French versatile singer and singjay LMK drops her second album Highlights, the follow-up to her debut full-length Musical Garden released in 2015. On this new set she has sharpened her musical edge and crafted many memorable hooks and catchy choruses.
Highlights is a dancehall album particularly influenced by R&B, hip-hop and pop. It’s delightful and the chorus on See the Light is simply irresistible with its strings and LMK’s sprightly and youthful singing.
But she also has another side. Check the fierce See Dem Out and the brilliant Skarra Mucci combination Crazy And Alive where she showcases her rapping and fast chatting style. She also has a distinct hip-hop connection and is joined by four U.S. rappers – Reverie and Gavlyn along with veterans Mann and Billy Danze from Brooklyn’s MOP.
LMK is along with Soom T and Marina P the most promising and interesting talent on the European reggae and dancehall scene.
Cherry Red’s newly established imprint Doctor Bird has recently put two scorching boss reggae compilations on one CD. No More Heartaches and What Am I To Do were originally released by Trojan in 1969 and 1970 respectively.
Both included singles produced by Jamaican producer Harry J, who is probably best known for Bob & Marcia’s version of Young, Gifted & Black and the killer organ instrumental Liquidator, which contains a bass line borrowed by The Staple Singers for their 1972 hit song I’ll Take You There.
The album comes with a hefty 24 tracks – twelve from each compilation – and No More Heartaches is the stronger compilation showcased by the first half of the album. It represents classics like The Beltones’ aching title track, Glen Brown & Dave Barker’s stomping Lucky Boy, Lloyd Robinson’s lethal Cuss Cuss and Richard Ace’s brutal organ instrumental Hang ‘Em High.
What Am I To Do is much weaker and is probably best known for its title track sung by Tony Scott. The standout cut on that one is however Harry J Allstars’ horn instrumental Wha’pen.
Harry J continued to record throughout the 70s and 80s, but was less prolific. He died in 2013 after a long battle against diabetes.
One of my most anticipated releases this year dropped last week. I’m talking about Jamaican superior chanter and singer Jesse Royal and his debut album Lily of Da Valley,a 14 track set including already familiar cuts like Finally and Modern Day Judas along with recent singles like the Jo Mersa Marley combination Generation and Always Be Around.
Jesse Royal has been in the music business since his early 20s and dropped some of his earliest material for the Xterminator label, nowadays XTM Nation, led by Philip “Fattis” Burrell’s son Kareem Burrell. Early singles like Hatred is the Obsolete Route and One Eye Open boded well for the future and in 2013 he broke big with the massive Modern Day Judes on Winta James’ Rootsman riddim, probably best known for Chronixx’ Here Comes Trouble.
Further strong singles soon followed, including Preying On the Weak, Raging Storm, Cool And Deadly and Blowing In the Wind. And now his debut album has finally arrived. It comes with ten previously unreleased cuts and carries both conscious messages pushing for positive changes along with party starters and love songs.
The powerful album opener 400 Years is a battle against oppression while both Roll Me Something and Finally praises the herb. The Natty Rico combination Full Moon is something of an oddity with its electro beat and Major Lazer-influenced synthesizer hook. It’s insanely catchy, but takes a few listens to get acquainted with.
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.
So let’s follow Jesse Royal’s instructions on the breezy and 80s sounding Rock It Tonight – “hey there DJ, won’t you put this one upon reply, I don’t want this party to decay, gonna be a soul shakedown tonight”.
Popular U.S. reggae band The Expanders has released the second installment in their cover series Old Time Something Come Back Again. The first version was put out in 2013 as a vinyl only release.
On this second volume they shine on 15 cuts originally released by singers and groups such as Burning Spear, The Ethiopians, The Itals, Yabby You and Little Roy. Included are also tunes from little known artists such as Ghetto Connection and Kenty Spence & His Stars. The set offers by no means versions of reggae hits. Many songs are unknown gems performed by singers and players far away from the reggae mainstream.
The Expanders shines throughout the set with their pristine three-part harmonies, organic sonic landscape and no-frills arrangements with musicians providing the bare essentials – bass, organ, drums and guitar.
And this album is not about nostalgia. The Expanders put their signature mark on every track with vintage vibes and a vocal style reminiscent of reggae from the late 60s. This is an album curated with love and affection and it showcases timeless music through spirituality, social commentary and affairs of the heart.
Two years ago Barcelona-based singer, singjay and rapper Sr. Wilson dropped his ultra-solid second album Paso firme. Now he has a third album out – 24/7. It’s recorded together with The Island Defenders and offers an intriguing blend of rub-a-dub, ska, hip-hop and latin.
The set comes with nine vocal tracks and three dub versions and Sr. Wilson delivers his smooth vocals in both English and Spanish/Catalan. He effortlessly rides the rhythms whether rub-a-dub, latin or ska. Check for example the hot-blooded Pedro el permanente where he spits lyrics over an intense beat with memorable keys and an absolutely lethal break with smattering percussion and a roaring organ.
