Tag Archives: Alpheus

Alpheus’ Light of Day is full of sunshine

a2340364323_10Alpheus released his fifth album Light of Day in late March and it’s his third set with talented Spanish producer and musician Roberto Sanchez. And together they have once again recreated a late 60s Jamaican sound nodding towards ska, rocksteady and early reggae.

Unlike its predecessors, Light of Day comes with no relicks or versions of 60s rhythms nor does it include dubs or instrumentals. But it still sounds both rough and raw and like it was recorded at a Kingston studio in 1968 or 1969.

Light of Day is another timeless musical masterpiece from this duo. It’s uplifting, positive and it will certainly make feet moving and heads nodding to the stomping reggae beat.

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Yet another impressive set from Alpheus and Roberto Sánchez

disc-3153-alpheus-good-prevailsThree years ago UK singer Alpheus dropped the critically acclaimed rocksteady and ska-tinged album From Creation, and in an interview with United Reggae he said that he would from now on only record in the same vein. No more roots or one drop. Just the sweet and smooth sounds of early Jamaica.

He has kept this promise and together with Spanish producer Roberto Sánchez he has again recorded a sublime 14 track set that consists of striking relicks and fresh originals. And just as From Creation Good Prevails sounds authentic and vintage, almost as the album was recorded in the mid to late 60s.

Alpheus’ singing is warm and comforting and the live recorded riddims are heartfelt and soulful, spiced with plenty of bright horns and moody organ and guitar licks.

This album is impressive to say the least. So skip the poorly sounding rocksteady reissues and go for this meticulously constructed and well-produced set. This is the sound of real reggae music.

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Good prevails on Alpheus new album

disc-3153-alpheus-good-prevailsUK-based singer Alpheus teamed up with renowned Spanish producer Roberto Sánchez about four years ago and in 2011 the acclaimed album From Creation was released. It was a step in a new and different direction for both Alpheus and Roberto Sánchez.

From Creation was not the usual European one drop or hard Channel One roots reggae. It was something completely different – soulful rocksteady and swinging ska.

Now this duo has a new album – Good Prevails. It collects 14 tracks, of which two are melodica instrumentals. It also offers a mix of fresh originals and re-vitalized versions of riddims created by Coxsone Dodd, Phil Pratt and Winston Riley.

Good Prevails hits the streets on LP and CD on April 28. If you can’t wait to hear how it sounds, check Our Strength taken from the album.

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DanceCrasher’s 100 greatest rocksteady tunes

In 2007 the great reggae blog DanceCrasher embarked on a challenging journey – to count down the 100 greatest rocksteady tunes. Now – six years later – the list is finally finished and the songs selected are excellent in every single way.

Sure, it’s of course possible to debate – probably until infinity – if tune X should be there and why tune Y wasn’t included. People have different taste. And that’s a good thing.

My top 100 rocksteady list would probably have looked a bit different, partly due to musical preferences, partly due to the simple fact that some of the tunes on DanceCrasher’s list I hadn’t heard before.

I suggest you head over to DanceCrasher and browse through the list. Each song comes with a comment and a short history lesson.

If you’re curious on the sounds you can check this Spotify playlist I’ve made with a majority of the tracks. Far from every cut is available on Spotify, but classics such as The Paragons’ The Tide is High, The Uniques’ My Conversation and Val Bennett’s The Russians Are Coming (aka Take 5) are included along with lesser known gems, like Hemsley Morris’ Little Things (recently versioned by Alpheus) and The Tartans’ What Can I Say.

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Half-year report – best tunes and albums yet

The first six months of 2011 have passed and there have been plenty of fine albums, singles and riddims from around the globe.

From Down Under Mista Savona presented the wicked compilation Warn the Nation. Here in Europe producers, artists and labels in Spain, France, Germany, the UK and several other countries have been busy putting out music with good quality. The U.S. and the Caribbean have also – of course – been very much present.

The two finest albums to date come from former Studio One singer Alpheus and the Guianese singjay sensation Takana Zion. Their efforts are in two different reggae genres – rock steady and roots – and show how important the roots of reggae really are.

Several strong riddims have been released. The best ones come from the Maximum Sound camp and are titled Skateland Killer and Ghetto State. The former is loosely based on Half Pint’s classic One Big Ghetto from the early 80’s.

But everything is not sweet and dandy in the reggae business. French reissue label Makasound filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. It shows just how tough it can be running a label these days. The small independent labels and producers need you. Please support them and buy the music if you like what you hear. Piracy is killing our beloved music.

Ahead are what could be some really interesting releases. VP has listed albums from Queen Ifrica, I Wayne and Sanchez with new albums. Pressure Sounds has scheduled a compilation with some of Augustus Pablo’s digital output. Lustre Kings – who put out the seminal Jahdan Blakkamoore album Babylon Nightmare late last year – is on the verge of dropping Back for the First Time by Perfect.

Dutch Slimmah Sound will also release an album from sound system mic man Lyrical Benjie in early July.

These are just some of the albums scheduled for release in the coming months. There will of course be plenty of other albums, one riddim compilations and singles from Jamaica and beyond.

