Grammy-winning reggae band Morgan Heritage released their debut album Miracle in 1994 and a few years later their breakthrough album Protect Us Jah was put out. Since then they have released another nine studio efforts, including the recently released Avrakedabra, which follows Strictly Roots, a set awarded with a Grammy in 2016.
Morgan Heritage took a break from touring and recording about ten years ago. During that hiatus some of the members took the chance to record and release solo material. But the hiatus obviously didn’t last too long and in 2013 they released Here Come the Kings, which was something of a return to a more conscious and roots-oriented approach.
On Avrakedabra they use influences from pop, rock, country, hip-hop, electronica and dubstep to create an eclectic set full of feel-good vibes and infectious melodies. This brand of reggae is by Morgan Heritage labeled as rockaz.
The album was recorded in a wide array of countries and features several collaborations – the late Bunny Ruggs, Billboard chart topping duo R. City, Ziggy and Stephen Marley, Dre Island and Kabaka Pyramid. Its sounds ranges from the rootsy Selah via the dubsteppy anthem We Are to feel-good and seductive pop hits Reggae Night, Dream Girl, Ready for Love and Dancing in the Moonlight.
Compared to its two predecessors Avrakedabra is a slightly less rootsy affair and leans more towards Caribbean pop with sunny grooves and beautiful harmonized vocals.
Sometimes I don’t understand how the entertainment industry works. Labels hate all the issues surrounding pirating, but they often create these problems themselves. For example roots reggae quintet Morgan Heritage and their latest album Strictly Roots. It was released in the U.S. a while ago and has already reached number 1 on the U.S. iTunes Reggae Chart.
At the same time it’s not available in for example Europe. You can read all about the album on various global news outlets, but if you live in Europe you can’t buy it or stream it. Enter pirates and several illegal platforms. I have a feeling the different release dates are because of marketing, but to avoid the pirate issue, it should probably have been a better idea to release it across the world and do promotion afterwards. Just a thought.
Anyhow, even though Strictly Roots isn’t available in Europe and other parts of the world yet, I’ll still write a review because the music industry is a global phenomenon and I’m in a position to receive promotional copies in advance.
Strictly Roots is Morgan Heritage’s first album on their own label CTBC Music Group. These five siblings have for this new effort teamed up with a variety of producers and guest artists for an eclectic mix of rootsy reggae, R&B, dubstep, ska, pop, dancehall and electro. It for example features heavyweight co-producers like Seani B, Shane C. Brown, Jason “J-Vibe” Farmer, DJ Frass and Bost & Bim along with vocalists like Shaggy, Jo Mersa Marley, Chronixx and Jemere Morgan.
The initial three singles off the album – Perform and Done, Wanna Be Loved and So Amazing – are telling of how the album sound – catchy, easy-going and lightweight with infectious choruses.
Morgan Heritage have never been any strangers to the slick and glossy. And Strictly Roots is classic Morgan Heritage. But don’t get fooled by the title. This album is definitely not strictly roots.
Strictly Roots drops in Europe on June 15.
The queen and the four kings in Morgan Heritage are back with their first album since Mission in Progress, released in 2008. Over these five years the five siblings in the group have focused on their solo careers with a varying degree of success.
Morgan Heritage started as an octet more than 20 years ago, but re-formed a few years later to a five-piece group. Here Come the Kings is their tenth album, an album where they continue waving the red, gold and green banner high and proud. Their version of pop-fueled and melodic socially conscious roots reggae is easy to fall in love with, and this album is no exception.
Here Come the Kings was preceded by the excellent four track EP The Return – which included the anthemic and rock-solid title track – last year and the heavyweight pop gem Perfect Love Song, released just in time for Valentine’s Day.
The vocal interplay between lead singers Peetah and Gramps is beautiful – Peetah with his sincere gospel-tinged style and Gramps with his deep and authoritative baritone. Here Come the Kings shows them in perfect harmony and most of the tracks are better than any of their solo projects.
Tunes like The Return, Ends Nah Meet, Man Has Forgotten and Holla are heavily addictive and after listening to the full album you just might have to check yourself into rehab.
Here Come the Kings drops on June 11 on CD and digital platforms.
A few years back the family-based band Morgan Heritage temporarily split up and members Gramps, Lukes, Mojo, Peetah and Una ventured into their own solo careers.
Gramps has possibly been the most prolific of the members and has produced himself and other artists as well as released two albums – 2 Sides of My Heart in 2009 and Reggae Music Lives in April this year.
I got a chat with Gramps on his latest album and the return on Morgan Heritage over the phone from New York City where he hosts a radio show. Check the full story over at United Reggae.