Other standout cuts include album opener Hungry Man, the pulsating title track and the slick Tonight, which also comes with a catchy break.
Sr. Wilson has once again proved that he is one of the most exciting artists on the European reggae scene.
Mr. Williamz has joined forces with Green Lion Crew on the aptly titled album The General Comes to Town. A brutal ten track showcase set where Mr. Williamz is joined by veterans such as Dean Fraser, Lone Ranger, Joe Lickshot and Pinchers along with more recent talents like Addis Pablo and Gappy Ranks.
Every track comes with a version; either dub or another vocalist. Mr. Williamz’ flow is as usual flawless and the beats and riddims he rides are ultra-solid and rock-hard. Check for example Never See Her Again and – in particular – its haunting dub version The Robbery with wobbling bass and introduction by no other than veteran drummer Horsemouth.
Other standout cuts include the title track, which is a version of Ini Kamoze’s World a Reggae, and its spaghetti western themed version with melodica provided by Addis Pablo.
With this album Mr. Williamz and Green Lion Crew can tackle any sheriff. The town will be under siege when they drop these sonic bombs.
Brooklyn-born and T&T-bred Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter Angela Hunte has finally put out her debut album after many years working more behind the scenes with producers such as Magnetic Man and Major Lazer’s Diplo.
And it was Diplo that recruited Angela Hunte for Snoop Dogg’s reggae alter ego Snoop Lion and the album Reincarnated. She was instrumental on that set and contributed as both singer and songwriter.
And it’s was a song writer and producer that she has had her greatest success to date. When she was homesick in London she wanted to write a song about her hometown New York. That day she co-wrote and co-produced a little song called Empire State of Mind with Jay-Z and Alicia Keys on vocals.
Angela Hunte has a broad sonic palette, but R.A.W. is all about melodic and crisp reggae with infectious choruses and catchy hooks. The slightly funky Here We Go is irresistible and so is the more up-tempo Outta My Head. Best of the bunch is however the bouncy and dynamic Rub Dub with Taranchyle and Brooklyn Rose delivering guest vocals. But Angela Hunte steals the show with her confident delivery. But don’t forget to check the last seconds of Rub Dub – Brooklyn Rose is sweeter than sugar.
She keeps it short and simple. Only eight tracks. Short and sweet.
Cherry Red Records has via its new imprint Doctor Bird issued a scorching rarity with no less than 13 bonus cuts. The album is the compilation Dancing Down Orange Street, produced by Sonia Pottinger and originally put out in 1969.
A compilation like this helped to put the B in boss reggae and it comes with a truckload of skanking tracks, including Ken Boothe’s pulsating Live Good and Delano Stewart’s classic That’s Life.
This is the first ever reissue of this highly collectible album. A bit odd since it features both prominent singers and hit songs of the time. The original fetches prices that would empty many pockets. But no need saving up for one of those now.
French beatmakers and reggae-heads L’Entourloop is back with a brand-new set following their stunning debut album Chickens in Your Town released two years ago.
The overall recipe this time is the same – mixing reggae and dancehall with boom rap. They have cultivated a unique, bass-boosted and urban sound using musical textures from a broad variety of genres.
The intense and colorful sonic landscape on Le savoir faire is also spiced with drum & bass, 60s pop and swing jazz. Yes, you read it right. Swing. Check for example Boomblast, Soundbwoy and Mississippi Sleng.
To create the album they have invited more than 15 different vocalists, including Blackout JA, Skarra Mucci, Troy Berkley, Marina P, Soom T, Ras Demo and Tippa Irie. And these are some epic performances. Listen to Soom T’s fierce delivery on Fonk Monk, N’Zeng’s blazing horn on the title track or Ruffian Rugged’s tongue twisting techniques on Le tour the force, a cut where four different vocalists trade verses over a bouncy beat filled with sound system sonic gimmicks.
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 absolutely zero dull moments.
Jamaican vocal trio The Kingstonians’ debut album Sufferer was one of the first original reggae albums I bought. This was around 1997 and I was heavily into so-called boss – or skinhead – reggae. The set is The Kingstonians only long-player and was at the time of its original release, back in 1970, a best-seller for Trojan Records.
The shuffling title track – along with Winey Winey and Singer Man – are classics, but the album collects many more gems. Especially this new reissue from Cherry Red. It comes with a hefty 24 cuts, compared to the original 12.
This killer reissue showcases a dozen more of producer Derrick Harriott’s work. Several of the added tracks are bouncy instrumentals from backing band The Crystalites, tracks also featured on The Crystalites’ album The Undertaker.
Along with the classics standout cuts include the beautiful Hold Down and the melancholic Kiss a Finger, which was the B-side of Sufferer when it was put out in 1968.
This album, and its bonus material, is well sought after and is now finally available.