Sweet dub treatments Oneness in Dub

UmberoEcho_OnenessInDubFollowing the compilation Oneness Records – Ten Years comes a dub album dedicated to the recordings coming from Oneness Records. Oneness in Dub is mixed by producer and engineer Umberto Echo and he tackles great tracks from a wide range of artists, including Mark Wonder, Junior Kelly, Sara Lugo, Luciano and Morgan Heritage.

These dubs pay much respect to the original recordings, which are sweet and melodic. And the dubs are mixed in the same style. Nothing on this fine set is hard or rough. It’s a dub album for the beach rather than the dancehall. There are exceptions though. As always. Morgan Heritage’s Modern Man is one such, Ras Muhamad’s Leluhur Dub is another.

Best of the bunch is however the meditative Energy Dub, originally recorded by Runkus and featured on his superb EP Move In.

A solid dub album from one of Europe’s greatest engineers and from one of Europe’s best labels.

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Mellow and meditative on G.T. Moore’s The Harry J Sessions

g.t.-moore-the-harry-j-sessions-partial-lp-82159-1-p[ekm]439x439[ekm]Singer and guitar player G.T. Moore has been in the reggae business since the early 70s when he formed his band G.T. Moore & The Reggae Guitars. He has recently discovered a bunch of tracks he recorded in 1980 at Harry J in Kingston, Jamaica, while working with Lee “Scratch” Perry. These cuts have now been released on the excellent album The Harry J Sessions.

The set collects eight tracks – four vocals and four dub versions. Only one of these – the superb album opener Utopia – has been previously released. All tracks have now been given a mixing treatment courtesy of Dougie Wardrop from Conscious Sounds.

All recordings carry a meditative vibe and the horns on Utopia and its dub version Reformation Dub are spellbinding to say the least. Jerusalem, and its dub counterpart Temple Mount Dub, comes with a mesmerizing guitar and an ethereal melodica.

The bass lines on Harry J Sessions are lethal and especially the one carried out on Turn the Wheel Dub. This one gives a new meaning to the word hypnotic.

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Hollie Cook’s superb third album

1UK singer Hollie Cook has returned with her third studio album Vessel of Love, the follow-up to her two critical acclaimed albums Twice and Hollie Cook. On this new set she has changed both producer and label and moved from Prince Fatty and Mr. Bongo to Martin “Youth” Glover and Merge Records.

Merge Records is a renowned U.S. indie label known for rock acts like Superchunk, Bob Mould and Shout Out Louds. Martin Glover from rock band Killing Joke has previously worked with acts like Guns N’ Roses, The Verve and U2. But fear not. Hollie Cook’s sound is certainly intact and just as dreamy and featherlight as before.

Hollie Cook has managed to create her very own brand of lovers rock. She calls it tropical pop. An appropriate description. The arrangements on Vessel of Love – with strings, horns and various sound effects – are just amazing and the hypnotic ethereal sonic landscape bends both space and time.

The four singles off the album – Stay Alive, Angel Fire, Freefalling and Survive – are together with the breezy and summery title track among the best cuts on the album and probably some of Hollie Cook’s best recordings yet. Especially the pulsating and vibrant Stay Alive with its squeaking organ, mean bass line and melancholic melody.

Hollie Cook has a vision for her sound and together with Martin Glover she has managed to take it to another level.

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25 hot shots of reggae

HOT-SHOTS-OF-REGGAEOne of my all-time favorite compilations on Trojan Records was reissued late last year. Hot Shots of Reggae originally came with 12 slices of early stomping reggae produced by the late and great Leslie Kong.

This new release from Cherry Red’s subsidiary Doctor Bird includes a hefty 13 bonus cuts, including the great Gimme Gimme Gal (Banana Water) from The Mellotones.

Hot Shots of Reggae has never been reissued before and showcases some of Leslie Kongs most popular recordings, including hits like Ken Boothe’s Freedom Street, The Melodians’ Sweet Sensation and The Maytals’ Monkey Man. But the real treat on this album is The Gaylads’ glorious There’s a Fire, probably one of their best cuts ever.

The music on this compilation is just as striking as its sleeve.

