Ten piece UK reggae band King Solomon recently dropped their new EP Ceasefire – the follow-up to In the Dragon’s Den – and it’s a bona fide scorcher with its raw and organic sonic landscape paying tribute to great acts like Aswad, Steel Pulse and Black Roots.
Ceasefire is heavyweight roots with striking horns, militant drums and muscular bass lines. Just like other notable UK roots acts they don’t hesitate to tackle difficult issues and subjects like unemployment on album opener Poor Man, conflicts on the title track and police harassment on Officer.
It’s a short set with only six cuts and all are bright shining highlights, but melancholic masterpieces like Kingdom and Carry Me are slightly above the rest. Both comes with clever arrangements and unexpected tempo changes. And the orchestral opening to Carry Me is beautiful like a bright autumn day.
This set comes with very little perfume or make-up. What was recorded in the studio is what you’ll get.
In just three years Hirie has gone from being a stay at home mom to #1 on iTunes and Amazon Reggae Charts with her second album Wandering Soul. That’s quite an accomplishment.
Her self-titled debut album was put out in 2013. Unfortunately it had poor distribution, but the single Sensi Boy was a success on Youtube and catapulted her into the scene. That single along with relentless touring together with some of the biggest U.S. reggae bands – like Tribal Seeds and Stick Figure – have paved the way for continued success.
Wandering Soul got its name after Hirie’s way of life. She was born in the Philippines and raised in Italy and Hawaii and has also lived on the U.S. mainland. The album as such is however cohesive and unified – even though six different producers have been involved – with its soulful, laid-back grooves and organic feel with live instrumentation, including a killer horn section.
Hirie sings about balance in life, family love, female empowerment and social change. There’s of course also a compulsory ganja anthem included. It has a strong pop appeal with catchy melodies and infectious hooks complete with superb musicianship and dub wizardry. Check the 80s tinged Boom Fire, with production courtesy of the great Don Corleon, or the meditative Trevor Hall combination Good Vibration.
With Wandering Soul Hirie and her band has created a sunny island pop album with deep reggae roots.
UK MC Parly B first grabbed the mic on the 90s as part of the local jungle scene and it wasn’t until quite recently he burst into the dub, reggae and dancehall scene. He has recorded a number of tough tunes and several of them are now collected on This is Digital, an eight track set released via Mungo’s Hi Fi’s Scotch Bonnet label.
Two of the cuts are brand new, while six are previously put out different labels and for different producers. The audio landscape is dark and grim with dry melodies and bass lines echoing over oceans. And it suits Parly B’s authoritative vocal style very well.
The title track is an homage to King Tubby’s Firehouse label and was originally cut for Top Cat’s Herbalist and was latest heard on YT’s No Wata Down Ting. The brand new Duppy is produced by Greece’s Fleck and borrows the 19th century Russian folk song Korobeiniki widely known as the being the Tetris theme song.
Jamaican singer Chronixx – one of the lead artists in the current reggae revival – visited BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Sixty Minutes Live last week and it was quite a performance.
Over a diverse range of riddims and beats he and a number of his prominent friends – Maverick Sabre, Randy Valentine, Little Simz, Luciano and Jah Bouks – showcase their freestyle skills. And they are all brilliant wordsmiths, but Chronixx is the brightest shining light and it seems like he has x amount of lyrics and could have gone on for another hour or two.
Best is probably an acoustic exclusive with Luciano and Chronixx in the second half of the show. And Luciano can’t hold his vibe back and steals the show in the end.
Sessions like these shows reggae and dancehall it its best. Check the full performance below.
The latest release in the new Studio One reissue program is a rare album from the early 70s. Money Maker was pressed in scarce quantities at the time and wasn’t reissued until 2002 when a limited edition – with bonus cuts – appeared. Both fetch large sums these days.
This new reissue is the original album with ten tracks and comes with the original “cash” artwork as well. It collects primarily instrumentals played by Studio One in-house bands The Sound Dimension, The Soul Brothers and The Soul Vendors joined by Im & Dave, Ernest Ranglin, Jackie Mittoo, Lloyd Williams and The Boss himself, Clement “Coxsone” Dodd.
Many riddims are familiar from vocal cuts by the likes of The Wailing Souls and The Heptones and have been versioned countless of times. The versions on Money Marker are stunning. Just listen to the ultra-funky Mixing with Jackie Mittoo putting his organ on fire or the Im & Dave’s marvellous version of John Holt’s A Love I Can Feel.
It has been remastered from the original session tapes and the sound quality is way beyond expectation. Unfortunately it’s a North America release only.
UK label Reggae Roast has by now a number of strong releases in their catalogue. The latest addition is producer Interrupt and singer Tenor Youthman’s We Rule the Dance, a ten track set packed with computerized sounds, keyboard licks and airhorns ready to test any sound system.
We Rule the Dance is upbeat and digital reggae 80s style. That means drum machines, colourful sounds from Casio keyboards and bouncy bass lines. Add Tenor Youthman’s haunting singing style, which is heavily influenced by Nitty Gritty, King Kong and Tenor Saw, three singers that made a huge impact in the mid to late 80s with their nasal and non-melodic style, and you are at a yard dance in Kingston circa 1986.
Iconic reggae label Greensleeves – nowdays owned by VP Records – was key in putting dub on the musical map through releasing a number of classic albums. The ones mixed by mixing engineer extraordinaire Scientist have never been officially reissued before. I guess it has had something to do with copyright laws, or the lack of it in Jamaica in the early days of reggae and dancehall.
