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.
So, it was a beautiful Saturday morning and I was having a coffee while writing a record review. When the piece was finished my hard-drive crashed. The story was written in Office Word and I didn’t save. Why? I don’t know. I should have. I know. But I didn’t. End of story.
So to make a long story short – here’s a brief and less informative review, but it will still hopefully whet the appetite for yet another solid scorcher from UK’s Hot Milk Records.
Jamaican singer-turned-producer Linval Thompson released his material via a variety of labels, but saved his hardest pieces for his own Strong Like Sampson label, an imprint active between 1979 and 1980.
And for the first time his productions on that particular label have been compiled and reissued. We are talking about 18 tracks on two discs. 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.
And singers and deejays like Barrington Levy, Anthony Johnson, Rod Taylor, Sammy Dread and Papa Tullo take it directly from the grim streets of Kingston. Their lyrics are a reality check on police brutality and oppression.
All vocal cuts come with its dub or deejay version. And the material collected on Strong Like Sampson brims with dread echoes and streetwise energy.
Jamaican vocal harmony group Tetrack is one of many outfits and artists that never really reached the success they rightfully deserved back in the days. At the time competition was fierce and many labels lacked financial funds for marketing.
Gladly several albums that were overlooked at the time of release have been reissued at one time or another. And now France’s Only Roots has the done right thing by releasing Tetrack’s debut album Let’s Get Started, a set produced by the legendary Augustus Pablo and originally issued in 1980 on the Message label.
Tetrack was a trio consisting of childhood friends Dave Harvey, Paul Mangaroo and Carlton Hines, Carlton Hines also being gifted songwriter for other artists, including Gregory Isaacs, John Holt and Dennis Brown.
They started singing together in the early 70s and were introduced to Augustus Pablo a few years later. And their album together is superb roots with close harmonizing. Just listen to the beautiful and melancholic Look Within Yourself.
For me dread and ethereal rhythms produced by Augustus Pablo paired with sweet harmonies are a perfect match. And Let’s Get Started is one of the many overlooked and unknown classics in the history of reggae.
Hot Milk Records has done the world a great favour by reissuing one of the hardest and most uncompromising reggae albums ever released. Mr. Spaulding recorded his only album Twelve Tribe of Israel at the age of 19 and it was released in scarce quantities in 1983.
This album is a unique take on reggae with an almost ridiculous emphasis on drum and bass with just a hint of guitar and organ. It’s sparse and naked with Mr. Spaulding’s youthful crying on top of deep early dancehall riddims.
But deep doesn’t half describe these riddims. 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.
This set is however more than just the original album. This is anthology style and the two disc set covers Mr. Spaulding’s career from the early 80s up until the early 90s. It comes with a hefty 33 tracks and it’s a veritable version extravaganza with its many dub versions, instrumentals and 12” mixes.
This is the first time any material from this unknown singer has been reissued and the album covers almost everything the man recorded. And this album is not a crowd-pleaser in any way.
Swedish record collector and selector Joakim Kalcidis – who lent his unplayed version of the original album for this reissue – told me that he had played this album for a friend replying that it didn’t sound finished. It was just drum and bass. Well, it is. And that’s the beauty of it.
Pierpoljak is one of the most successful French reggae artists. He dropped his debut album in the mid-90s and has managed to sell both platinum and gold. Over the years he has made many trips to Jamaica to explore culture and music. And his new album Général Indigo got its title from an incident during a visit.
According to a press release Pierpoljak was in a parking lot in Kingston, smoking weed and waiting for a friend when a security guard turned up. They argued, but soon made friends, and the security guard christened him General Indigo because of Pierpoljak’s blue eyes.
Général Indigo is his tenth album and to have creative freedom Pierpoljak established his own label Garvey Drive. It collects twelve tracks recorded in Paris together with some of the most talented reggae musicians from France, including Bost & Bim, Manudigital, Kubix and TnT.
This is warm, emoitional and melancholic roots reggae with the usual messages of freedom, love and unity. But Pierpoljak also get personal on a few cuts. On Papa Du Week-End he sings about parenting and child care, on Keep On Dada – on which he also gets into Burning Spear mode – he criticises the social security system and on Puta Vida Loca he tells the story of a Parisian drifter.
The French reggae is one of the hottest in Europe and both veterans and newcomers are putting out excellent roots, dancehall and dub. And after more than 20 years in the industry Pierpoljak still manages to sound relevant.
Following two remix EP’s comes a new one artist album from the Mungo’s Hi-Fi camp. This time it’s a collaboration with an up and coming youth – Charlie P. He first introduced himself to the collective five years ago at a show in Glasgow and they have since spent many recording sessions together and also toured across the globe.
You See Me Star is a result of the long collaboration and the ten track album brings together a variety of styles for the digital age – from roots and dancehall to more contemporary bass heavy music.
Mungo’s Hi-Fi has your years championed the sound system style and been fore runners in the evolution and revolution of reggae, dub and dancehall. They have successfully merged these styles into a modern cocktail fueled by an extreme amount of bass.
On You See Me Star Charlie P sings and showcases his tongue twisting techniques over digital and wobbling bass boosted originals and relicks. He tells stories from sound system dances, and particularly tasty is album opener and title track, a cut about rising in the sound system hierarchy.
You See Me Star is adventurous and fresh rub-a-dub for the 21st century
After an EP and few strong mash-ups French reggae beatmaking duo L’Entourloop – The Architect and Deej’o – is back with a colorful debut album – Chickens in Your Town.
This set combines reggae with razor-sharp beats, clever samples and roaring vocal collaborations with a roster of reggae and hip-hop artists from around the globe; ranging from Jamaica and the U.S. to the UK, Austria, France and Senegal.
The tight relationship between reggae and hip-hop go way back and the two genres have over the years been successfully combined by several artists and producers. And one of the most recent additions is Protoje’s acclaimed third album Ancient Future, an effort that successfully combined reggae with hip-hop creating a smashing soundscape.
There are no rules allowed on Chickens in Your Town. Anything goes as long as it’s positive and uplifting. This makes Chickens in Your Town a playful and creative album. It boils with unexpected influences.
It will probably heat up any dance floor with its multi-layered sound, sweaty grooves and electrifying beats. Definitely a certified head-nodder.