Devon Clarke has been recording since the mid-80s and now – about 30 years after his first singles – his debut album has been released via US label Bent Back Records. Devon Clarke has mostly worked with Massive B and Digital English, but he hasn’t really recorded much over the years.
His style is reminiscent of mid-80s giants Tenor Saw, Nitty Gritty, King Kong and Anthony red Rose. A simple, smooth, hypnotic and flat style with catchy melodies delivered over old school synthesized riddims.
The set comes with ten tracks – vocals on one side and versions on the other. The standout cut is Beat the Banker, on which he rides a moody version of King Tubby’s fierce Tempo riddim. Other highlights include the JohnnyGo Figure combination Soldier and a remix of Hangin’ in Deh, originally released in 2014 on Bent Back.
Call Me Bobo Saw is mid-80s digital reggae at its very best.
Stix Records is back with yet another compilation focusing on making reggae versions of soul and disco scorchers. This third edition comes with a variety of producers, including Taggy Matcher, who is onboard as usual and graces the album with three productions.
The nine track set includes both newly recorded material and classics. And among the standout tracks are Mato’s reggae refix of Lucas Arruda & Leon Ware’s funky Melt the Night with its slick guitar work and Taggy Matcher’s version of Inner City’s Big Fun complete with great horns and a memorable synth line. Also included is The Dynamics’ version of Rolling Stones’ disco joint I Miss You with its infectious “oooh oooh oooh oooh and aaah aaah aaah aaah aaah aaah aaah” chorus.
Cool, breezy and funky. Music for laid-back cats.
In 1976 Lee Perry dropped one of the best dub albums ever recorded – Super Ape. Now 41 years after its original release, and when Lee Perry is 81 years old, he has joined forces with New York City’s Subatomic Sound System to re-record the album using today’s technology.
It’s a bold move to try and improve a masterpiece, but the result is stunning. Super Ape Returns To Conquer is true to the original sound with its dense and steamy tropical sonic landscape. But at the same time it has more punch thanks to influences from electronic music, dubstep and hip-hop. It has superb horns and pounding percussion along with booming bass, blasting beats and blazing energy.
Lee Perry’s idiosyncratic vocals is present throughout the album, but a number of guest vocalists also turn up – Jahdan Blakkamoore, Screechy Dan and the late Ari-Up from punk rock band The Slits. Dub music has however never been about vocals. It’s about atmosphere and mixing and the ability to create something new by using something already recorded.
Or as Emch from Subatomic Sound System describes the recording process – “We didn’t create the album like it was being re-recorded today with current technology. We imagined we went back in a time machine to 1976 and brought Lee Perry the tools he needed to create an album he envisioned that would sound like it was 40 years in the future, so that today’s listeners can recognize that in 1976 it was in fact 40 years ahead of its time.”
A classic album for a new generation of dub fans.
French versatile singer and singjay LMK drops her second album Highlights, the follow-up to her debut full-length Musical Garden released in 2015. On this new set she has sharpened her musical edge and crafted many memorable hooks and catchy choruses.
Highlights is a dancehall album particularly influenced by R&B, hip-hop and pop. It’s delightful and the chorus on See the Light is simply irresistible with its strings and LMK’s sprightly and youthful singing.
But she also has another side. Check the fierce See Dem Out and the brilliant Skarra Mucci combination Crazy And Alive where she showcases her rapping and fast chatting style. She also has a distinct hip-hop connection and is joined by four U.S. rappers – Reverie and Gavlyn along with veterans Mann and Billy Danze from Brooklyn’s MOP.
LMK is along with Soom T and Marina P the most promising and interesting talent on the European reggae and dancehall scene.
One of my most anticipated releases this year dropped last week. I’m talking about Jamaican superior chanter and singer Jesse Royal and his debut album Lily of Da Valley,a 14 track set including already familiar cuts like Finally and Modern Day Judas along with recent singles like the Jo Mersa Marley combination Generation and Always Be Around.
Jesse Royal has been in the music business since his early 20s and dropped some of his earliest material for the Xterminator label, nowadays XTM Nation, led by Philip “Fattis” Burrell’s son Kareem Burrell. Early singles like Hatred is the Obsolete Route and One Eye Open boded well for the future and in 2013 he broke big with the massive Modern Day Judes on Winta James’ Rootsman riddim, probably best known for Chronixx’ Here Comes Trouble.
Further strong singles soon followed, including Preying On the Weak, Raging Storm, Cool And Deadly and Blowing In the Wind. And now his debut album has finally arrived. It comes with ten previously unreleased cuts and carries both conscious messages pushing for positive changes along with party starters and love songs.
The powerful album opener 400 Years is a battle against oppression while both Roll Me Something and Finally praises the herb. The Natty Rico combination Full Moon is something of an oddity with its electro beat and Major Lazer-influenced synthesizer hook. It’s insanely catchy, but takes a few listens to get acquainted with.
