In 2013 legendary UK reggae band Capital Letters got back together after an about 30 year long hiatus. They have since recorded a new album – Wolverhampton – released earlier this year. But their earlier material has also been reissued. Reality – an effort collecting 15 tracks originally recorded in 1985 – dropped in 2014 and their debut album Headline News has also been made available again.
Now it’s time for yet another reissue. Vinyard is Capital Letters’ second album and it was recorded and released in small quantities and with poor distribution in 1982. The new edition collects the original ten tracks along with unreleased material taken from the Headline News sessions and a few live studio recordings.
Capital Letters formed in 1972 and is probably best known for their raw and lyrically controversial single Smoking My Ganja and the band was among the first wave of talented reggae acts to emerge in the UK during the mid-to-late 70s. These bands absorbed the sounds of Jamaica and created their own take on reggae. Many of these acts strived for social change singing about the society around them, which was often marked by violence, racism and social inequality.
Vinyard is a prime example of UK roots with its many reality tales and Capital Letters deal with false politicians, unemployment and struggle set to tough drum and bass along with a pumping organ.
This album is rawer than its predecessor and it captures the sound of early UK roots nicely. The CD version comes with in-depth sleeve notes by renowned reggae writer John Masouri and you can read why Capital Letters have renamed Helsinki to Hell Sink I.
U.S. born and Jamaican bred songstress Alaine rose to prominence ten years ago with the beautiful No Ordinary Love on Don Corleon’s Seasons riddim. Several successful singles for him followed, including Without You on Changes riddim, Sincerely on Love Potion riddim, Whine on Sweat riddim and Heavenly on the riddim with the same title.
She has dropped two albums and collaborated with a broad variety of producers. And on her brand new third studio album Ten of Hearts – actually scheduled for release last year – she continues to work with a number of different producers.
Ten of Hearts boasts no less than nine different ones – Shane C. Brown, Jordan McClure and David Hale for Chimney Records, Andrew “Anju Blaxx” Myrie for UIM Records, Craig and David Harrisingh for Daseca Productions, Andre “DJ Frass” Gordon, Tony Kelly and Dean Fraser.
Nine different producers is not out of the ordinary in reggae and sometimes is a recipe for a rather non-cohesive effort, but Alaine and her manager Shane C. Brown have managed to put out a modern and well-balanced album offering a mix of melancholic reggae and dancehall.
Alaine has been singing and writing songs for ten years. Love has been a popular topic and still is. Ten of Hearts is a summarizing title and it’s mostly about romancing. She sings about love between people as well as universal love between mankind. It’s sensual and romantic with several slow and catchy whine waisters and bedroom teasers.
Alaine is a talented and gifted singer with a clean and stylish tone. And therefore it’s a pity that a few cuts are showered with auto-tune. Sometimes it works well, the moody Sidewalk Hotel, and sometimes it might have been better avoided, the Dre Island-combination Like a Drum.
Ten of Hearts is a solid set with a heap of infectious tunes, but none quite reach the heights of her work with Don Corleon.
Hungary’s premier reggae band Riddim Colony recently dropped their fourth album Lion’s Way, a set following Rise & Shine released two years ago. This five piece outfit started in 2005 and has since toured Europe several times sharing stages with the likes of Anthony B, Max Romeo, Sizzla and Michael Rose.
Before recording Lion’s Way lead vocalist Gregory G. Ras spent some time in Jamaica meeting artists and making connections. And on this twelve track set they are joined by two Jamaican singers – Micah Shemaiah and Derajah. On board is also UK two of UK’s hardest deejays – Dark Angel and Blackout JA.
Lion’s Way is contemporary European one drop adding a few dancehall efforts, of which one – Badmind – is a clever version of the catchy Ali Baba riddim, made immortal by John Holt in the early 70s.
This album is my first encounter with Riddim Colony and Lion’s Way is intriguing enough to have me checking out their back catalogue. I do however hope that their previous sets includes a proper brass section rather than using synthesized horns.
Acclaimed Australian producer, mixing engineer and keyboardist Mista Savona is on a mission. He aims to bring about 30 Jamaican and Cuban musicians together in the recording studio for the first time ever.
Key Jamaican and Cuban artists already confirmed for this landmark project include Sly & Robbie, members of Buena Vista Social Club, Leroy Sibbles of The Heptones, Prince Alla and Randy Valentine.
But Mista Savona and his team need financial support to make this historical new project come true. They have secured support from the Australia Council to help with recording costs in Cuba and Australia. They now need assistance with international travel costs, studio and equipment hire, engineer and artist fees, legal expenses and permits for our artists and film crew.
The team has a Kickstarter goal of $20,000 AUD, and they have already received a little more than $16,000 AUD. Less than $4,000 AUD is therefore needed to reach the goal. If they exceed the target additional funds will be used to record more high profile artists, including Damian Marley, Mos Def, Busy Signal, Chronixx, Tanya Stephens and Tarrus Riley.
This project is a journey to unite the music of Jamaica and Cuba. It will fire up a melting pot of traditional and contemporary Cuban and Jamaican music, and intends to explore and develop new styles and sounds showcasing the best of each island’s musical heritage.
