Tag Archives: Earl Zero

Another scorcher from Earl Zero

Last year Spanish producer Roberto Sanchéz put out the acclaimed Earl Zero showcase album And God Said to Man. That was Earl Zero’s first album since 2002.

Now it seems Earl has got inspired and motivated to record more music.

His latest album – Marketplace – is a fusion of reggae, dub, funk, soul and some rock influences thrown into the mix. The result is an album full of surprises, twists and turns. It is also a joy to find some dub version of the tunes.

Marketplace was recorded in California and is produced by guitarist Siahvash Dowlatshai, who has previously worked with bands such as The Devastators and Lagos Roots Afrobeat Ensemble. The backing band on the album includes members of the legendary Roots Radics.

You will find plenty of organ, clavinet and piano as well as some heavy drum and bass grooves. Mystery Babylon Dub, the version of Blackmans Time, is dark and scary with plenty of echoes.

The intro to Do the Rub A Dub feels like the soundtrack to an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Bruce Willis action flick. And its version Rub a Dub Instrumental adds some Mighty Two sound effects.

This album is different from And God Said to Man. That effort was a pure Channel One style roots album. Marketplace is rooted in reggae, but is still a much broader album. It takes a while before it gets under your skin, but once it has, you will love it.

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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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Earl Zero’s still got it

In the past couple of months two well-known reggae veterans have released albums – Horace Andy with Serious Times and Clinton Fearon with Mi Deh Ya. But in the shadows one of the more unsung heroes of reggae music has released a showcase album with classic 70s roots.

In late March came the release of Earl Zero’s And God Said to Man album. A piece of heavenly roots music with a sound reminiscent of the mid and late 70s.

The album consists of twelve tunes – six vocal cuts and six dub versions – signed Spanish producer, label owner and musician Roberto Sánchez, who has previously worked with artists such as Rod Taylor, Kenny Knotts and Glen Washington.

Roberto Sánchez’ work aims to keep the style and sound of the 70s roots reggae music alive in terms of recording techniques, instruments used and artists to record. And he really succeeds with his vision. This album sounds like it could’ve been recorded in Jamaica 35 years ago.

And God Said to Man is as much deep conscious roots as the material Earl Zero recorded with, among others, Bertram Brown and Earl “Chinna” Smith in the 70s. Listen to You Are Gonna Fall with its intense drums or the mighty version of the classic None Shall Escape the Judgement. It’s close to Earl Zero’s own 70s version and the sound is more 70s steppers than flying cymbals and the version that made Johnny Clarke known.

The dub versions lie close to King Tubby and have few sound effects. Instead they’re stripped down and intimate.

Earl Zero and Roberto Sánchez began collaborating in 2007 with the tune Root of David. Hopefully they will continue to make music together. And God Said to Man shows that Earl Zero has a lot more to give and Roberto Sánchez has interesting ideas that I want to hear more about. Much more in fact.

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