Tag Archives: Acoustic reggae

Jahcoustix is naked on new album

jahcoustix-acusticfrequencySinging with a band or singing a cappella or just backed by a guitar might be something like holding a presentation with or without a PowerPoint. It can be a demanding setup where you are naked, vulnerable and exposed.

The latest addition to the increasing number of acoustic or unplugged reggae albums is Jahcoustix’ Acoustic Frequency, an uncut reworking of his excellent and very rootsy Frequency album, which was originally released last year.

This brand new acoustic version comes with the same amount of cuts, but three of these are dub versions and included are also a few exclusives. So, it’s not a full album that has been recut. No worries though.

Acoustic Frequency is just as great as its uplifting predecessor. It offers a new and different perspective to his music. It’s intimate, personal and raw with an organic feel throughout the set.

According to an interview with Jahcoustix it only took five days to record the album and he and his producers – Irievibrations – didn’t put too much thought into the production. They just let the vibes flow. And simplicity is often a tasty recipe for success. Acoustic Frequency is a telling example of that.

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Gentleman revives MTV Unplugged

gentleman-mtvunpluggedGerman reggae superstar Gentleman has recently put out an unplugged set, like so many other reggae artists have done recently. Tarrus Riley, Clinton Fearon and Richie Spice are three examples. Gentleman’s album is however a bit different since it was recorded with a live audience and with a full orchestra – including both horns and strings – backing him.

But just like several other unplugged sets it’s not really unplugged or acoustic, as it’s supposed to be. That doesn’t matter, since this is truly a great album.

I’ve never been a huge fan of live albums though. Don’t know why. Maybe it has something to do with it being very hard to create that live feeling on record. But on Gentleman’s MTV Unplugged it works really, really well. It sounds like it was a huge concert.

The deluxe edition of this album collects no less than 28 tracks taken from all but one of Gentleman’s albums. No cuts from his Trodin On set, but several from his most recent efforts – Diversity and New Day Dawn. Included are also non-album cuts like Tranquillity, To the Top and Runaway along with a cover of the Bob Marley’s classic Redemption Song.

There are also two new songs –the heartfelt No Solidarity, sung together with Ky-Mani Marley, and Warn Dem, a scorching call and response combination with Shaggy aimed directly at all best of the year lists. Those tracks are together with a furious version of Leave Us Alone, originally on his Journey to Jah album, some of the brightest highlights.

The MTV Unplugged format was immensely popular in the 90s and I thought it was dead, but this album shows that it’s still very much alive and kicking.

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The soothing sounds of Richie Spice

Jamaican rugged crooner Richie Spice’s latest album is a 15-track unplugged set. Well, almost anyway. The bonus track Agony is electrified journey into the 80’s soul scene and keyboard is used throughout the album, especially apparent in My Heart, which has a hard keyboard intro, reminiscent of European electronica.

Otherwise Soothing Sounds: Acoustic is an unplugged affair and mixes classic reggae with rock, country & western, gospel, jazz and nyabinghi.

The initial single Free is one of the standout tracks, which borrows a bit from the Viceroys’ classic Ya Ho, and has Richie Spice’s expressive voice over just an acoustic guitar, nyabinghi drums and a dreamy keyboard.

Soothing Sounds collects previously released material in a new setting and some new tracks, one of them being the aforementioned Free. Richie Spice sings convincingly about love and romance, but he also deals with socially-conscious questions.

There are some annoying sound effects, such as pouring water, which ruins a track like Get Up, and the audio quality on My Girl is below par.

Generally, however, Soothing Sounds is a fine set of easy-going sounds and it also showcases Richie Spice’s talent as a producer.

Soothing Sounds: Acoustic is now available on CD from selected retailers and on digital platforms.

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Richie Spice passed his own test

The acoustic trend has taken reggae by storm and this year both Clinton Fearon and Tarrus Riley have each put out an acclaimed set. Now it’s Richie Spice’s turn. His Soothing Sounds: Acoustic collects re-recordings of old material coupled with new tracks. Reggaemani had a chat with Richie Spice about why he has stripped himself and why the album is already a classic.

Soothing Sounds presents Richie Spice unplugged for the first time.

Ask any music fan about his or her favorite acoustic reggae track and the answer will probably be Bob Marley’s heartfelt Redemption Song, included on his last album Uprising released in 1980. Bob Marley was not the first to record reggae with sparse arrangements, and one of my personal favorites is Joe Higgs’ – coincidentally Bob Marley’s mentor – unplugged version of There’s a Reward.

Over the last years the acoustic reggae catalogue has grown, partly thanks to guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith and his nyabinghi-influenced project Inna de Yard All Stars.

In 2012 the catalogue has broadened even more since two world-known singers have dropped acoustic sets – Tarrus Riley’s Mecoustic and Clinton Fearon’s Heart and Soul.

Being a positive force
A third artist drops his acoustic project tomorrow. Richie Spice is his name, and you will know him by a trail of strong albums and equally strong singles, including Earth a Run Red, Youth Dem Cold, Marijuana and Di Plane Land. You might also recognize his rugged crooning and his railing against injustices and the plight of the oppressed.

