Ska, rocksteady and reggae have since their earliest days been heavily influenced by U.S. R&B, jazz, soul and funk, which has been showcased on several albums and compilations over the years.
And a fresh set from Japan’s Dub Store Records spotlights these influences again. On Reggae, Funk & Soul 1969-1975 20 gems produced by singer-turned-producer Derrick Harriott are highlighted. It’s a tasty mix of originals and cover versions, both instrumental and vocal cuts played and sung by some of Jamaica’s finest talents, including I Roy, Karl Bryan, Junior Murvin as well as Derrick Harriott himself along with his house band The Crystalites.
Derrick Harriott interprets both the music of American black consciousness as well as romance and affairs of the hearts. There’s also room for a few novelty tunes inspired by spaghetti westerns and composers like Sergio Leone.
It’s a diverse and sophisticated collection with superb cuts like Chosen Few’s version of Billy Paul’s Am I Black Enough For You, Bongo Herman’s Hail I, Crystal Generation’s funky, and slightly psychedelic, Hell Below, and The Kingstonians’ beautiful Right From Wrong, the only cut that’s previously unreleased.
File next to superb compilations like Darker Than Blue: Soul From Jamdown 1973-1980 and Studio One Soul 1 & 2.
In early 2017 legendary Jamaican roots singer Pablo Moses is expected to drop his first new studio album in seven years. And to increase interest in this singer a new best of album has recently been put out.
The Revolutionary Years 1975-1983 includes three cuts each from Pablo Moses’ first four albums Revolutionary Dream (1975), A Song (1980), Pave the Way (1981) and In the Future (1983). The first two albums are bona-fide masterpieces, but the quality drops slightly from there on.
Pablo Moses has a unique voice. It’s peaceful, high and cool and clashes nicely with his revolutionary and conscious words. The production on his first three albums were handled by Geoffrey Chung and his style is – much like Pablo Moses singing – slick and cool as ice.
There is hardly a dull moment on this disc. Yet I wonder why hit songs like I Man a Grasshopper and We Should Be in Angola – taken from his debut album – are not included. An oddity like the title track from In the Future could also have been left out.
But a cut like the militant Ready, Aim, Fire, or beautiful songs like Sister and A Song, certainly make up for those minor flaws. Get ready to (re)-discover Pablo Moses.
Forward-thinking Scottish outfit Mungo’s Hi Fi has put out their first compilation featuring some of the key musicians and producers that have influenced them. And it’s a bass heavy bunch of people working out of Europe.
Puffer’s Choice comes with material that has previously appeared on singles along with in-demand dubplates played in dances and a few brand new cuts.
Prince Fatty kicks things off with a chilling and atmospheric version of Kraftwerk’s The Model – with an uncredited vocalist sounding a lot like Hollie Cook – and from then and there it’s a ground-shaking journey with wobbling bass lines, smattering drums and lethal chatting from Danny T, Parly B, Solo Banton, Daddy Freddy, Macka B and Mr. Williamz along with a few more.
A flavorful compilation for those aiming to annoy neighbors.
After the Roots, Reality & Sleng Teng anthology and the Alborosie combination album Dub of Thrones come a new King Jammy album on reggae powerhouse VP. New Sounds of Freedom is a re-working of Black Uhuru’s seminal debut album Love Crisis aka Black Sounds of Freedom, a set produced by King Jammy and originally released in 1977 and reissued four years later.
This ten track set features an array of vintage and contemporary singers and deejays. It’s something like a crème de la crème. Alborosie, Dre Island, Chronixx, Tony Rebel, Bounty Killer, Gentleman, Kabaka Pyramid, U Roy, Shaggy, Beenie Man and Louie Culture all wanted to work with this game-changing producer, whose career spans something like a half-century.
The first single off the album – Chronixx’ version of I Love King Selassie – was actually released several years ago and was for a while only available on 7”. Not sure if an album was intended, but obviously King Jammy felt something special and recorded new vocals and new lyrics over the vintage riddims, often keeping parts of the original vocals from Michael Rose on the new cuts.
The original set is a timeless masterpiece and as noted in a review a few months ago it’s hard to mess with perfection. But even though none of the new versions outshine the originals, New Sounds of Freedom can hopefully help a new generation of reggae aficionados to discover a bona-fide classic.
Following two epic rocksteady compilations showcasing Derrick Harriott comes a set spotlighting a somewhat lesser known producer – Ken Khouri and his Federal Records.
Ken Khouri was a talented entrepreneur and started in the music business in the mid-50s. He opened the first record manufacturing plant in Jamaica and his studio helped to create ska, rocksteady and reggae.
Ken Khouri is not as well-known as some of his peers – including Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid – but his output was superb as showcased on Merritone Rock Steady 1: Shanty Town Curfew 1966-1967, a set collecting a hefty 21 tracks ranging from frenzied ska to the softer rocksteady.
It features a selection of vocal cuts and instrumentals and some are probably well-known, but most are – at least to this writer – new. And as usual with Japan’s Dub Store Records the audio quality is superb and most of the tracks are sourced from their master tape.