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Rootsy second album from Exco Levi

Exco-Levi-NarrativeCanadian singjay Exco Levi returned late last year with his second album Narrative, a set following the Donovan Germain-produced Country Man, released in 2015.

Narrative is released via Germany’s Silly Walks Discotheque, a label responsible for two of Exco Levi’s biggest hits to date – Jah Nah Sleep and Storms of Life. The album includes however other producers as well, for example Irievibrations, Raging Fyah and Penthouse Records.

This second album is more cohesive than its predecessor, even though a few different producers have been involved. Many of the cuts are infectious with catchy hooks and memorable melodies and references. The observant might notice the reference to Black Uhuru’s Party in Session on the upbeat Feel Like Dancing, and Don’t Cry leans towards Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry.

Best of the bunch is however the potent Wise Man with its steady beat and breezy horns along with the melancholic Frontline Soldier. Sizzla is also in great shape on the massive combination Burn.

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Top ten reggae album reissues in 2017

The third and last top list in 2017 collects best reggae album reissues. As usual the list includes albums from reissue giants Pressure Sounds and Soul Jazz, but this year adds releases from German based label Cree, France’s Patate and the newly revitalized Studio One label, which has a fruitful partnership with Yep Roc Music Group.

The list below is presented in no particular order and if you’re curious about the albums make sure to check my Spotify playlist with four sets. Download the playlist here. Enjoy!

Artist – title
Various – Black Man’s Pride
A collection of deep heavyweight reggae featuring Horace Andy, Alton Ellis, The Gladiators, Sugar Minott, The Heptones, Freddie McGregor, Cedric Brooks and more.

Various – Studio One Supreme – Maximum 70s And 80s Early Dancehall Sounds
Comes with classics and lesser-known gems from some of Jamaica’s finest artists.

Freddie McKay – Picture On the Wall
Freddie McKay has never got the recognition he deserves. He is for sure one of Jamaica’s finest singers of all time. Listen to this set and you’ll understand why.

Lloyd Parks – Time a Go Dread
This hefty set comes with 22 track, including Slaving and its version. And the remaining 20 cuts are just as great and demonstrate Lloyd Parks’ gift for writing socially conscious lyrics and catchy melodies.

Various – Sly & Robbie Present Taxi Gang In Discomix Style 1978-87
Draws recordings from Sly & Robbie’s Taxi label and showcases a very special blend of reggae and U.S. soul and R&B. Included are covers of a number of classics.

Various – The #1 Sound: From The Vaults Vol. 1
An 18 track bonanza of rare Studio One sides featuring both the label’s top hit makers as well as some of its more obscure artists. Includes recordings from the late 60s to the early 1980s.

Various – Doing Our Thing: More Soul From Jamdown 1970-82
The follow-up to Taxi Gang in Discomix Style and collects another set of Jamaican cover versions of U.S. soul and R&B tunes.

Early B – Ghost Busters
Killer deejay album originally released in 1985 that has cried to be reissued.

Lloyd Parks & We The People – Meet The People
Excellent roots album from bass man Lloyd Parks and his band We the People Band.

Horace Andy – Good Vibes
Collection of discomix singles from the 70s originally released on Blood & Fire and now reissued by VP Records. Excellent versions of Horace Andy classics, including the mighty Skylarking.

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Top 30 reggae songs in 2017

The second top list in 2017 collects best reggae songs and the year has been pretty strong, especially the first six months. As usual the list collects both rising hopefuls and veterans. Most artists are from the Caribbean, but a few are from Europe and the U.S.

Glad that Jamaican falsetto singer Courtney John is back as a solo singer and his Yes We Are is a beautiful slice of mellow reggae. Other noteworthy highlights include the ferocious combination of Sizzla, Capleton and Fantan Mojah on Monkey Marc’s No Surrender, Burro Banton’s brutal Nah Sell Out on a wicked relick on the Kunta Kinte riddim and two ethereal singles from Hollie Cook’s much anticipated third studio album slated for release early next year.

The best track of the year is however Priceless on Frenchie’s Skank & Rave riddim. It’s a delicious slice of infectious and bouncy dancehall delivered by Michie One, Louchie Lou, Ding Dong and Bravo.