“I want to educate the youths and make uplifting music,” explains Richie Spice over the phone from Kingston, Jamaica, and continues:

“Doing positive things and being a positive force is an important role to me.”

A family affair
Richie Spice was born Richell Bonner in the Kingston suburb of St. Andrew in 1971, and hails from a musical family that includes his older brother Pliers, from the deejay/singer duo Chaka Demus & Pliers, middle brother and singer Spanner Banner as well as his younger brother Snatcha Lion. The latter two team up with Richie Spice on the family affair More Love.

It was Spanner Banner who initially brought Richie Spice to the recording studio, although he didn’t get the opportunity to record that time it opened his eyes to the proficiency required to succeed in the reggae industry.

“It was a strong learning experience. At that time I tried to record but I was never really ready so I couldn’t manage it. But it showed me that there is a lot of work to be done. So just do the necessary things until you reach that space where you are supposed to be,” recalls Richie Spice.

Gave himself a test
His biggest hit to date is Youth Dem Cold, which peaked at 59 on Billboard’s Top 100 Singles Chart and was featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV.

Richie Spice is a man of few words and it seems he likes his music to do much of the talking, but it’s apparent that he has high hopes on his new album.

“It has been on my mind for a long time and now it’s manifested to reality. It’s a new path in my career and it’s very exciting,” he says.

The recording process has taken some time – approximately nine months – and the album is produced by himself with a little help from co-producer Mitchum “Khan” Chin.

“The process was different [compared to an ordinary album]. I played it at home, I played it in the studio, adding things, making improvements,” he explains, and continues:

“There are things in life you’d like to do if you’d get the opportunity, and I wanted to give myself a test. Can I do this,” he asks, and adds:

“The album has a good vibration and I was feeling it from a long time. It’s an inspired album with songs I really loved and other people loved them also. I wanted to break it down and add a new level to them,” he explains referring to the re-recorded tracks on the set.

“The songs are classic”
An unplugged environment is naked and personal, which puts Richie Spice’s passionate vocals very much in the front. He sings every word and every syllable like he means them, something that put a lot of weight on his socially-conscious anthems about righteousness, unity and love.

Soothing Sounds presents Richie Spice unplugged for the first time, even though the albums boasts a myriad of influences and musical influences – contemporary acoustic rock, Spanish guitar, jazz and African drum beats to 80’s soul in the bonus track Agony, with a bass line invented by Robbie Shakespeare right there in the studio.

“It carries a variety of songs. Like Free, to be free within yourself, and My Heart, about searching,” he says, and continues:

“I fulfilled it and to me it’s a masterpiece. The songs are classic and it’s special to me and my fans. It’s deep in the soul of the people.”

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Toots Hibbert boards the acoustic train

Over the past months Tarrus Riley and Clinton Fearon have put out acoustic albums and Richie Spice has announced he has one on the stove as well.

Now they’re joined by iconic gritty soulful reggae singer Toots Hibbert. His first ever acoustic set Unplugged on Strawberry Hill dropped on August 6 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Jamaican Independence Day.

The Grammy award-winning Toots Hibbert has recorded some immortal reggae, ska and rocksteady tunes, and some of these are now re-done with sparse laid-back rock arrangements using only acoustic guitar, bass, percussion and vocals – Toots Hibbert on lead and his two daughters on back-up.

Unplugged on Strawberry Hill was recorded at Chris Blackwell’s sun kissed property in Jamaica and includes twelve tracks mostly covering the 60’s and 70’s with gems such as 54-46 and Funky Kingston as well as Pressure Drop and Sweet and Dandy, also included on the classic soundtrack to the cult motion picture The Harder They Come.

Toots’ bruised singing is as memorable as ever and is luckily enough given plenty of space to present these songs in a fresh context.

The album also includes the bonus DVD documentary Reggae Got Soul, containing rare live footage from Toots’ performance at Rockpalast in 1981, interviews with other artists and liner notes contributed by modeling singer Grace Jones.

Below you can check an edited version of the documentary featuring Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Willie Nelson along with Toots himself.

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Mecoustic more than a version album

Tarrus Riley is one of the most reliable singers in contemporary reggae music, equally at ease with both dancehall and one drop. And as the son of reggae/soul singer Jimmy Riley, his foray into music was almost inescapable.

On Mecoustic – his fourth album to date – Tarrus Riley has taken a new musical direction, and this new style is gospel-influenced and sometimes hymn-like.

It’s a sensitive journey accompanied by soothing acoustic guitar, relaxed bass lines, classy keys, African drumming and delicate horn arrangements.

Mecoustic offers new versions of previously released material, and modern classics such as She’s Royal, Marcus Garvey, System Set, One Two Order and Africa Await get a new warm and angelic treatment.

But these 15 tunes, of which one is a short nyabinghi version of Eye Sight, are more than just versions. Way more. New arrangements and new moods are created for each song. And the result is beautiful, enchanting and very impressive.

With Mecoustic Tarrus Riley secures his rightful place in amid the very best in reggae music, both among his contemporaries as well as the founding fathers.

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