In the course of reggae history many great singers managed to release only a handful of singles or so. One of those is former Soul Defenders lead vocalist Vin Morgan, who also played keys and drums with the band. However, Soul Defenders is probably not known for their own material, but for being one of the backing bands at Studio One. And they played on several immortal cuts, including Freddie McKay’s Picture On the Wall and The Abyssinians’ Declaration of Rights.
Vin Morgan resurfaced in 2014 when he cut the single Resilience with bass man Boris Gardiner. And now about 50 years after he started his music career his debut album has landed. It’s not a collaboration with Boris Gardiner though, but with producer and engineer extraordinaire Roberto Sánchez and his Lone Ark Riddim Force.
Give Thanks is another showcase album from the Sánchez and Iroko Records camp. Six vocal cuts are followed by their dub counterpart. Most riddims are known from before if you have the two previous showcase sets – Noel Ellis’ Zion and The Viceroys’ Memories – and they suit Vin Morgan’s falsetto singing perfectly.
His voice sounds remarkably fresh. Expressive and emotive. Just as the dub versions and the horn arrangements. Check the militancy of a cut like Can’t Complain Dub with its smattering percussion, haunting keys and fanfare like horns. Best of the bunch is however the bright and uplifting Gimme the Vibes.
It’s a mystery why Vin Morgan didn’t cut more tunes in the 70s, but luckily Roberto Sánchez and Iroko Records’ Herve Brizec gave him a fresh chance.
Legendary Jamaican roots singer Prince Alla – sometimes Prince Allah or Ras Allah – cut a number of haunting and heavyweight roots numbers in the late 70s. And his rare debut album Heaven Is My Roof is a bona fide masterpiece.
His second album was oddly titled The Best of Prince Alla and collected singles for the Freedom Sounds label. This great set has now been reissued by France’s Iroko Records. It comes with only eight tracks, of which two are ferocious discomixes with lethal dub mixing courtesy of Scientist.
Best of bunch is album opener Youth Man with its bulldozing bass line and drums crashing down like lightning. The dub version confirms its feeling of brimstone and fire. Other highlights are stone-cold classics like the eerie Stone or the dark and dread Lot’s Wife.
Prince Alla has never been quite as prolific as many of his peers, but many of his recordings have proven to be landmarks in the history of reggae music.
About five years ago I had the opportunity to interview Spanish producer, mixing engineer and musician Roberto Sánchez. In the interview he mentioned a few dream projects and one of those was working with Jamaica harmony trio The Viceroys. That’s no longer a dream and the project has materialized.
Memories is a the second showcase album on Iroko Records produced by Roberto Sánchez along with Iroko’s own Herve Brizec, and it follows Noel Ellis’ Zion.
This brand new album includes six beautiful vocal cuts directly followed by their ground shaking dub counterpart. Just listen to All I Dub. When the bass line drops it’s like you want to shed a tear.
And just like all other productions coming from Roberto Sánchez and his Lone Ark Riddim Force this sounds vintage to the bone. This could have been a forgotten gem recorded by The Viceroys at Channel One back in the late 70s.
This is heavy roots. This is roots full of culture and consciousness. Just like way back when.