Joe Higgs is one of reggae’s most influential forces, but at the same time one of the most overlooked artists. His voice is far from anonymous, but due to a number of circumstances he is today probably best known for teaching Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh the basic principles of singing – harmonies, breathing and structuring a song. He even took Bunny Wailer’s place on The Wailers’ first U.S. tour.
Among reggae heads he is probably also known for his 1960 hit song Oh Manny Oh, which reputedly sold more than 50,000 copies at the time.
But he also recorded a number of albums. In 1972 he dropped his debut set titled Life of Contradiction, reissued by Pressure Sounds some years ago. Now the same label has decided to reissue its follow-up – Unity is Power. It has not been reissued since its original release in 1979 and comes with two bonus cuts – his 1972 Festival Song Competition winner Invitation to Jamaica and its version.
Unity is Power was produced by Joe Higgs himself and he utilized some of the best musicians around at the time of its recording. It’s a mellow and mid-tempo reggae set that is much in the same vein as his debut. No hard roots or crazy dub mixing. This is soul, gospel, jazz and vintage R&B set to a reggae beat. It might not grab you instantly and it might need a few spins before its majestic character is revealed.
Joe Higgs’ rich, rural and emotive voice, with its melancholic and honest tone, is however easy to fall in love with and hard to let go.
The extensive and frank liner notes by noted reggae historian Roger Steffens tells a story of a man that managed to overcome a lot of hardship and difficulties during his lifetime. This pain and suffering is heard in his voice and in his music. Authentic sounds from one the many overlooked and forgotten heroes in reggae music.
Available now on LP, CD and digital download.