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.
Count Ossie is a legendary Jamaican percussionist and a pivotal figure in the development of Rastafarian roots music, and in January this year Soul Jazz Records reissued Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari’s second album – the ground-breaking and progressive Tales of Mozambique, originally released in 1975.
That particular release is now followed by another Count Ossie set – Man From Higher Heights, an album originally put out in 1983, seven years after Count Ossie died in a car crash. And it remains unclear whether this set includes original recordings with overdubs or if Count Ossie’s post-Mystic Revelation of Rastafari players recorded it without the Count himself.
Compared to his other two albums this one is more traditional reggae, especially the first five cuts, but with a large amount of percussion and free-minded horn arrangements. The last two tracks are intensely psychedelic with tripped-out fuzz guitar and a flute on acid.
It’s a fascinating set that comes with a few surprises. The heavy fuzz guitar is one such, and the version of Pat Boone’s Speedy Gonzales is another.
Just as many other music genres reggae has several sides; it can be insanely catchy and commercial on one hand, but also hard to grasp and uncommercial. Nyabinghi is often the latter and UK’s Soul Jazz Records has now reissued a landmark album in that genre.
Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari’s Tales of Mozambique – originally put out in 1975 – is a fascinating and spiritual journey and the follow-up to the outfit’s ground-breaking debut set Grounation.
The group was formed in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1970 and was a union of two existing ensembles – Count Ossie’s crew of drummers and horns man Cedric “Im” Brooks’ Mystics band. Both bandleaders are central characters in the development of Rastafarian roots music, especially Count Ossie who has become a mythical and iconic figure since his untimely death in 1976.
Tales of Mozambique is deeply rooted in rituals of traditional African drumming. It’s avant-garde, powerful and continues where Grounation left off. It has the same radical combination of nyabinghi rhythms, free jazz and chanting. It celebrates Afro-centric identity and traditions and tells the history of Mozambique and how it became colonized and its people enslaved.
The arrangements are loose with repetitive drumming and bass lines along with jazzy horns, reasoning and chanted group vocals.
The musicians behind this album had lots of integrity and courage because it’s experimental and revolutionary with a unique sound. Tales of Mozambique is a slice of hypnotic music history.