French label and production crew Roots Attack recently dropped their first showcase album, a ten track set collecting four vocal cuts, two deejay slices and four dub versions.
Four seasoned Jamaican singers are featured – Leroy Brown, Winston McAnuff, Easton Clarke and Nereus Joseph – and the deejaying is handled by Roots Attack’s own I Fi, a deejay strongly influenced by the smooth U Brown.
Roots Attack Showcase Vol. 1 is uncompromising and vintage rub a dub leaning heavily towards the sound crafted by Roots Radics at Channel One in the late 70s and 80s. Timeless and universal roots music with spirituality and consciousness.
Tóke, a German singjay of Indonesian descent, is one of the latest additions to the ever expanding European reggae scene. His debut set Wake Up Inna Kingston is the first album produced by Italy’s Bassplate Records and it’s a cohesive effort heavily inspired by the reggae revival scene in Jamaica.
Tóke’s vocal style is reminiscent of Protoje’s smooth vibe and the riddims is a fusion of reggae and hip-hop, as for example showcased on the triple combination Conscious Vibes where Exile Di Brave and Infinite share the microphone with Toké.
There are however a few detours from that formula. Running Away is melancholic and slick dancehall and on Movements Tóke is only accompanied by an acoustic guitar.
Certainly a solid debut from a very welcome talent on the reggae circuit.
About five years ago I had the opportunity to interview Spanish producer, mixing engineer and musician Roberto Sánchez. In the interview he mentioned a few dream projects and one of those was working with Jamaica harmony trio The Viceroys. That’s no longer a dream and the project has materialized.
Memories is a the second showcase album on Iroko Records produced by Roberto Sánchez along with Iroko’s own Herve Brizec, and it follows Noel Ellis’ Zion.
This brand new album includes six beautiful vocal cuts directly followed by their ground shaking dub counterpart. Just listen to All I Dub. When the bass line drops it’s like you want to shed a tear.
And just like all other productions coming from Roberto Sánchez and his Lone Ark Riddim Force this sounds vintage to the bone. This could have been a forgotten gem recorded by The Viceroys at Channel One back in the late 70s.
This is heavy roots. This is roots full of culture and consciousness. Just like way back when.
The under-recorded Jamaican singjay Daddy Rings returns with his third solo album following the successful The Most High, which dropped almost ten years ago. During these years Daddy Rings has only recorded sporadically. A pity since he’s great talent with a catchy melodious flow.
The first single off In the Streets was released in December last year. It’s the title track and a combination with Daddy Rings’ long-time sparring partner Gentleman. The single – with its militant beat and dubstepish style – certainly boded well for the album.
The album isn’t in the same dark and aggressive style however and is rather a combination of several different elements; both heavyweight and lightweight. Jah People is uplifting dancehall with beautiful acoustic guitars and album opener Don’t Say a Word is a certified summer anthem with its flute, bright horns and catchy chorus.
The album ends with a ginormous bass line. Irie Ites’ hip-hop version of their Billie Jean riddim is outrageous and Ganja Pipe is a sound system destroyer as well as an instrument to annoy neighbours. And it will eventually get you evicted and out on the street.
When I started listening to reggae some 20 years ago my first love was rock steady and one of the many holy grails I wanted in my music collection was Derrick Harriott’s Rock Steady Party, a twelve track various artists compilation from around 1967. Unfortunately a copy has always been way too expensive for my finances. Up until now.
Because the stars over at Dub Store Records has reissued this sublime collection of hits in its original version. It’s a faultless set and every cut is a certified gem. Derrick Harriott has produced the album and also sings on five tracks, including the beautiful and melancholic album opener Walk the Streets.
This is rock steady at its very finest. Close harmonies, sweet melodies and smooth grooves. It’s all there and expertly crafted by legendary musicians like ace guitarist Lynn Taitt and trumpet maestro Bobby Ellis.
Vin Gordon aka Don D Junior – a nickname in honour of legendary Jamaican trombonist Don Drummond – is one of Jamaica’s many musical giants. Just as Don Drummond he’s a bone fide champion on his trombone and started recording at Studio One in the mid-60s. He has played on countless of classics and worked alongside great artists and bands such as The Wailers, Burning Spear, Dennis Brown, The Heptones and Delroy Wilson.
Together with his nine piece band Real Rock he has just put out a brand new album titled after his biggest composition as a solo artist. Together with keyboard ace Jackie Mittoo, Vin Gordon was responsible for both Heavenless and Real Rock, two massive reggae anthems that have been versioned again and again and again.
In addition to two versions of Heavenless and a rendition of Tommy McCook’s rootsy Revenge the album collects four brand new compositions. It’s a beautiful seven track set that is largely instrumental. The set is produced and mixed by the great Nick Manasseh and it’s a warm and organic journey led by gracious horns and supplemented by smattering percussion and roaring bass lines.