To sum up the first six months I have compiled some of the best reggae that 2011 has offered so far.

Below you will find five must-have albums and ten must-have tunes. As you will realize, I am not much of a contemporary dancehall fan. There have been some tough tunes, but not many made it into the top ten.

Five must-have albums (in no particular order)

Alpheus – From Creation
Takana Zion – Rasta Government
Alborosie – 2 Times Revolution
Ziggi Recado – Ziggi Recado
Earl Sixteen – The Fittest

Ten must-have tunes (singles only, in no particular order and with riddim in brackets)

Sizzla – Ghetto Youths Rise (Ghetto State)
Tarrus Riley – Rebel (Skateland Killer)
Ricardo Clarke – Only Got Love (Bonafide)
Brina – Real Reggae Music
Dark Angel – Good One (Reuben)
I Octane – Cyan Do Wi Nuttn
Queen Omega – Take Control (Backstabber)
Tarrus Riley – Never Leave I (Island Vibes)
Sizzla – Terrible Stranger (The Nyabighi)
Ky-Mani Marley – Brave Ones (Message)

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Alpheus has a timeless taste



UK-singer Alpheus recently dropped his third album From Creation to wide critical acclaim. Reggaemani got a chance to talk to him about his love for ska, rock steady and legendary producer Coxsone Dodd.

Alpheus

Alpheus grew up listening to ska and rock steady music

I had never heard of Neil “Alpheus” Martin until I read about his third and latest album From Creation, produced by Spanish talent Roberto Sánchez. A bit strange since he has recorded for legendary producer Coxsone Dodd as well as French label Special Delivery.

From Creation is milestone in Alpheus’ career. He has given up on one drop riddims. Now his music will be all about ska, rock steady and roots rock steady. At least that is what he told online magazine United Reggae some months ago.

“I think I made a few people upset when I mentioned that”, laughs Alpheus on the phone from Roberto Sánchez studio in Santander, Spain, and continues:

“There is a new kind of reggae now. The new one drop. I mean there are good songs, but I prefer ska, rock steady and roots rock steady. It makes me feel good. And it stands the test of time. It doesn’t sound old or new. It’s just great music.”

Love for ska and rock steady
Alpheus met Roberto through Sergio from Heartical Sound in France. He set up a show in the Basque country and introduced him to Roberto and his band.

“Roberto and his group were going to back me at the concert and we had a good connection right there”, says Alpheus.

This was in 2006 and the first song they recorded was the groovy From Creation. Roberto wasn’t really into ska and rock steady at the time. He concentrated on roots from the late 70’s. Channel One style.

Alpheus on the other hand grew up on ska and rock steady. His mum used to play that kind of music and he says that he can easily find a melody to a ska and rock steady beat.

Worked with Coxsone Dodd
But From Creation is Alpheus’ third album. His first album Quality Time, put out in 1999, was a broader effort that included several reggae genres.

Alpheus says that he learned a lot from Quality Time and working with its producer Coxsone Dodd.

“It was better than fantastic to work with Coxsone Dodd. I was going through some sad times when I met him and it was the best thing that has ever happened to me musically”, he explains and continues:

“He showed me how to use my voice, arranging backing vocals, hooks and explaining stories.”

They met in New York through former Melodians singer Tony Brevett, who Alpheus had met in Florida.

“I lived in Brooklyn for some years and the Studio One studio was only about 30 minutes from home. I was there to learn and to write”, says Alpheus and continues:

“There is a different vibe in the U.S. In New York you have to do it in one take. You have to be prepared. It is much like Jamaica. In London it’s more laid back and not as much vibe as in the U.S. And in Europe everyone is happy to be in the studio with you. It’s exciting.”

From the foundation
And it seems that Roberto and Alpheus had an exciting time recording From Creation. It is recorded with an undeniable love for 60’s ska and rock steady and is based on both fresh and original riddims as well as relicks of some masterpieces from the 60’s.

You would expect riddims from Coxsone Dodd. Somewhat more surprising is that riddims from Phil Pratt get the Sánchez/Alpheus treatment.

“I am not much of a connoisseur and I didn’t know much of Phil Pratt’s music. It was minor key and I didn’t know of it. But it felt good and people told me that it was a big riddim [Dirty Dozen]. It’s nearly my favourite. It was lovely to write and lovely to sing to.”

New themes
On his previous albums love and relationships have been obvious themes. From Creation is more about upliftment and based on many different subjects.

“Love is a subject that concerns everyone. It’s everyday life. Love is relationships and something that everyone can relate to”, Alpheus explains and continues:

“The new album is broader and only four out of the 16 tunes are about love. Inside Out for example is about a person and that it’s the inside that sets the character.”

A FEW FAST ONES TO ALPHEUS

Favourite artist/group?
Don’t have one

Favourite label?
Studio One

Favourite album?
Really don’t know

Favourite tune?
Your Love – Larry Marshall

Favourite producer?
Clement Dodd

Favourite riddim?
Your Love riddim

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Roberto Sánchez knows vintage reggae

Trying to imitate or copy a sound without sounding dull is tough. Many have tried but few have succeeded. Roberto Sánchez from Santander in north Spain has however managed to produce records that are both foundation rocksteady and roots reggae. Reggaemani got a chat with him from his studio on the day Alpheus new album From Creation hit the streets.

