example. Or That’s How It Is Sometime, complete with strings and xylophone, and the slick Good Man.
But Queen Ifrica offers harder sounds as well. Lie Dem Ah Tell is fierce dancehall and Grabba is a slice of ferocious contemporary nyabinghi where the Queen spits lyrics over a percussion-driven rhythm.
Best of the bunch – a thick bunch since it comes with a hefty 17 tracks – is however the gospel-infused I Can’t Breathe, which borrows from the traditional hymn Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, or the militant ska track Rebellion.
I guess Queen Ifrica has collected lots of recorded material over these eight years, but Climb would have been even better if a few of the cuts would have shelved for later projects.
A new 15 track compilation from Dub Store Records spotlights one of the giants on the Jamaican music scene – Winston Riley. He’s probably best known for producing Sister Nancy’s groundbreaking single Bam Bam, originally released in the early 80s, or Dave and Ansell Collins’ funky Double Barrell, a cut that probed its way into the UK national pop charts in May, 1971.
But Winston Riley was active way before the 80s and he started in the music industry as a singer as early as 1962 when he formed The Techniques, one of Jamaica’s finest vocal groups. Two years later he and his group scored a hit song with the excellent Little Did You Know.
But when the rhythm changed from ska and rock steady to reggae Winston Riley turned to production and formed his own Techniques label, a label that put out a whole heap of quality releases, as showcased on the mighty fine compilation Winston Riley’s Rock Steady & Early Reggae 1968-1969 – The Techniques & Friends.
In Jamaica in the 60s vocal groups was the order of the day. And this becomes obvious when checking the track list of this album. Only one track is credited to a solo singer. Dave Barker in this case. But he’s featured on other cuts as well since he was also part of The Techniques ever-changing line-up, a line-up that over a few years also included talents such as Winston Riley, Slim Smith, Pat Kelly, Lloyd Parks and Bruce Ruffin. All of them continued to pursue successful solo careers as singers, producers and engineers.
The period covered on the compilation is one of the best in Jamaica’s musical history. It’s upbeat with beautiful singing and harmonizing. And the influence from U.S. soul is deep-rooted.
Austrian label and its main producer Syrix has dropped an earth-shaking, yet melodic, dub album filled with versions of hits from some of the artists that have recorded for the label.
On Dub Station Syrix has turned up the bass and let all his creativity flow throughout the label. The version of Luciano’s Hard Road is a booming one with loads of vocals from the original cut. Another killer track is the pulsating version of Anthony B’s Freedom Fighter with its bright horns and Anthony B’s authoritative voice echoing back and forth in the mix.
Dubheads should not sleep on this one.