The list is as usual presented in no particular order and the cuts included are only singles or tracks taken from compilations. If you are curious about the tunes you can download a Spotify playlist with all tracks. Download the Spotify playlist here and I hope you will enjoy the music as much as I do.

Artist – song title (riddim)
Treesha & Skarra Mucci – Love You Like 123 (Better Days)
Samory I – Rasta Nuh Gangsta
Tippa Lee – Salute the Veteran
Mista Savona & Solis & Randy Valentine – Carnival
Courtney John – Yes We Are
Jesse Royal – Hold the Faith (Reggae Fest)
RSNY – Wildfire (What to Do)
Lukie D – Lock Dem Down (Replay)
Lutan Fyah – Things Are Not the Same
Burro Banton – Nah Sell Out (Kunta Kinte)
Monkey Marc & Fantan Mojah & Capleton & Sizzla – No Surrender (No Surrender)
Damian Marley – Medication
Jesse Royal – Fyah Fyah (Real Life Story)
Michie One, Louchie Lou, Ding Dong & Bravo – Priceless (Skank & Rave)
Kabaka Pyramid – Can’t Breathe
Hollie Cook – Angel Fire
Mungo’s Hi Fi & Eva Lazarus – Amsterdam
RDX – Shake Your Bam Bam
Irie Souljah – Dreader Than Dread
Alborosie – Living Dread
Jesse Royal & Jo Mersa Marley – Generation
O.B.F & Sr. Wilson – Rub A Dub Mood
Eesah – Tell No Lie
Chevaughn, Ronaldo, Nerry, Mountain, Sherieta & Tammi T – Shine (Body & Soul)
Randy Valentine – Officer Barage (67)
Hollie Cook – Freefalling
Randy Valentine – Just In Time
Estelle & Tarrus Riley – Love Like Ours
Fyakin – Steamin
Koffee – Burning (Ouji)

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Top 20 reggae albums in 2017

It’s December and that means holiday and lists. Reggaemani will present top lists featuring albums, songs and reissues. And I kick things off with 20 albums that rocked my world in the past year.

The list below is diverse with several different countries, styles and genres represented. Included are artists from Jamaica, the U.S., France, Spain, Switzerland and the UK covering roots, dancehall, dub, ska, jazz and hip-hop.

The list below is presented in no particular order and if you’re curious about the albums make sure to check my Spotify playlist with 18 sets. Download the playlist here. Enjoy!

Artist – title
Mista Savona – Havana Meets Kingston
A historical musical meeting and the warm compositions bubble with energy and sincerity.

Ken Boothe – Inna de Yard
A heartfelt and genuine album produced with love and care for reggae music.

Randy Valentine – New Narrative
A personal album where Randy Valentine guides the listener through his life journey so far. It’s personal and intimate and throughout the set he conveys the power to manifest one’s own destiny and take responsibility for one’s own actions.

Red Foot & The Shades – Children’s Prayer
A dreamy, emotional and soothing masterpiece recorded and mixed with analogue equipment and powered by devout musical and spiritual perspectives.

Lee Perry & Subatomic Sound System – Super Ape Returns to Conquer
Classic album for a new generation of dub fans.

Jesse Royal – Lily of da Valley
Showcases Jesse Royal’s sparkling and versatile vocal delivery and sense for infectious melodies and hooks. It’s certainly a well-rounded debut offering a little something for everyone.

The Expanders – Old Time Something Come Back Again
A cover album that’s far from nostalgic. The Expanders put their signature mark on every track with vintage vibes and a vocal style reminiscent of reggae from the late 60s.

Mr. Williamz & Green Lion Crew – The General Comes to Town
Mr. Williamz’ flow is as usual flawless and the beats and riddims he rides are ultra-solid and rock-hard.

L’Entourloop – Le savoir faire
With Le savoir faire L’Entourloop has created a playful and clever album taking the very best from reggae, dancehall and hip-hop. A bona-fide head-nodder with less than zero dull moments.

Ras Zacharri & MNIB – Love Over Hate
Ras Zacharri’s warm and raspy voice suits these elegant, and sometimes militant, riddims and arrangements very well.