The label has now however managed to come around these issues by not crediting Scientist as the artist. Instead the albums are centred on the producers – Henry “Junjo” Lawes and Linval Thompson. Very clever.
The albums finally reissued are based on recordings that heralded the hit making start for Henry Lawes and the Roots Radics, a band often described as the main architects behind dancehall, a genre that represented a shift and big leap forward for reggae. Many of these dangerous recordings also marked the start for several long and successful careers. Barrington Levy is one the artists that started his career together with Henry Lawes and the Roots Radics.
And two of the dub albums are almost solely based on two of his sets – Englishman and Robin Hood. These two albums form the foundation for Big Showdown – where Scientist goes head to head with Prince Jammy – and Heavyweight Dub Champion. The other three sets – The Evil Course of the Vampires, Wins the World Cup and Space Invaders – have riddims taken from a large number of different artists.
But these five reissues offer more than just dub. Each album include the vocal counteractions on a different disc. It’s the first time the sets are presented in this fashion. Again, very clever.
These eye-catching comic book style albums are some of the best dub sets ever put out and they marked a change history of dub. The riddims provided by the Roots Radics are some of the rawest and heaviest ever to be put on wax. Scientist demolishes the riddims and then he builds them up piece by piece creating a completely new sonic landscape with emphasis on bass and drums.
These selections are crucial to say the least. Roots Radics riddims produced by Henry Lawes and Linval Thompson recorded at Channel One and then mixed by Scientist at King Tubby’s. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Over the past months at least three ultra-solid mixtapes have been put out. I’m talking about Kabaka Pyramid & Walshy Fire & Major Lazer, Jah9 and O.B.F. Soundsystem featuring Ishabel & Wildlife. All three are absolutely devastating.
Kabaka Pyramid & Walshy Fire & Major Lazer – Accurate
Kabaka Pyramid started in the music business as a rapper, but turned into reggae. On this musical gem Walshy Fire and Major Lazer let him rap and toast over classic riddims and hip-hop beats showcasing his ill skills. It also features a number of exclusives and collaborators like Raekwon of Wu-Tang Clan, Chronixx, Protoje, Pressure and Hempress Sativa. Just press play and enjoy.
Jah9 – 9 mm Vol. 2: Pre-Album Groundings
With this mixtape one of Jamaica’s finest and most honest singer’s gears up for her highly-anticipated second album 9, out on September 9. This part two instalment follows her 9 mm Vol. 1: Message Music – released in 2012 prior to her debut album – and features original and never-before-heard tracks where Jah9 shines both musically and spiritually. With a number of covers she also celebrates some of her musical role models – Nina Simone’s Misunderstood, Tracy Chapman’s She’s Got A Ticket, Ras Michael’s New Name and Dennis Brown’s Bloody City are all features. And so is a fresh Sizzla medley. Sit back, press play and enjoy.
O.B.F. Soundsystem featuring Ishabel & Wildlife & Friends – The Voice of Lightning & Thunder
This killer new mixtape from French soundsystem O.B.F certainly lives it to its title. Brimstone and fire with gravel-voiced vocalist Wildlife and the versatile Ishabel along with a number of other artists, including Jesse Royal, Charlie P and Pupajim. O.B.F has also enlisted the help from other producers and riddims from Dubkasm, Maximum Sound and Mungo’s Hi Fi are also included. This one is a certified scorcher, so turn up the volume, lock the door and hope the neighbours aren’t home.
UK roots veterans Paul Fox and Brother Culture have joined forces on a new combination album called Heartical Connection, a ten track set – 20 when adding the ten bonus dubs – that is slightly different than expected.
You have the usual ground-shaking bass lines and intense keys, but Heartical Connection also includes a few more lightweight and catchy cuts. Good Time is a joyous and bright celebration of life and the title track is mellow and summery with breezy keys and infectious guitar. The only thing hinting about these roots stalwarts are the added effects.
Then there’s Seat of God. Probably the greatest surprise. It’s an ethereal dancehall version of Amazing Grace with an angelic chorus and mean and lean toasts from Brother Culture in the verses.
Paul Fox and Brother Culture have a good chemistry and complement each other very well – Paul Fox with his dramatic and light singing style and Brother Culture with his stylish delivery.
Successful singjay and producer Damian Marley has announced his fourth and highly-anticipated album Stony Hill, the follow-up to the acclaimed Welcome To Jamrock, which was released eleven years ago.
During these years Damian Marley hasn’t been inactive though. He has put out singles, produced other artists and released albums with the short-lived super-group SuperHeavy as well as the astonishing Nas combination Distant Relatives. He has also kept himself busy with his and his brother’s label Ghetto Youths International.
The first single of Stony Hill is Nail Pon Cross, which is currently only available at Tidal, a streaming service where Damian Marley is one of the famous artist owners. A video for the single is dropping today. Also only via Tidal.
The Marley family has been busy in 2016. Ziggy Marley has put out a self-titled album and Ky-Mani Marley dropped Maestro and a combination album with German superstar Gentleman. Stephen Marley put out the much-anticipated Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life, the follow-up to the rootsy Revelation Part I: The Root of Life. It will be a fierce battle for the Reggae Grammy.
Stony Hill is expected to drop on October 28.