The international artists will come together to record at Havana’s Egrem studios in Cuba. Over the course of eight days the musicians will collaborate, compose and improvise together to create a full length album.
Learn more about the project and how to contribute here.
For years have passed since Dutch singer Joggo dropped his excellent debut album Modern Rockers Vol. 1 and now it’s time for its follow-up. And one would guess it would be called Modern Rockers Vol. 2. But no. It’s called Conscious Love and sounds similar to its predecessor.
Conscious Love is produced by Joggo himself along with Reggaeland, Tanntrum Band & Michael Fletcher and Asher E from Black Star Foundation. Manu Genius – formerly one part of acclaimed and successful production duo Not Easy At All – has mixed and mastered the album. His standard is always well above par, and this album is no exception.
This 17 track set offers uplifting and positive contemporary roots with live instrumentation, including some breezy horns. Highlights include the festive Private Performer, the slow Can’t Breathe and the pulsating Come Down.
Definitely another strong reggae album to come out of Europe.
French singer Christophe Rigaud dropped his debut EP See the River in late 2012 and now he and his band The High Reeds have put out a first full-length set.
But in-between these two musical efforts Christophe Rigaud visited Jamaica to learn about the roots of reggae. For several days he travelled the island with a guitar in his hand, improvising performances and visiting artists and studios.
Upon his return to France he teamed with his three fellow musicians to record Sounds of Life, a 14 track set dedicated to the celebration of life. It’s a seductive, organic and meditative reggae album with influences ranging from soul to jazz and blues.
And even though Christophe Rigaud touches difficult subjects like armed conflicts, politics and religion it all sounds so gentle, partly thanks to smooth rhythms, partly because of his delicate singing.
Sounds of Life isn’t the deep roots or blazing digital reggae that usually comes from France. This is something different. Slicker and more down to earth.
Sometimes I don’t understand how the entertainment industry works. Labels hate all the issues surrounding pirating, but they often create these problems themselves. For example roots reggae quintet Morgan Heritage and their latest album Strictly Roots. It was released in the U.S. a while ago and has already reached number 1 on the U.S. iTunes Reggae Chart.
At the same time it’s not available in for example Europe. You can read all about the album on various global news outlets, but if you live in Europe you can’t buy it or stream it. Enter pirates and several illegal platforms. I have a feeling the different release dates are because of marketing, but to avoid the pirate issue, it should probably have been a better idea to release it across the world and do promotion afterwards. Just a thought.
Anyhow, even though Strictly Roots isn’t available in Europe and other parts of the world yet, I’ll still write a review because the music industry is a global phenomenon and I’m in a position to receive promotional copies in advance.
Strictly Roots is Morgan Heritage’s first album on their own label CTBC Music Group. These five siblings have for this new effort teamed up with a variety of producers and guest artists for an eclectic mix of rootsy reggae, R&B, dubstep, ska, pop, dancehall and electro. It for example features heavyweight co-producers like Seani B, Shane C. Brown, Jason “J-Vibe” Farmer, DJ Frass and Bost & Bim along with vocalists like Shaggy, Jo Mersa Marley, Chronixx and Jemere Morgan.
The initial three singles off the album – Perform and Done, Wanna Be Loved and So Amazing – are telling of how the album sound – catchy, easy-going and lightweight with infectious choruses.
Morgan Heritage have never been any strangers to the slick and glossy. And Strictly Roots is classic Morgan Heritage. But don’t get fooled by the title. This album is definitely not strictly roots.
Strictly Roots drops in Europe on June 15.
In late June premier UK reissue label Pressure Sounds unleashes yet another compilation with Bunny Lee produced material.
This 19 track set (17 on the vinyl version) collects a mix of alternate takes on a number of well-known tracks along with dub plates and few “overlooked” gems. Artists represented on Next Cut are, among others, Johnny Clarke, Tommy McCook and Cornell Campbell.
A 10” with four previously unreleased dub versions, produced by Bunny Lee, will accompany the release.
From Muti Music now comes a fifth remix EP from Sizzla’s stunning and critically acclaimed album Born a King, a set produced by forward-thinking Australian multi-instrumentalist and producer Mista Savona.
The forthcoming EP collects 13 different versions of Sizzla’s Cold War – eleven cuts of the original track and one version each from veteran singer Prince Alla and gruff dancehall deejay Bugle.
It kicks off with the original six minute+ original version followed by an acoustic version along with the cuts from Prince Alla and Bugle. From there on there’s an bass boosting extravaganza created by Mista Savona himself along with Empress Shema, Om Unit, Mat the Alien, HNGVR, Sukh Knight and 3rdeye.
These mostly dance music oriented producers push the concept of bass heavy music forward experimenting with dubstep, drum & bass, dancehall, jungle, steppers and reggae. Fresh new sounds with an edge. Check the EP on June 1.
In late March UK roots outfit Zion Train dropped their Land of the Blind album and now comes a third riddim release from that set. Just Say EP comes with four tracks – three vocal cuts and one dub version.
On board this driving one riddim EP is the legendary Horace Andy alongside deejays Fitta Warri and Longfingah. The dub version of Horace Andy’s Just Say Who is courtesy of Italy’s Almamegretta.
Just Say EP drops on May 19.