UK band Resonators is back after a four-year long hiatus. The two singles – Imaginary People and Healer – off the new album have been championed by the one and only David Rodigan.
Imaginary People is their third album and it collects slow and soothing meditative roots with ethereal backing vocals and rumbling bass lines, including the bulldozing Come Through. Two lead vocalists trading places in front of the microphone along with lots of psychedelic dub effects also provide plenty of diversity to the nine sonorous cuts.
Can’t say I had heard much about Resonators up until this year when the two singles were released, but they can easily be filed next to bright shining vintage-sounding UK acts like Soothsayers and King Solomon.
A while ago Japan’s Dub Store Records reissued Two Big Bull In A One Pen, a devastating King Kong and Red Rose combination set produced by King Tubby and originally released via his Firehouse imprint in the mid-80s.
And now comes the reissue of its dub counterpart – Two Big Bull In A One Pen Dubwise. It has previously been available on digital platforms, but is now also widely available on both CD and vinyl.
This is early digital dancehall dubs of the highest caliber where King Tubby’s two young protégés Peego and Fatman turn knob, push buttons and blow fuses. They have deconstructed this classic album into a digital scorcher with no sign of neither Red Rose or King Kong. It’s completely free from vocal snippets.
Instead the musicians are highlighted. Especially the superb guitar work. Listen to the superb deconstructions of Riddle Me This, Don’t Touch Me Choo Choo and Monkey Sample. Excellent stuff.
Ex-Gladiator Clinton Fearon is one of few Jamaican roots reggae artists from the 60s and 70s that have maintained releasing killer material for more than 40 years.
In the 70s and early 80s he was bass man and vocalist in The Gladiators, a band led by lead singer Albert Griffiths with popular tracks like Hello Carol. Clinton Fearon left the band and relocated to the U.S. in the late 80s and in 1995 he released his first solo album Disturb the Devil.
That set was recorded with the Boogie Brown Band and together with them Clinton Fearon has recently released a brand new effort, an album that was preceded by the excellent single No Justice and the equally excellent EP Waiting.
This Morning is quintessential Clinton Fearon. Sweetly skanking riddims, unpretentious arrangements and infectious melodies complete with emotional singing and personal reflections on life and current events, including police brutality and an unjust judicial system.
Clinton Fearon has stayed true to his roots and musical recipe for a long, long time and it works every time.
The seventh release from London’s Horus Records is their debut album. It’s both self-produced and self-recorded at their own Arch studio in Tottenham and features several veteran singers, including Vivian Jones, David Jahson and Winston Reedy, formerly of The Cimarons.
It’s an excellent vintage-sounding showcase with five vocal versions and four dub cuts. It’s organic and sweetly skanking. Just check Shaka Black’s uplifting Pick Myself Up and its sparse version Four Quebec Lima Dub. Killer stuff.
Best of the bunch is however Nichola Richards jazzy Going Back Where I Belong with its slick organ and melancholic horns. Unfortunately, that particular song doesn’t come with a dub counterpart. But that might be arranged on coming singles. Let’s hope so.
Legendary Jamaican roots singer Prince Alla – sometimes Prince Allah or Ras Allah – cut a number of haunting and heavyweight roots numbers in the late 70s. And his rare debut album Heaven Is My Roof is a bona fide masterpiece.
His second album was oddly titled The Best of Prince Alla and collected singles for the Freedom Sounds label. This great set has now been reissued by France’s Iroko Records. It comes with only eight tracks, of which two are ferocious discomixes with lethal dub mixing courtesy of Scientist.
Best of bunch is album opener Youth Man with its bulldozing bass line and drums crashing down like lightning. The dub version confirms its feeling of brimstone and fire. Other highlights are stone-cold classics like the eerie Stone or the dark and dread Lot’s Wife.
Prince Alla has never been quite as prolific as many of his peers, but many of his recordings have proven to be landmarks in the history of reggae music.
Jamaican singer Lloyd Charmers is one of several artists that turned to production in the late 60s. He soon became highly influential and scored many hit songs with Ken Boothe. He also cut a number of lewd tracks as Lloydie & The Lowbites, but few of these crude songs are featured on the superb Lloyd Charmers compilation The Best of Lloyd Charmers.
This 50 track (!) set features two collections issued on Trojan in 1973 and 1974 along with loads of bonus material. Many reggae styles are represented – funky reggae, soulful reggae, pop reggae, skinhead reggae, psychedelic reggae, instrumentals, early roots and DJ pieces. And a slightly odd slice of reggaefied country.
