French reggae band The Banyans started in 2010 and dropped their strong debut album Steppin’ Forward in 2013. Now they return with another solid roots effort, and this one is even better than its predecessor. It might have to do with their intense touring schedule – more than 400 shows under their belt – or maybe the new members have improved songwriting and harmonies.
For Better Days… collects 13 tracks and includes collaborations with reggae luminaries Johnny Osbourne and Big Youth along with rising star Maranto. The set carries the spirit of vintage Jamaican roots reggae from the mid-70s with bright horns and a few dubby effects. The bass and the drums are tight. The sound is militant, yet harmonious, and the lyrics are positive with a conscious approach.
It’s easy to get caught in the beat and the infectious melodies stick like glue, and this make The Banyans one of the best European roots reggae bands of today.
After the excellent and beautiful Ken Boothe combination A Change Must Come, about how immigrants are treated, Spain’s six piece band Tasty Grooves have returned with another vintage reggae scorcher, this time their debut album Soul Street.
Soul Street features eleven brand new tracks influenced by vintage reggae, rocksteady and soul. It’s a mix of instrumentals and vocal cuts and includes collaborations with Jamaican deejay veteran Big Youth and Spanish soul songstress Astrid Jones.
The arrangements are sparse and the songs have a distinct sound echoing from a time when Duke Reid and his Treasure Isle studio ruled the Jamaican airwaves. Some of Ken Parker’s best work comes to mind, as does the early work from producers like Joe Gibbs and Niney. Highlights include the uplifting single Rise From the Ashes and the driving organ instrumental Panda Man.
Soul Street is an excellent album, even though vocalist Marc Ibarz could work on his English a bit more. It’s available on LP and CD, and the LP includes a CD, so buying the LP you’ll get both formats.