Singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist I-Taweh recently dropped his second album Judgement, a set following his debut set Overload, which was put out in 2011.
Judgement comes with 16 cuts, including three dub versions. Two of the tracks – Never Fade Away and Herb Treez – have previously been released as singles. The rest of the songs are new. And a number of these are infectious and catchy with tight musicianship.
The strongest cuts are the pulsating Make It (Rainy Day) and the melancholic No Night, a song with a powerful brass section courtesy of horn veterans Dean Fraser and the late Nambo Robinson.
With this self-produced set I-Taweh will hopefully attract a number of new followers.
With a sturdy 19 tracks there’s not a dull moment on Soul Jazz’ second installment of Studio One Rocksteady, although some of the tracks have previously been featured on countless of other albums. I’m talking about well-known songs like Alton Ellis’ I’m Still In Love With You, Slim Smit’s Born To Love and The Heptones’ I Shall Be Released.
The title is however slightly misleading since the album draws both Studio One’s deep rocksteady and early reggae vaults. And it offers a sweet mix of staples and obscure singles. Best of the bunch is The Termites’ pulsating Rub Up Push Up, Carlton & The Shoes’ melancholic Never Let Go, Cannon & The Soul Vendors’ bouncy instrumental Bad Treatment and The Actions’ up-tempo Giddy Up.
Studio One Rocksteady 2 includes a number of cuts that helped to shape reggae to an international phenomenon.
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.
The latest album coming from reissue giant Pressure Sounds is another great one. And it’s not dedicated to Yabby You, Bunny Lee or Lee Perry. This one is all about bass maestro and soulful vocalist Lloyd Parks, probably best known for being an in-demand session musician.
Lloyd Parks started his career as one half of rocksteady duo The Termites and later he became a solo singer as well as a prominent guitar player and bass virtuoso. Back in the 70s he was part of no less than six different powerful musical forces – The Professionals, The Aggrovators, The Upsetters, The Revolutionaries, Skin Flesh & Bones and We The People Band.
As a session musician he has over the years played on countless of classics, including major hits such as Ken Boothe’s Everything I Own, Max Romeo’s War Inna Babylon, Dave & Ansel’s Double Barrel and The Wailers’ Soul Rebel. Lloyd Parks is also the mastermind behind the Slaving riddim, often miscredited to Glen Brown.
This hefty set comes with 22 track, including Slaving and its version. And the remaining 20 cuts are just as great and demonstrate Lloyd Parks’ gift for writing socially conscious lyrics and catchy melodies.
Samoan-American singer J Boog has one of the best voices in the reggae business. Such great energy and passion. He grew up in Compton, LA, and later relocated to Hawaii where he teamed up with Wash House Productions.
He dropped his debut album already ten years ago, but it was in 2010 he broke big with his Let’s Do It Again on Don Corleon’s Major riddim. His second set Backyard Boogie was released the year after, but since then he has only released occasional singles and cuts on one riddim compilations.
Until last year. In early 2016 he dropped the five track EP Rose Petals, which has been nominated for a Grammy in the reggae category. It was the predecessor to his third album Wash House Ting.
This 14 track set features several previously released cuts, including two songs from Rose Petals. It also includes collaborations with top names such as Chaka Demus, Gappy Ranks, Buju Banton and Gramps Morgan from Morgan Heritage.
Wash House Ting is a solid set – although the sonic landscape could have been more powerful – with sweet melodies and catchy hooks and J Boog shines as usual. And he’s at the top of his game on slightly more militant songs like Lock It Off, Vex Me and Raggamuffin.
In December Japan’s Dub Store Records put out another scarce rocksteady gem. ABC Rocksteady was originally released in 1968 in Jamaica and the UK with different sleeves. This reissues comes with the Jamaican and slightly more colorful sleeve.
The set includes instrumental versions of some of producer Sonia Pottinger’s greatest rocksteady cuts and all features ex-Skatalite and saxophone maestro Roland Alphonso as arranger and musician.
Hip Hug Her is a slice of funky rocksteady while Wild and Free is almost like a big swing band playing. The flute on Narata adds brightness and the tracks like That’s Life and Sad Song feature killer organ work.
