Tiken Jah Fakoly covers classic reggae on Racines

1443178659_racinesSince Alpha Blondy has increasingly moved towards rock and pop music, Ivorian reggae star Tiken Jah Fakoly is Africa’s king of reggae. At least if you ask me.

On his new album Racines – Roots in English – he travels back to his roots and covers some of the songs he danced to as a youth. He has re-shaped eleven mostly classic reggae joints, cuts originally voiced by reggae luminaries such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Max Romeo, Burning Spear, Junior Byles, Buju Banton, Junior Murvin and Alpha Blondy.

To recreate their masterpieces he is joined by Ken Boothe, Max Romeo, U Roy and Jah9 on vocals along with Sly & Robbie as riddim section. The foundation of the album was recorded in Jamaica and it was later overdubbed in Mali adding traditional African instrumentation. The result is excellent and Tiken Jah Fakoly presents his own versions of these classics and gives them a new bright shining light.

According to the press release Tiken Jah Fakoly has previously not really allowed himself to record cover versions. And with this album he certainly pays a very personal homage to some of the artists and musicians that helped to create reggae. As Bob Marley once said, and quoted in the press release, “reggae will come back to Africa”.

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Rhythm-Ites solid Integration reissued

RHYTHMITES Packshot ARC274Another more or less never heard of UK reggae gem has been made available via Bristol Archive Records. Rhythm-Ites formed in the mid-80s in Bath and dropped their debut album Integration in 1989.

According to the band they were never really satisfied with the original mix, so the reissue of Integration is remixed using techniques of today. And it sounds solid with no attempts trying to make it sound like it was recorded in a more contemporary recording environment. It sounds like reggae did in 1989.

Integration is a serious roots album. It’s partly digital and up-tempo with songs dealing with everyday life in Britain in the late 80s. Stand out tracks include pulsating album opener Nation Integration, No Stopping We, with its militant horns, and the dark No Guns.

The original album only collected eight tracks and this reissue comes with two brand new exclusive dub versions, both sounding vintage with an 80s vibe.

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Beware – sweet sounds from Jr Thomas & The Volcanos

jr-thomas-the-volcanos-bewareU.S. singer Jr Thomas has together with The Volcanos dropped an absolutely astonishing debut album. Jr Thomas – bred on a diet of 60s and early 70s rocksteady and early reggae artists – has a passionate vocals and is no stranger to beautiful minor key melodies.

All 16 cuts on Beware echoes from a time when the Jamaican music scene was starting to take form. The album has a sound firmly based in the mid to late 60s, just when smooth and slick rocksteady was making way for the more up-tempo early reggae sounds. Producers like Phil Pratt, Bunny Lee and Leslie Kong would probably hear themselves in these songs.

The sound is warm and organic and it’s soulful to the bone with sizzling organs, picking guitar and infectious melodies.

Beware certainly pays respect to one of the best eras in the history of Jamaican music.

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Uplifting and positive on The Reggae Power 2

unnamedLegendary riddim duo Sly & Robbie have once again teamed up with Japanese reggae stars Spicy Chocolate for another slice of reggae power.

The line-up on The Reggae Power 2 is strong and diverse ranging from old and young reggae and dancehall singers like Richie Stephens, Maxi Priest, Romain Virgo, Beenie Man and Cherine Anderson to seven piece latin pop and rock band Ozomatli and Japanese dancehall artist Ayo Ayo.

One of the most hyped cuts featured is Skip Marley’s Life. He’s son of Cedella Marley, daughter of Bob Marley’s. It seems that each Marley is destined to be a singer and Life, which opens the collection, is a fine slice contemporary and uplifting reggae music.

The set is mostly a reggae venture, but a few dancehall joints are also included. They are however far less tasty than the reggae cuts, and TOK’s soca/dancehall/pop/house fusion Feel So High could have been left out.

Best of the bunch is easily Loyal Flames‘ gritty and passionate Make It, with its infectious chorus, and Richie Spice’s Lay Back, on which he urges people living in developing countries to change their attitude – “can’t lay back, laid back, laid back is gonna hold you back, slow go, slow go, slow go gonna spoil your show, say you live in a third world country, but you want to be a first world country, you got to learn how to accept changes, so we can move from stages to stages, one track mind just won’t work.”

Another highlight is Ozomatli’s insanely catchy and ridiculously positive Affinity with its bright horns and loud backing vocals. In attitude it’s slightly similar to John Holt’s Reggae from the Ghetto.

The first instalment of The Reggae Power was nominated for a Grammy, and the odds for another nomination is probably pretty low.

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Vibronics return with another earth-shaking set

The-Return-Of-VIBRONICSUK roots outfit Vibronics return with another no-nonsense roots and dub album collecting twelve brand new tracks – six vocal cuts and six dub versions. This time they have teamed up with legendary vocalists Michael Prophet and Macka B alongside more contemporary talents like Soom T, Danman, Madu Messenger and I-Mitri.

The Return of Vibronics is militant with intense energy. As usual with Vibronics one might add. The vocal cuts are haunting, dark and dread and the dub versions are crammed to capacity with bass heavy sound system flavour.

This is UK bass music culture of the highest order. Sometimes almost diabolical, like North & South, and sometimes a bit brighter, like Heartbeat, even though it has an apocalyptic bass line.

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What about the verse?

Choruses usually get all the credit in a song. It’s often catchy and infectious and easy to like. But what about the verses? They are certainly more than just a highway to the chorus.

