Chinese/Jamaican roots singer I Kong aka Ricky Storm – cousin to the late producer extraordinaire Leslie Kong and formerly a member of vocal harmony group The Jamaicans – is back with a new album, only a year after its predecessor A Little Walk. And even though I Kong is in his 60s today, he’s at a productive peak with two albums released over a little more than a year.
Pass It On is just A Little Walk recorded together with Swiss roots band Najavibes between Switzerland and Jamaica and mixed by the immensely talented Roberto Sánchez at his studio in Spain.
This recipe has proven fruitful and it works yet again. Actually even better this time, because Pass It On is more straight-forward and is both superb and sublime with its powerful rhythms and infectious melodies mingling effortlessly with I Kong’s soothing singing.
His voice has retained its tone and character and on a cut like the slightly discofied Keep Grooving he dives into a deep and gritty soulful groove letting his voice loose over handclaps, bright horns, joyous backing vocals and a pulsating riddim section.
If A Little Walk was a triumphant return for I Kong, this album certainly cements his arrival after almost ten years out of the spotlight.
Veteran Jamaican singer I Kong aka Ricky Storm started his career in the 60s as part of vocal harmony group The Jamaicans. He left and started recording with Yabby You’s harmony group The Prophets, followed by sessions with Lee Perry and future Third World singer Bunny Rugs under the name Ricky & Bunny.
His first album The Way It Is dropped in 1979, a set that included the title track, which was an underground hit at the time. Since the release of his debut album I Kong has only recorded sporadically and his new showcase album A Little Walk is his sixth set and his first in eight years.
The effort collects ten tracks, of which four are dub versions and two are extended mixes. It was recorded in Kingston with Swiss band Najavibes accompanied by percussionist Scully Simms and guitarist Dalton Browne. The riddims are powerful and the backing has a sweet and melodic richness. This is effective roots mixed by Spanish maestro Roberto Sanchéz.
I Kong’s voice may be a little thin, but it’s emotional and original, yet sounding a lot like one of his contemporaries – the late Prince Lincoln Thompson of The Royal Rasses.
A Little Walk collects highlights like the up-tempo Groovy Feeling, with a dub version including razor-sharp guitar, album opener Guiding Light with a fanfare-like horns and the uplifting Live as One.
I haven’t heard much that I Kong has recorded previously, but it’s nonetheless great to have him back on the scene. There is certainly something special with vintage Jamaican singers.