The market isn’t flooded by instrumental horn sets these days. It’s a pity as clearly showcased on this masterful album.
Jamaican deejay Tippa Lee – currently based in the U.S – has collaborated with talented producer and mixing engineer Tom Chasteen, who is also running Dub Club in Los Angeles.
Now the pair has an album out on Stones Throw Records and it’s a bona fide killer with its tasty and excellent relicks of a number of immortal riddims, including a murderous cut of the lethal Drum Song riddim.
Cultural Ambassador and its dub version Dub Them With Reality are all about culture, consciousness and sound system skills. Tippa Lee started deejaying at the tender age of twelve and dropped his first single in the early 80s. He hasn’t been particularly prolific and this is actually his solo debut following combination sets with Rappa Robert and Toyan in the 80s and early 90s.
And when listening to this stunning set it’s a pity he hasn’t spent more time in the studio because he has a majestic flow and is also a gifted lyricist paying respect to his peers from the early days.
Judging by the artists joining Tippa Lee on this album it’s clear that he’s a force to be reckoned with. Cornell Campbell, Tony Tuff, Bionic Clarke and Sister Nancy all grace this album with their skills.
“Kill them with reality, a with reality, teach them reality… and all slackness deejay them have to run away” states Tippa Lee on the title track and that’s the essence of this set.
Cultural Ambassador (Deluxe Version) is currently available as digital download. It collects both albums mentioned above. A vinyl edition of Dub Them With Reality has also been released, while the vocal part will be put out on May 20.
Italian singer Raphael returns with a new album following his 2013 solo debut Mind Vs Heart. He has been active on the reggae scene for about 15 years and has with his former band Eazy Skankers dropped two sets.
Reggae Survival is a strong follow up and much more cohesive than its predecessor which was somewhat more eclectic. This is straight up contemporary and uplifting roots reggae with live instrumentation – including a brass section supervised by legendary Jamaican sax maestro Dean Fraser – and infectious melodies.
The album and its 14 tracks, including four skits and one dub version, was recorded between Jamaica, the U.S. and Italy and produced by Don Sugar and Raphael supported by Italy’s own Bizzarri Records and France’s Irie Ites.
Raphael turns his eyes on social rights, human values and universal love. On Who Dem a Pree he and Lion D criticizes an emerging Big Brother society and on Joka Soundbwoy Raphael teams up with Triston Palma for a rendition of the latter’s Joker Smoker. Best of the bunch is however Sweet Motherland, with its strong appeal to Raphael’s African origin, along with Rise Up and A Place For Me.
Italy’s reggae scene has obviously lots of talent. Alborosie is the most well-known example, but others, like Raphael and Lion D, are gearing up to face a global audience too.
Immensely talented Scottish singer, rapper, singjay and activist Soom T has once again put out a stunning album showcasing that she can never be labeled a particular genre.
She’s a collaborator with Mungo’s Hi Fi and Prince Fatty, but last year she dropped the grim hip-hop album Bullets Over Babylon, a set produced by Monkey Marc.
Her latest album is yet another set where reggae takes the backseat. But Free As A Bird is not a hip-hop album either. No, this is something else. It’s primarily based in the fields of electronica, hip-hop and disco, but with a reggae twist. And it’s superb.
Free As A Bird was originally released in selected European countries in late 2015 and now an expanded version is widely available. It comes with the original twelve tracks along with another eight tracks, of which four are remixes courtesy of Manudigital, Tygerz, Ibibio Sound Machine and Africaine 808.
This album carries sweaty bass lines that would make a disco mastermind like Nile Rodgers proud. Just listen to the funky Gimme Gimme or the glorious End of the Road. Pure dance floor wizardry where Soom T blends her bubble gum singing with fierce singjaying.
Other highlights include the dreamy Black Butterfly, the dramatic Politic Man and the powerful Broken Robots as well as the title track, which has a melody reminiscent of the jazz standard Dream a Little Dream of Me, and Upside Down, which sounds like it’s aimed a speak-easy crowd from the 20s.
Power, rhythm and melody all come together beautifully on this album. It’s a grower so you need to give it some time. But it’s well worth the time. A spot on album.
Vernon Buckley, aka Vernon Maytone, returns with another solid set for France’s Uniteam Music. In the Mood is the follow up to the excellent On the Right Track, which was released about three years ago.
Both sets have been mixed and mastered by Manu Genius – previously one half of acclaimed Dutch production duo Not Easy At All – and have largely the same smooth sound.
Vernon Maytone was lead singer in 70s roots duo The Maytones and his rural voice remains intact some 40 years after his debut recordings with fellow Maytone-singer Gladstone Grant.
In the Mood is slick with an edge and it comes with relicks of a number of classic riddims, including a scorching cut of the mighty Cuss Cuss riddim. Vernon Maytone sings passionately and emotionally about life and losses.
Another warm and charming album from one of Jamaica’s many unsung musical heroes.