My favourite verses at the moment are from two of the main proponents of the Jamaican reggae revival. I’m talking about Chronixx and Jesse Royal.

It’s not often Chronixx voices a one riddim track compilation, but he is featured on On the Corner riddim. I guess when you get a call from Damian Marley you won’t let the man down. All cuts voiced are superb, but Chronixx’ Ghetto People stands out slightly above the others, partly thanks to the second verse where Chronixx lets loose his slick and unique singjay mode. Listen below at 1,07 minutes into the song.

Jesse Royal murders every time he stands in front of a microphone and his combination with Protoje and Sevana is no exception. He is stylistically superior and his verse on Sudden Flight is murderously slick. He rides the riddim like a surfer riding a wave. Listen below at 1,59 minutes into the song.

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Gussie Clarke revolutionized Jamaican music

576a5b1f56Few producers can claim to have created their own sound. One who can is however Jamaican music giant Augustus “Gussie” Clarke, who during his long career has created a number game-changers, including Gregory Isaacs’ monster smash Rumors and Big Youth’s superb debut album Screaming Target and its dreader than dread title track.

Augustus Clarke has for many years been a behind the scenes figure and his output in the 70s and 80s has cried to be reissued. And luckily reggae giant VP took their responsibility as a powerhouse last year and put out two excellent compilations – Augustus Pablo’s Born to Dub You and Augustus Clarke’s The Right Tracks.

Now comes another stellar compilation from VP with Augustus Clarke material. From the Foundation follows the brilliant King Jammy compilation Roots, Reality & Sleng Teng. Both sets come with three discs – two CDs and one DVD – and chronologically cover their careers.

And with such as presentation of cuts you can easily follow the development of reggae from the 70s up until today. It’s a fascinating journey jam-packed with rare tracks, golden classics and best-sellers.

Augustus Clarke was instrumental in advancing several artists careers. One of the most successful artists he worked with was Shabba Ranks’ and together they recorded a number of big hits, including Mr. Lover Man, with Deborahe Glasgow, and Twice My Age with Krystal, both included on this magnificent set.

Augustus Clarke helped to revolutionize Jamaican music and that’s clearly showcased on From the Foundation.

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The power of the rhythm showcased on Randy’s Dub

lp-clive-chin-presents-randy-s-dub-impact-all-starsLee Perry, King Tubby, Scientist and King Jammy are the producers and engineers most often associated with dub, but there are of course other musicians – sometimes overlooked in the course of reggae history – that helped to create, develop and vitalize the genre.

Clive Chin is one of those people. He is probably best known for producing Augustus Pablo’s immortal and much versioned Java as well as being the mastermind behind Java Java Java Java, one of the first dub albums ever released.

But he was also responsible for another legendary dub album – Randy’s Dub. It was originally released in 1975, but less than 200 copies were pressed. It was one of those holy grails until Blood & Fire reissued it in 1998 as Forward the Bass (Dub From Randy’s 1972-1975) with six bonus cuts.

The original version with ten tracks has now been reissued by the heroes over at France’s Onlyroots Records. This edition comes with its original cover sleeve and collects ten tracks produced Clive Chin and mixed by Karl Pitterson. The Wailers and Skin, Flesh & Bones Band are responsible for the rhythms and they are certainly in full swing on this set.

Randy’s Dub collects dub versions of a few instrumentals as well as vocal cuts by the likes of Carlos Malcolm, Sweeny and Winston Morris, who later renamed himself Tony Tuff. The set is rather conservatively mixed and Karl Pitterson hasn’t drenched the cuts with the usual dub wizardry using delay, reverb and sound effects.

The superb rhythms are stripped with added bass and occasional vocal snippets dropping in and out of the mix. Sometimes less is more.

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Sophistication galore on Bitty McLean’s Heart, Mind & Soul

R-7081757-1433611061-1166.jpegUK’s number one crooner Bitty McLean is back with yet another solid collaboration with Sly & Robbie. Heart, Mind & Soul EP follows the beautiful The Taxi Sessions released two years ago.

This fresh new EP is presently only available on vinyl, which also comes with a CD, and collects six tracks of which four are previously unreleased. Anything and Everything is available on Sly & Robbie & Spicy Chocolate’s The Reggae Power and In and Out of Love was also featured on The Taxi Sessions.

Heart, Mind & Soul continues where The Taxi Sessions left off. Bitty McLean sings his heart out over vintage Sly & Robbie riddims, originally laid at Channel One by the Hookim brothers. His voice is as elegant as ever and the bass and drums are rock solid and completed by smooth horns.

Bitty McLean has a great presence in his performance and it’s easy to imagine him singing in a small club, walking effortlessly around the floor singing genuine love songs for all the lovers and couples out there.

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The atmospheric world of Blundetto

1429278700_world-of-blundettoRadio jockey and producer Blundetto has dropped a new album, an unusual and unique set full of sonic surprises and imaginative arrangements and instruments.

It presents a cocktail of low-key instrumental tracks and laid-back vocal cuts featuring talents such as Biga Ranx, Jahdan Blakkamoore, Marina P, John Milk and Pupa Jim.

World of is melancholic, earthly and atmospheric. Sometimes it leans towards electro lounge music and sometimes it’s more reggae-oriented, like Biga Ranx’ airy Above the Water, Marina P’s elegant Last Broken Bones, a track custom-made for a blunted jazz club in Paris, or Jahdan Blakkamoore’s stylish Work.

This set is not your ordinary reggae album and Blundetto is not afraid of thinking out of the box.

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