Roots reggae veteran Max Romeo’s children have stepped into the spotlight. A few years ago his son dropped the scorching Grow My Dread and about a month ago his daughter Xana Romeo put out her debut album Wake Up.
It has been a busy year for the Romeo’s. First Max Romeo’s own full-length Horror Zone and then Xana Romeo’s debut. Two solid sets, but with disparate sounds.
Horror Zone was a throwback to the 70s and certainly a very vintage sounding effort, whereas Wake Up is contemporary with a more modern soundscape.
Wake Up collects eleven cuts of which five are dub versions. The audio landscape is thick and ethereal with both brass and melodica. Xana Romeo sings with great confidence and heavy patois and her musical journey will be a delight to follow.
To follow up best-selling and epochal albums is a difficult task for an artist. And to try it after more than 40 years is probably impossible. But this is what seasoned Jamaican reggae singer Max Romeo and British producer and mixing engineer Daniel Boyle aim at with Horror Zone, a 16 track showcase album described as the follow-up to Max Romeo’s ultra-classic album War ina Babylon from 1976.
Max Romeo has of course recorded several albums after War ina Babylon, but none with the same dark and ambient atmosphere that Lee Perry created for that set. And it’s that swirling and swampy sound that Daniel Boyle and Max Romeo have wanted to re-create on Horror Zone.
Daniel Boyle succeeded a similar mission impossible with Lee Perry’s acclaimed and Grammy nominated Back on the Controls. And I dare to say that Horror Zone is another stellar set with its heavy grooves and deep vibes.
Horror Zone is heavyweight and organic roots reggae with political and social commentaries. Max Romeo delivers relevant and insightful lyrics over raw and live-recorded rhythms played by a number of the musicians that were involved in recording War ina Babylon, including Vin Gordon on trombone, Robbie Lyn on keyboard and Glen DaCosta on saxophone. Lee Perry himself added percussion and backing vocals as well as effects for the dub versions.
To complete the concept Daniel Boyle even connected with designer Tony Wright to do the cover art. Tony Wright did the artwork on War ina Babylon along with several classic sleeves from the 70s, including Lee Perry’s Super Ape, Junior Murvin’s Police & Thieves and Ijahman Levi’s Haile I Hymn.
With Horror Zone Max Romeo and Daniel Boyle have managed to create a strong album that pays respect to the original War ina Babylon, but without being too nostalgic.
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”.
On his debut album Reasonin’ Portuguese/French singer Rod Anton has received some guiding light from no other than the legendary Congos, a trio that with last year’s We Nah Give Up proved that they’re still in great shape.
On Reasonin’ they supply both backing and lead vocals, and I guess it’s no coincidence that they collaborate with Rod Anton – his voice is very similar to Cedric Myton’s distinct falsetto.
The album was recorded in France, Jamaica and the U.S. and the warm, solid backing is provided by The Ligerians and echoes of 70’s Jamaica. Rod Anton sings in English as well as his native Portuguese and has apart from the Congos also invited Max Romeo and Vaughn Benjamin of Midnite to share microphone duties with him.
Max Romeo’s emotional, rugged voice contrasts nicely with Rod Anton. He turns up on Mr. Richman, with a lead guitar that sounds like a stoned Dick Dale, and the excellent Holy City, with a sublime clavinet solo and a skanking rock solid bass line.
Reasonin’ collects 14 tunes of, which three are interludes with a reasonin’ theme and two dub versions. Three of the vocal cuts are also extended.
Rod Anton’s debut album was preceded by two strong EP’s – one in 2010 and one in February this year – and he has managed to excel once again. Reasonin’ is yet another example of the vital French roots reggae scene.
2009 är reggaebarnens år. Först ut var Queen Ifrica. Sen var det Tarrus Rileys tur. Och nu har stafettpinnen nått Lee Perrys son Omar Perry.
Can’t Stop Us Now är Omar Perrys uppföljare till 2007-års debut Man Free. Debuten var en solid insats som blandade roots med lovers med ska med dancehall. Lite spretig med andra ord, men en klart godkänd debut.
Den nya plattan är betydligt mer sammanhållen jämfört med sin föregångare. Här finns exempelvis ingen ska, men väl två dancehallutflykter och lite nyabinghi-takter.
Dancehallåtarna Right Right Left och Bring Me Joy är inte plattans starkaste och Omar Perry borde hålla sig till det han kan bäst – roots.
Omar Perrys sånginsatser påminner stundtals om Junior Kelly och Alborosie. Hans lätt arga singjay-stil passar mycket bra tillsammans med de poppigare tongångarna i avslutande Spiritually och den nyabinghi-influerade och lejonkungendoftande 911 (Memorial).
Omar Perry spelar säkert hela skivan igenom. Arvet från hans far märks på en cover av Junior Byles klassiska Beat Down Babylon och en version av Max Romeos Chase the Devil.
Av pappa Perrys experimentlusta märks inte mycket annat än en fet och annorlunda version av Ini Kamozes World a Music som gjorts världskänd genom Damian ”Jr. Gong” Marleys Welcome to Jamrock. Omar Perrys version heter Boom Town och är en riktigt stökig historia.