Highlights include two scorching cuts from The Tartans – Dance All Night and What Can I Do. The tracks are quite similar with a frenetic piano setting the tone. When this quartet split up three of the singers – Prince Lincoln Thompson, Cedric Myton and Devon Russell – would pursue international careers as both solo artists and as part of The Royal Rasses and The Congos.
The extensive liner notes feature extracts from extensive interviews with Paul Khouri whose knowledgeable recollections of working with Federal Records, not only as a producer but as an engineer and musician, are enlightening and educational.
The second volume of this superb compilation is released on October 28.
La Rue Raisonne is French nine-piece outfit Danakil’s fifth studio album since they started back in 2001. The first single off the album is 32 mars and it’s a groovy effort, while the second single Back Again is harder and darker with grim horn parts.
The album was recorded with analogue techniques and has a rough and organic feel to it with hard-hitting drums and bass lines, at times complemented by the use of dub wizardry.
It’s an album with tracks mostly sung in their native-tongue. But melodies and moods transcends langues and borders. And it’s a frustrated and angry album with a dense sonic landscape. You can almost touch the frustration on a track like J’attends le jour [I Await the Day].
Danakil has previously worked with a number of reggae royalties, including Jah Mason, Twinkle Brothers and Mighty Diamonds. For the closing track on La Rue Raisonne they have invited a big number of artists from around the world to join them, and World of Reggae Music features Natty Jean, Flavia Coelho, Yaniss Odua, Anthony B, Volodia, Josh from The Skints, Nattali Rize and Brahim. Quite a line-up.
An uncompromising album summing up moods that many people around the world feel today.
Five years ago Jamaican rapper and singjay Kabaka Pyramid dropped his debut EP Rebel Music through his own label Bebble Rock. Since then Kabaka Pyramid has continued to release solid material and has also toured the world.
But he has also had the time to work with, and develop, new talents. Koro Fyah is one such. He is signed to Bebble Rock and has released the strong singles New Day and Eyes Red. Both for free.
And now it’s time for his debut EP Rough Diamond. It’s released via Bebble Rock and is – of course – available for free via Soundcloud. A number of different producers and mixing engineers from Jamaica and Europe have been involved in the project, including Kabaka Pyramid, Natural High Music, Genis Trani and Loud City Music.
The set comes with eight cuts, including the two previously released singles. It’s a mostly a conscious effort with riddims and beats retrieved from both reggae and hip-hop. Much like how material from Kabaka Pyramid sounds. And he also turns up on the best cut – the anthemic Red, Green and Gold. A superb song with pounding drums and a rolling bass line complemented by dubby sound effects and a scorching synthesizer.
Koro Fyah is one of several artists the has sprung out of the Reggae Revival moment and he can be filed next to Kabaka Pyramid, Chronixx, Jesse Royal and Protoje.
Highly popular French band Dub Inc. is the epitome of an independent band. They produce their own albums and they record their own material at their own studio.
On their recently released sixth studio album So What they continue in the same vein as before. Two vocalists trading places in front of the microphone singing socio-political lyrics in at least three different languages over explosive beats and rhythms.
So What is jam-packed with energy and it is no wonder why Dub Inc. is described as a superb live act. Their fusion of rock and roots reggae sounds custom-made for major festivals and larger arenas.
On So What their take on reggae is fused with Lation, the title track, Middle Eastern influences, Maché bécif, dancehall, Fêlés, and hip-hop, the Naâman combination Don’t Be A Victim.
Best of the bunch is however the pounding No Matter Where You Come From with its bulldozing bass line and blazing horn blasts.
Their career is now spanning almost two decades and with So What they show no signs of slowing down.
UK band Resonators is back after a four-year long hiatus. The two singles – Imaginary People and Healer – off the new album have been championed by the one and only David Rodigan.
Imaginary People is their third album and it collects slow and soothing meditative roots with ethereal backing vocals and rumbling bass lines, including the bulldozing Come Through. Two lead vocalists trading places in front of the microphone along with lots of psychedelic dub effects also provide plenty of diversity to the nine sonorous cuts.
Can’t say I had heard much about Resonators up until this year when the two singles were released, but they can easily be filed next to bright shining vintage-sounding UK acts like Soothsayers and King Solomon.
A while ago Japan’s Dub Store Records reissued Two Big Bull In A One Pen, a devastating King Kong and Red Rose combination set produced by King Tubby and originally released via his Firehouse imprint in the mid-80s.
And now comes the reissue of its dub counterpart – Two Big Bull In A One Pen Dubwise. It has previously been available on digital platforms, but is now also widely available on both CD and vinyl.
This is early digital dancehall dubs of the highest caliber where King Tubby’s two young protégés Peego and Fatman turn knob, push buttons and blow fuses. They have deconstructed this classic album into a digital scorcher with no sign of neither Red Rose or King Kong. It’s completely free from vocal snippets.
Instead the musicians are highlighted. Especially the superb guitar work. Listen to the superb deconstructions of Riddle Me This, Don’t Touch Me Choo Choo and Monkey Sample. Excellent stuff.