More than ten years ago veteran Jamaican guitar maestro Earl “Chinna” Smith started the Inna de Yard project where seasoned and upcoming singers recorded acoustic versions of their songs.
The project was a hit and groups and singers like The Viceroys, The Mighty Diamonds, The Congos and Kiddus I were on board. Several albums and singles were released via French label Makasound. Unfortunately the label folded and the project was put on ice.
Until earlier this year when Chapter Two Records, something of a reincarnation of Makasound, dropped the compilation The Soul of Jamaica, which was credited to Inna de Yard. The project was suddenly alive again and now another album has been put out. And the singer is no other than Ken Boothe, one of Jamaica’s greatest vocalists with a string of hits in the 60s and 70s.
Ken Boothe was featured on The Soul of Jamaica. His versions of Let the Water Run Dry and Artibella were two of the strongest cuts on the compilation.
His Inna de Yard set features another nine versions of some of his previous recordings; all recorded with acoustic instrumentation with nyabinghi drumming, horns and the occasional accordion. The versions are intimate and warm and the arrangements allow Ken Boothe’s gritty singing to shine throughout this stunning set.
A heartfelt and genuine album produced with love and care for reggae music.
After being away for several years Inna de Yard is back with a new album and a new label. This beautiful project was in the beginning more than ten years ago spearheaded by Jamaican guitar ace Earl “Chinna” Smith and rendered many excellent tunes, including the late Matthew McAnuff’s dread Be Careful.
The new album features a crème de la crème of Jamaican veteran vocalists, and a few spirited newer ones also checks in.
The Soul of Jamaica is just like the previous Inna de Yard sets acoustic with nyabinghi drumming and transcendental rhythms. Key cuts include Var’s powerful Crime, Bo-Pee’s beautiful Thanks & Praises and Ken Boothe’s versions of his own Let the Water Run Dry and Artibella. Ken Boothe sounds just as great as he did back in the 60s and 70s. It’s quite remarkable.
Conscious music that encapsulates the soul of Jamaica.
Ken Boothe is one of those singers whose material has been compiled over and over and it’s hard to know which compilations that are worthy additions to a record collection.
A strong contender worthy shelf-space is the relatively new Everything I Own: The Lloyd Charmers Sessions 1971-1976, not to be confused with Everything I Own from 2007 or Everything I Own from 2003. This new compilation is something else.
This album is a double disc set focused on Ken Boothe’s five albums with singer turned producer Lloyd Charmers along with eight rare gems recorded for the same producer. Included are of course monster cuts like Crying Over You and Everything I Own, but also classics like Ken Boothe’s cover of Bill Withers’ Ain No Sunshine, Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On and Syl Johnson’s Is It Because I’m Black.
The period covered is Ken Boothe’s finest, even though he recorded superb rocksteady at Studio One in the 60s. He’s one of the best singers ever in Jamaica and his gritty tones are perfect for both militant social commentaries and smooth romance. And this excellent effort showcases both sides.
Since Alpha Blondy has increasingly moved towards rock and pop music, Ivorian reggae star Tiken Jah Fakoly is Africa’s king of reggae. At least if you ask me.
On his new album Racines – Roots in English – he travels back to his roots and covers some of the songs he danced to as a youth. He has re-shaped eleven mostly classic reggae joints, cuts originally voiced by reggae luminaries such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Max Romeo, Burning Spear, Junior Byles, Buju Banton, Junior Murvin and Alpha Blondy.
To recreate their masterpieces he is joined by Ken Boothe, Max Romeo, U Roy and Jah9 on vocals along with Sly & Robbie as riddim section. The foundation of the album was recorded in Jamaica and it was later overdubbed in Mali adding traditional African instrumentation. The result is excellent and Tiken Jah Fakoly presents his own versions of these classics and gives them a new bright shining light.
According to the press release Tiken Jah Fakoly has previously not really allowed himself to record cover versions. And with this album he certainly pays a very personal homage to some of the artists and musicians that helped to create reggae. As Bob Marley once said, and quoted in the press release, “reggae will come back to Africa”.
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.
In the summer of 2011 I had the opportunity to interview gritty soulful reggae veteran Ken Boothe after his show at the Uppsala Reggae Festival in Sweden. When I wrote the story I focused on Ken Boothe’s journey to make a change through his music. I headlined the story “Ken Boothe is on a journey”. I must have understood him pretty well since his latest album is titled Journey.
The journey he refers to on the album is his 50 years in the entertainment industry – from growing up in a tough Kingston neighborhood recording rocksteady classics for, among others, Clement “Coxsone” Dodd via his smash crossover hits Everything I Own and Crying Over You for the late producer Lloyd Charmers to recording with Shaggy in the 90’s and having Snoop Dogg’s reggae alter ego Snoop Lion doing a version of Artibella, one of the greatest pieces of minor key rocksteady ever released.
Journey is Ken Boothe’s first album in seven years and was supposed to have been released in October last year, but was for some reason postponed to March 2013. It’s self-produced, recorded in his home-studio in St. Andrew, Jamaica, with notable musicians Robbie Lyn and Dwight Pinkey, and includes guest vocals from upcoming deejay G-Mac, U.S. young rapper Chauncy and veteran Jamaican deejay Josey Wales.