A must-have set for anyone interested in great music.
Internationally renowned DJ, producer and remixer Jstar – hailing from London – has recently put out his debut album Stand To Order, a set following the compilation Licensed Plates, released three years ago.
Jstar is probably best-known for bold mash-ups and remixes, including a reggae version of Blackstreet’s global smash hit No Diggity. He has also collaborated with the likes of DJ Vadim, Major Lazer and Dub Pistols and has nowadays turned more and more to self-productions.
He has always stayed true to the reggae roots, but has never been afraid of breaking borders and experimenting with other bass-boosted sounds and genres.
This new set features a wealth of both well-known and lesser-known talents, including Brother Culture, Ranking Joe, Kinck, Blackout JA and Soom T. And they tackle Jstar’s forward-thinking beats and riddims delivering strong melodies and catchy hooks, as showcased particularly well on the infectious and bubbling title track with Soom T on the microphone, the silky My Truth and Jackie Verson & Spikey T’s pulsating Moving On.
Stand To Order also offers a slice of Cantonese reggae. MouseFX’s Baby Ya Fing is definitely something special.
Jstar’s productions have been praised, played and supported by the likes of David Rodigan and Huw Stephens. And when listening to this captivating and fascinating album it’s easy to understand why. Also – don’t forget to check its dub counterpart Dub To Order.
From Japan’s eminent Dub Store Records comes another epic rocksteady compilation and yet again it shines light on Jamaica’s Federal Records and producer Ken Khouri.
Merritone Rock Steady 2: This Music Got Soul 1966-1967 collects a hefty 21 cuts including novelties such as The Federal All Stars’ Merritone False Starts 2 and a rehearsal version of Lynn Taitt & The Jets’ version of the Batman theme.
But the real gems on this superb and sweet set are the vocal groups and their beautiful, yet sometimes a little rough around the edges, three-part harmonizing. Check for example The Tartans’ catchy Rolling Rolling, with its intense keys, or The Zodiacs’ Walk On By, with its lingering guitar and strong chorus.
60 minutes of early rocksteady. It’s the birth of reggae music.
Yabby You’s dub album Beware has been unavailable for about 25 years, but has thanks to Pressure Sounds been restored and reissued complete with no less than six superb bonus cuts.
Beware – which collects version sides from various singles – was originally released in 1978 and reissued in 1981 and 1991. The new version is greatly expanded with two fascinating and previously unreleased dubplate cuts, one is the eerie Conquering Lion, which is even more dread in its dubplate disguise, and the other one God is Watching You. This version is haunting with deep harmonies and nyabinghi drumming.
Other stellar cuts include Tommy McCook’s beautiful Sensimena and the powerful Peace with its smattering percussion, relentless bass line and bright saxophone.
King Tubby and Prince Jammy handled mixing duties and as expected it’s clever and innovative spotlighting the bass and drums, yet highlighting other prominent instruments, such as horns and keys.
A key dub album that still sounds powerful.
French singjay Jr Yellam has grown up. A few years ago he dropped Jr and now he has put out his second album The Musical Train, a set preceded by the EP Get On Board, which was released about a year ago and featured the massive Rub a Dub Anthem on Irie Ites’ Diamonds riddim.
The Musical Train is not eclectic, but slightly diverse with influences from soul, hip-hop and blues. The majority of the cuts are however strictly late 70s and early 80s rub a dub with the mighty Roots Radics providing the lethal riddims. France’s Irie Ites are behind the controls together with London-based mixing engineer Calvin “So So” Francis.
Many of these early dancehall anthems are bona-fide scorchers benefitting from the rock-solid backing and the dense sonic landscape that has been carefully created.
The Trinity and U Brown combination Try is pure fire and so is the infectious album opener Galong, which was also released as a single about two years ago. Heaven’s Door is a sentimental story and something of a tribute to the late ace drummer Lincoln “Style” Scott, who was an integral part of Roots Radics. He was found dead – probably murdered – at his home the day after Yellam returned to France.
Yellam has matured musically and stylistically and to further grow he needs to work on his English and improve pronunciation.