Lily of Da Valley showcases Jesse Royal’s sparkling and versatile vocal delivery and sense for infectious melodies and hooks. It’s certainly a well-rounded debut offering a little something for everyone.
So let’s follow Jesse Royal’s instructions on the breezy and 80s sounding Rock It Tonight – “hey there DJ, won’t you put this one upon reply, I don’t want this party to decay, gonna be a soul shakedown tonight”.
Popular U.S. reggae band The Expanders has released the second installment in their cover series Old Time Something Come Back Again. The first version was put out in 2013 as a vinyl only release.
On this second volume they shine on 15 cuts originally released by singers and groups such as Burning Spear, The Ethiopians, The Itals, Yabby You and Little Roy. Included are also tunes from little known artists such as Ghetto Connection and Kenty Spence & His Stars. The set offers by no means versions of reggae hits. Many songs are unknown gems performed by singers and players far away from the reggae mainstream.
The Expanders shines throughout the set with their pristine three-part harmonies, organic sonic landscape and no-frills arrangements with musicians providing the bare essentials – bass, organ, drums and guitar.
And this album is not about nostalgia. The Expanders put their signature mark on every track with vintage vibes and a vocal style reminiscent of reggae from the late 60s. This is an album curated with love and affection and it showcases timeless music through spirituality, social commentary and affairs of the heart.
Jamaican singjay Ras Zacharri, who is the nephew of Buju Banton, returns with a brand new album five years after its predecessor Rootstep.
On Love Over Hate Ras Zacharri join forces with French band My Name Is Band, aka MNIB, and together they have crafted an excellent modern roots album with live instrumentation and versions of classic riddims.
The set was recorded between Jamaica and France and has taken about four years to complete. But it was well worth the wait.
Ras Zacharri dropped his first single in 2000 as DJ Bogle in reference to his given name Bogle Broadie. The single didn’t make much impact and some years after he was picked up by Nick Manasseh and his Roots Garden Records. He had changed his name to Ras Zacharri and together they recorded four lethal cuts and Ras Zacharri was featured on Roots Garden Showcase Part 2.
Around the same time he also recorded for Shem Ha Boreh Records, and that label is also responsible for this new album, which is his best to date. Standout cuts include album opener Look What A Gwann, recorded over a version of the mighty Cuss Cuss riddim, the urgent Protect the Children, recorded over a version of the classic Swing Easy riddim, and the Horace Andy combination One by One.
Best of the bunch is however the bright and uplifting Life together with its breezy dub counterpart. It’s a repeat button moment. Ras Zacharri’s warm and raspy voice suits these elegant, and sometimes militant, riddims and arrangements very well.
Soundclashes are a vital part of reggae culture and soundmen around the world always aim to stay ahead of competition by having the toughest dubplates where the artists spits insults and boasts the sound they are singing and chatting for.
On the by Japan’s Dub Store Records’ recently reissued Soundclash Dubplate Style Vol. 1 & 2 this culture and style is highlighted through ten cuts complemented by their dubstrumental version.
The set is produced by the late engineer-turned-producer King Tubby and was originally released in the late 80s. It’s a solid collection of digital soundboy tunes showcasing the essence of reggae and dancehall culture with each track being introduced by hypeman Fuzzy Jones.
Johnny Osbourne delivers the blazing and pulsating Line Up. It’s by far the strongest cut on the album where Johnny Osbourne fuses tough boastful lyrics with a catchy melody. The grim Die Yu Die from Michael Bitas is another gem which will make competition run.
Reggae history right here.
Delroy Wilson and producer Bunny Lee. That’s always a welcome combination. On the by Pressure Sounds recently reissued album Go Away Dream these two musical giants team up with The Agrovators for a romantic reggae affair with rough and tough bass lines, much in the Roots Radics vein.
As usual when it comes to former child star Delroy Wilson it’s a mix of originals and covers. And he does a great job versioning No More Heartaches – originally voiced by The Beltones in the late 60s – and the extended version on the CD and digital version of the album also features an uncredited deejay.
Delroy Wilson has a golden voice and he shines throughout the album. He doesn’t rely much on backing vocals and his soulful and expressive voice is what you get on this excellent set from 1982.
Several years ago I wrote a story on what I called the Jamaican band craze. The story was about the fact that many new bands had emerged in Jamaica over just a few years. Some of the bands mentioned in the piece was Dubtonic Kru, Uprising Roots Band and Raging Fyah.
These three outfits have since been followed by numerous other acts and one of the most recent ones is EarthKry, a quartet that dropped their debut EP Hard Road in 2015. And that promising set has now been followed by a full-length album.
Survival is its title and it’s just as solid as the debut EP. EarthKry shares stories of survival from daily life – personal struggles, financial hardship – as well as commenting the state of the world with topics such as war and health issues.
Just like fellow Jamaican band Third World EarthKry shares a potent blend of reggae, funk and soul. Check the pulsating Praise Jah, the funky Do What You Got To Do or Table Turn, which is powered by a ferocious bass line and high – almost angelic – backing vocals. It’s a real treat.