The latter two show up on Dancehall Girl, a salsa-tinged dancehall effort showing Ken Boothe’s interest in contemporary Jamaican sounds. The majority of the twelve tracks are however more classical-styled reggae, with the exception of a jump-up cover of Otis Redding’s Can’t Turn You Loose. Other covers include The Wailers’ gospel-flavored Thank You Lord and Spandau Ballet’s early 80’s worldwide smash hit True and famous for its catchy “huh huh huh hu-uh huh”.
Ken Boothe is one of the greatest vocalists from Jamaica ever. Possibly one of the finest singers ever actually. His raw and gritty, yet soulful, style can set any song on fire. Unfortunately Journey lacks a bit sound wise and production wise. His voice sounds shady and some of the sounds are dated. But, Journey is nevertheless an enjoying set of songs and the aforementioned Than You Lord is classic Ken Boothe. So is the political New World Order and the upbeat combination with G-Mac, who has a fine flow and the pair has a nice interaction.
Journey is now available on CD and digital platforms.
My first encounter with Rebellion the Recaller – a French singjay of Gambian descent – was the very worthwhile Ken Boothe combination Pure and Strong from his international debut album Movin On, released in 2008 on the German label IM Music. Movin On – produced by the acclaimed Bobby “Digital” Dixon – was a decent album, but suffered from being too long.
Rebellion’s new album In This Time can be diagnosed with the same condition. It’s actually even worse since it contains three more tunes and it adds up to a total of 20 songs, at least five too many. Cohesiveness is not In This Times’ strongest suit.
Nowadays Rebellion lives in Germany and several of the tracks are produced by local producers such as Silly Walks and Germaica. It also contains a combination with German superstar Gentleman, a tune also included on his acclaimed album Diversity, put out in 2010.
And several of the songs have previously been released. You have Murderer on the Aspire riddim, the Shabu duet Keep Me Original on the Question? riddim and Don’t Give a Damn on the Bonafide riddim.
Rebellion is an excellent singjay and is at ease with one drop and dancehall as well as more hip-hop tinged beats.
But Movin On gives the impression of being rushed and the label should have put more energy into selecting the tunes. Now it just wanders in too many directions.
Rocksteady veteran and gritty vocalist Ken Boothe is one of the many reasons why I got into reggae music. Songs such as Freedom Street, Artibella and When I Fall in Love are pure gold.
Ken Boothe has a long career behind him, but just recently started to tour Europe. I had the opportunity to meet him backstage after his performance at Uppsala Reggae Festival in Sweden. Check the full interview over at United Reggae.
Reissue label Pressure Sounds is back with a third release of material produced by vocalist turned producer Phil Pratt – one of many unsung heroes in the world of reggae music. His credits are almost immaculate with some scorching tunes from the top singers and deejays of the 60’s and 70’s, including Delroy Wilson, Dennis Brown, Ken Boothe, Big Youth and U-Roy.
The release this is the much sought after dub album Dial M for Murder in Dub Style, a set named after the Alfred Hitchcock movie Dial M for Murder starring Ray Milland. It is a crisp and organic, sometimes restrained, production mixed by Bunny Tom Tom aka Crucial Bunny.
It was recorded at Channel One around 1979/1980 with Sly and Robbie providing the riddims with a little help from Rad Brian on guitar, Bobby Kalphat & Ansell Collins on keyboards and piano and Tommy McCook & Herman Marquis on horns. A qualified cast of instrumentalists used regularly by Phil Pratt.
Dial M for Murder in Dub Style dropped in 1980 towards the end of the period when dub had become popular around the world. The ten original tracks are featured on the LP with four bonus tracks on the CD and mp3 versions. The mixes are clean and neat with sometimes little or no effects used. Some tunes are almost instrumentals with the bass knob turned to the max.
Included are some top vocals that turn up from time to time. Ken Booth could be heard on Who Gets Your Dub, a version of Who Gets Your Love and the title track is a cut of The Blackstones’ Come and Dance from their Insight album put out in 1979. This is a stellar version with magnificent percussion and beautiful horns.
As always with Pressure Sounds, the packaging is flawless with the original sleeve and artwork for the cover and Steve Barker handles the sleeve notes.
Pressure Sounds is doing their fair share to shed light on Phil Pratt’s treasure chest of material and this release will further ensure his rightful place in reggae history.
This Thursday it’s time for the eleventh edition of Uppsala Reggae Festival – a three day celebration of the music I love.
This year the promoters have managed to get two of my all-time favorite singers to attend the festival – gritty singers Toots Hibbert and Ken Boothe. These veterans have written and performed some of the best reggae tunes ever made.
You know what I’m talking about, right? 54-46 Was My Number, Freedom Street, Funky Kingston, Crying Over You and so forth. The list could go on and on and on.
Apart from these two, there are many more artists to see and listen to. Since I’m still very much fond of old school reggae I’m looking forward to Johnny Clarke and The Heptones. Hopefully I’m treated tunes like Mr. President and Ites Green and Gold.
If I would chose some of the more current acts, it would be Queen Ifrica, Richie Spice, Protoje and the upcoming king of contemporary lovers rock – Romain Virgo.
To contain my excitement over Uppsala Reggae Festival I’ve compiled a playlist using Spotify – a streaming service very easy to use and download, and available in the U.S. for a few weeks now.
The playlist includes almost 70 tunes from the artists mentioned above, plus a bunch of others that are performing this weekend. Just click this link and download the playlist to your computer or smart phone. And I hope to see you in Uppsala.