The arrangements are often playful and fun. Check for example Dollars and Bonds where Lloyd Charmers acts as James Bond over a western-inspired rhythm. Or the criminally funky version of Shaft.
Best of the bunch is however BB Seaton’s beautiful I’ll Be Your Shelter, The Messengers’ raw Crowded City with its very relevant theme, Ken Boothe’s gorgeous Cherie Baby and Ken Parker’s Take A Message To Mary and its sparse dubstrumental counterpart Mother Mary.
This crucial anthology is painfully long overdue and showcases a ingenious producer as well as an array of Jamaica’s finest artists.
Ken Boothe is one of those singers whose material has been compiled over and over and it’s hard to know which compilations that are worthy additions to a record collection.
A strong contender worthy shelf-space is the relatively new Everything I Own: The Lloyd Charmers Sessions 1971-1976, not to be confused with Everything I Own from 2007 or Everything I Own from 2003. This new compilation is something else.
This album is a double disc set focused on Ken Boothe’s five albums with singer turned producer Lloyd Charmers along with eight rare gems recorded for the same producer. Included are of course monster cuts like Crying Over You and Everything I Own, but also classics like Ken Boothe’s cover of Bill Withers’ Ain No Sunshine, Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On and Syl Johnson’s Is It Because I’m Black.
The period covered is Ken Boothe’s finest, even though he recorded superb rocksteady at Studio One in the 60s. He’s one of the best singers ever in Jamaica and his gritty tones are perfect for both militant social commentaries and smooth romance. And this excellent effort showcases both sides.
U.S. reggae veterans John Brown’s Body is back with a new album following Kings & Queens and its dub counterpart Kings & Queens in Dub put out in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
This reggae outfit has worked hard criss-crossing across the U.S. ever since their debut album in 1996. Fireflies is their eleventh full-length and the band continues to create dense audio landscapes with gorgeous melodies. And one of the key components in their sound has always been the brass section and on Fireflies the horn trio blazes brilliantly adding plenty of nuances and sonic depth to each track.
The U.S. reggae scene has grown over the past years with successful artists and bands like Hirie, The Green, SOJA, Tribal Seeds and a host of others. And John Brown’s Body is an integral part of the U.S. reggae movement, but they are also responsible for having laid the foundation for other acts to grow from.
In January this year Soul Jazz reissued Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari’s second album Tales of Mozambique and a few months later the same label reissued Count Ossie’s Man From Higher Heights.
Since then I’ve been eagerly waiting for the reissue of Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari’s ground-breaking debut album Grounation. And last week it was finally reissued. But not by SoulJazz, but by Japan’s Dubstore.
Grounation is now finally available again in its glorious entirety – a three set vinyl or a double disc CD collecting 15 tracks of ambitious and mystic nyabinghi. To describe this album – originally released in 1973 – as uncommercial would be a serious understatement. Grounation comes with a great deal of integrity and is a powerful philosophic experience. Almost transcendent to some degree.
The album was recorded through three different recording sessions where Cedric “Im” Brooks and his Mystic Revelation of Rastafari met with Count Ossie’s Rastafarian Drummers at a grounation, which is a sort of emotionally charged musical gathering as well as a spiritual experience. And to put this gathering on wax is a musical sensation.
But this set is not for the faint-hearted with its repetitive and meditative drumming complemented by a creative jazz-based horn section led by musical director and saxophonist Cedric “Im” Brooks along with Rasta chants and orations courtesy of Brother Samuel Clayton. Brother Samuel Clayton represents an early form of dub poetry or spoken work as showcased on cuts like Narration and Narration Continued.
With Grounation you never know what to expect. Every song is like a Kinder Egg. On one hand you have spoken tracks with no instrumentation, like Poem 1 and Poem 2. Then you have a relatively traditional song like Four Hundred Years with a melancholic melody reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair. Or the title track which is spread across two cuts clocking in at a total of 30 (!) minutes.
Grounation is a psychedelic, colorful and ethereal joyride and a milestone in the development of reggae music.
Legendary Trinibagoan guitar ace Lynn Taitt is one of the key architects in rocksteady and reggae and played on countless of sessions in the 60s and 70s. And he also has a number of tunes and albums credited to himself.
One of those is the rare and recently reissued Greatest Hits, originally issued in 1968 on the Merritone label. On this beautiful set he has arranged instrumental versions of rocksteady classics, cuts which he graces with his tuneful guitar playing.
But this set offers more than just magnificent guitar licks. Several tunes also come with spectacular horn blasts and horn solos.
This is the swinging and hip-shaking sounds of the 60s.