Roberto Sánchez is a talented man. He is a producer, engineer, singer, song writer and musician. He also owns and operates A-Lone Ark Muzik Studio and A-Lone Productions (his label) as well as heads the Lone Ark Riddim Force, a live and studio band.

The label was created in 1997 and has since its inception released tunes from both veterans and newcomers.

Last January saw the acclaimed release of And God Said to Man from foundation singer Earl Zero. That album was in a style that Roberto Sánchez is most comfortable with – late 70’s roots.

The new album from Alpheus is a completely different story. From Creation is all about rocksteady and ska – Jamaican music from the 60’s – and is based on riddims from producers Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid and one of the many unsung heroes of reggae – Phil Pratt.

“It’s like a old picture”
 “I’ve always loved Studio One productions and the productions just before Jackie Mittoo left for Canada. You know the tunes from Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson and Ken Boothe. They’re amazing”, says Roberto Sánchez, and continues giving a comparison between two legendary labels:

“Treasure Isle has always had a more sophisticated sound. I love the rawness of Studio One. It’s warm and not a lot of clarity. It’s like an old picture”.

Rocksteady for the first time
But the album is not entirely based on other producers’ riddims. Roberto has managed to pen a few by himself as well.

“I wasn’t really into rocksteady before I did this album and I had never worked with this kind of riddims. My aim sound is late 70’s and Channel One”, he says, and continues:

“In the 60’s in Jamaica they were doing it U.S style. It was quality back then. Just listen to Lynn Taitt’s guitar play. In the 70’s it was rawer. In rocksteady they tried to be musicians in the full sense of the word”.

Started recording in 2006
From Creation has taken some time to record. Roberto and Alpheus met in 2006 and the first tune they recorded was Ultimate, a cut of Phil Pratt’s Dirty Dozen, originally performed by trombonist Vincent “Don D Junior” Gordon.

 “Already back then, we thought of doing an album together. The album was recorded between 2006 and 2010. It was finished last summer and it took some time to decide how to release it. We decided to do it ourselves”, he says, and continues to explain how he and Alpheus work together:

“We complement each other. Alpheus knows ska and rocksteady very well and I know minor chords riddims. And the results are amazing”.

Even though From Creation only has been out for about a week, critics have already praised it.

“We have had great response so far from media and radio. Many people seem to like the album”, he says and continues:

“I think people like it because it has original feelings. It’s from a golden era in Jamaican music. It’s also made with care and love. It has an amazing style and I think it’s Alpheus best work yet. It’s just pure loving’”.

More to come
Some of the finest music in the rocksteady era was made by vocal harmony groups like the Gaylads, the Melodians, the Techniques and the Uniques. Roberto is thrilled by the idea of making this kind of music again.

“It would be amazing to record a vocal group. The Viceroys are touring now and they would be my first choice. Tetrack would also fit on a rocksteady riddim”, he says.

But that is not in the pipeline. Not yet anyhow. Instead Roberto has plans to put out singles from Linval Thompson and Keith Rowe (Keith in Keith & Tex, responsible for hit song Stop That Train). Keith Rowe has voiced two riddims on the From Creation album.

“I’ve also started recording a showcase album from Milton Henry. It’ll be released next year. There’ll be no more albums from me this year”, he explains and continues:

“I also hope to do some more dub versions from the From Creation album. We also recorded a lot more than what’s on the album. Those songs will hopefully be put out as 7, 10 or 12 inches”.

A FEW FAST ONES TO ROBERTO SÁNCHEZ

Favourite artist/group?
Naggo Morris

Favourite label? 
Many!!! Observer

Favourite album?  
Johnny Osbourne – Truths and Rights

Favourite tune?
At the moment Little Roy’s False Talk

Favourite producer?
Dennis Bovell

Favourite riddim?
Studio One and Cornell Campbell´s Stars

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Alpheus takes it from the foundation

London born singer Alpheus has together with talented Spanish producer Roberto Sánchez managed to create one of the better albums I’ve heard in a while.

From Creation consists of sixteen tunes of pure ska and rocksteady magic recorded with live instruments. There are twelve vocal cuts, two instrumentals and two dub versions. Seven of the tracks are relicks of riddims from producer Coxsone Dodd and the more obscure – but just as great – Phil Pratt. The other five are written by the duo themselves.

And interestingly enough the tunes penned by the duo are just as good as the relicks. The haunting Far Away and the stomping We Are Strong could easily have been written in the 60’s.

Alpheus singing is inspired. By the natural way he rides the riddims it certainly seems like he has enjoyed the time in the studio. His powerful tenor is deep, soulful and sometimes dramatic, such as in the minor chord masterpiece From Creation, which is nicely complemented by an intense percussion driven dub version. It’s as if Roberto Sánchez had invited legendary Jamaican percussionist Bongo Herman to the session.

From Creation is obviously created by people who love music. It’s carefully made by the exact blend of heart, mind and soul. A must have in any good record collection.

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