Lutan Fyah – Music Will Never Die
Comes with clever and detailed arrangements, infectious melodies and passionate and earnest performances from Lutan Fyah.

Stand High Patrol – The Shift
Stand High Patrol’s sound and Pupajim’s broken English might not be for everyone and The Shift is far from the reggae mainstream. But if you’re in the mood for jazz with a hip-hop and reggae twist, well, then this is the album for you.

Damian Marley – Stony Hill
A solid album, which would have been even better with 12 rather than 18 tracks.

Samory I – Black Gold
The riddims are majestic and the cuts often come with long instrumental parts. It’s a solid musical journey with Samory I’s heartfelt vocals and conscious lyrics on top of it all

Vin Morgan Meets Lone Ark – Give Thanks
Check the militancy of a cut like Can’t Complain Dub with its smattering percussion, haunting keys and fanfare like horns. Best of the bunch is however the bright and uplifting Gimme the Vibes.

Chronixx – Chronology
With Chronology Chronixx expands the roots reggae horizon and in a few years this album will rank as one of reggae’s landmark albums.

Mark Wonder – Dragon Slayer
His voice has improved over the years, but he still sounds a lot like the late and great Garnett Silk. His singing is emotional and powerful and he delivers these cultural and militant numbers with melody and soul.

Courtney John – Ecosystem
His velvety and heartfelt voice flows like a river over the well-crafted rhythms. Highly recommended.

Keith & Tex – Same Old Story
The harmonies are tight and many of the cuts have a melancholic feel to them. And the duo covers themes from broken hearts to the refugee crisis in Syria.

Kristine Alicia – Songs From Zion
Kristine Alicia, who is a trained pianist and has released a gospel- inspired reggae album, is a remarkable singer and together with producer Rorystonelove she has created a musical masterpiece.

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Mista Savona creates musical history with Havana Meets Kingston

unnamedAustralia’s leading reggae producer Mista Savona has spearheaded the Havana Meets Kingston album, a musical project where the distinct sounds of two islands meet.

On the album veteran and emerging Cuban and Jamaican musicians and singers join each-other to version classics and create new songs fusing reggae and dancehall with Cuban and Afro-Cuban rhythms.

The set features a stellar cast of performers, including Sly & Robbie, Leroy Sibbles, Lutan Fyah, Cornell Campbell and Randy Valentine along with original Buena Vista Social Club instrumentalists Ronaldo Luna and Barbarito Torres.

Havana Meets Kingston is a historical musical meeting and the warm songs bubble with energy and sincerity. Best of the bunch is a version of Bob Marley’s Positive Vibration, where Randy Valentine’s emotive singing certainly makes a mark, the pulsating In the Ghetto – Where We’re From, the fierce Heart of a Lion and, of course, the first single off the album – Carnival, a song which effortlessly blends Cuban and Jamaican musical elements.

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Stellar acoustic album from Ken Boothe

ken-boothe-inna-di-yard-lpMore than ten years ago veteran Jamaican guitar maestro Earl “Chinna” Smith started the Inna de Yard project where seasoned and upcoming singers recorded acoustic versions of their songs.

The project was a hit and groups and singers like The Viceroys, The Mighty Diamonds, The Congos and Kiddus I were on board. Several albums and singles were released via French label Makasound. Unfortunately the label folded and the project was put on ice.

Until earlier this year when Chapter Two Records, something of a reincarnation of Makasound, dropped the compilation The Soul of Jamaica, which was credited to Inna de Yard. The project was suddenly alive again and now another album has been put out. And the singer is no other than Ken Boothe, one of Jamaica’s greatest vocalists with a string of hits in the 60s and 70s.

Ken Boothe was featured on The Soul of Jamaica. His versions of Let the Water Run Dry and Artibella were two of the strongest cuts on the compilation.

His Inna de Yard set features another nine versions of some of his previous recordings; all recorded with acoustic instrumentation with nyabinghi drumming, horns and the occasional accordion. The versions are intimate and warm and the arrangements allow Ken Boothe’s gritty singing to shine throughout this stunning set.

A heartfelt and genuine album produced with love and care for reggae music.

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