World-renowned reggae producer and dub legend Lee Perry has collaborated with a big number of artists over the years, and one of the best such was with UK’s Daniel Boyle, who produced the massive and Grammy-nominated album Back on the Controls. That album successfully re-created Lee Perry’s erratic and colorful sound from the mid-70s.
Belgian band Pura Vida has also been disciples of Lee Perry and his sonic adventures at his (in)famous Black Ark studio in Kingston. Now they have had the opportunity to work with the myth himself.
Their collaborative album The Super Ape Strikes Again carries a bold – and promising – album title since it refers to some of Lee Perry’s best work – his 1976 landmark release Super Ape, which is by some considered as his best album.
And it’s a pleasant listening throughout, even though it’s not in the same league as the innovative Super Ape set. But The Super Ape Strikes Again has all the classic Lee Perry elements – dubwise effects and dread atmosphere where instruments and vocals swirl around in thick ganja smoke. Lee Perry’s half-sung/half-spoken wordplays are also in full effect and are as usual an acquired taste.
This album could be mistaken for one of Lee Perry’s more accessible productions from the 70s. It doesn’t have some of the bizarre vibes sometimes associated with him, but it has the same lo-fi feel and grim bass lines. It’s something of a time capsule and pays respect to one of the masterminds of contemporary music.
Belgian band Pura Vida has managed to create a sound almost identical with what Lee Perry did at his famous Black Ark studio in the mid-70s. It’s swirling, sweaty and raw, and has been a successful recipe on a number of albums over the past years.
Pura Vida’s latest set is yet another combination with The Congos, and this time with Congo Ashanti Roy, one of The Congos’ lead singers.
Step by Step collects 17 cuts, of which five are dub versions and one is an instrumental with acclaimed trombone player Tommy Tornado taking lead. It offers well-crafted and live-played riddims as well as interesting arrangements, especially when it comes lead and back-up singing.
But, the problem with this set also lies in the vocals. Because Congo Ashanti Roy isn’t at the top of his game. He suffers occasionally from pitch lapses, and is off-key several times. A pity since he has emotional intensity, an intensity particularly showcased on the skanking and swinging Be True to You with its infectious sing-a-long chorus.
Even though Congo Ashanti Roy’s singing isn’t always up to par, he’s still a powerful exponent of vintage-flavoured roots reggae.
Wouter Rosseel – guitarist in Lee Perry-influenced Belgian reggae band Pura Vida – has another project, a project with hardly any Lee Perry influences. The members of Jamaican Jazz Orchestra are instead worshipping The Skatalites and the early sounds of Jamaica led by Don Drummond, Ernest Ranglin, Tommy McCook and others.
And this ten piece band has recently dropped a self-titled six track EP free for download over at Soundcloud.
When listening to it my foot starts tapping and my head starts nodding reflexively. They have a tasteful mix of reggae and ska rhythms spiced with a jazzy brass section and a groove-oriented organ player.
It’s loose, funky and fun and well-worth checking out, even though I could have made it without the rapping on G13.
If might be easy to dismiss Belgian musician and multi-instrumentalist Bregt De Boever, his band Pura Vida and their producer Poddington Krank as Lee Perry copycats. Well, they might be, but that doesn’t matter when it’s sounding as great as it always does.
On Pura Vida’s latest album – Red Hot – the atmosphere is ghastly similar to when Lee Perry was recording some of his best material at his legendary Black Ark studio in the mid to late 70s. The sound is swirling, ethereal and sticky. It’s like the album was recorded in a rain forest. Impressive to say the least.
As usual Pura Vida uses live instrumentation with strong horns, nice melodica and a groovy accordion. The set comes with 13 tracks, of which two are live recordings and three are churning dub versions.
Bregt De Boever’s voice is complemented with beautiful and powerful back-up vocals, vocals that adds quite a lot to the songs, especially the melancholic Life is a Gift, the countryfied Broken Hearted and thumping album-opener Jah Make Yah.
Pura Vida has previously proved their skills and showing their talents working with reggae luminaries such as Prince Alla and The Congos. Now they’re on their own showcasing a set that is just as strong as their previous efforts. They’re still waiting for a big break. Hopefully Red Hot helps them to gain a wider audience. Because they definitely deserve it.
Belgian reggae band Pura Vida aka The Lost Ark Band – led by multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Bregt De Boever – have previously worked with well-known heavy as lead roots singers and groups such as The Congos, Prince Alla, Sylford Walker and Congo Ashanti Roy.
Now, they’ve teamed up with a completely different artist – the obscure pub rock reggae singer and musician G.T. Moore, who has played with giants such as Van Morrison, Dr. John and Johnny Nash.
If you have ever searched the vinyl bins at a record store you might have stumbled upon Move It On Up or Reggae Blue released by G.T. Moore and The Reggae Guitars in the mid 70’s. I know I have, and I never bothered to give them a listen.
But maybe I should have. Because G.T. Moore’s new reggae project with Pura Vida is a punch in the face. In a good way. G.T. Moore has a tone reminiscent of a folk singer. He has no rush and his voice is scared, honest and rugged.
Seek the Kingdom First is musically in the same vein as previous Pura Vida material, i.e. highly influenced by Lee Perry’s heydays at his legendary Black Ark studio. It’s ethereal and swirling and you can almost feel the water drops slowly finding its way down the veins of the leaf in the humid jungle.
The album collects six vocal cuts and two dub versions. The majority of the tracks run over five minutes and they are in no hurry to finish. The music is slow, mellow and beautiful.
This album is currently only available on digital platforms, but previous Pura Vida material have been pressed on vinyl too, so this might change if there’s a demand.
In Belgium there is a studio named The Lost Ark. It’s a nod to Lee Perry’s legendary Black Ark studio in Kingston, Jamaica, where he crafted his unique sound. Calling the studio Lost Ark certainly sounds too good to be true, but when listening to some of the music recorded there it’s fascinating how it resemblances Lee Perry’s mid to late 70’s output.
The latest set to come out of the Lost Ark is Congo Ashanti Roy’s and Belgian band Pura Vida’s Hard Road. Congo Ashanti Roy is one third of the original Congo’s who recorded their world-renowned debut album Heart of the Congos at the Black Ark with Lee Perry, and also last year recorded the album We Nah Give Up together with Pura Vida at the Lost Ark.
Hard Road is the brainchild of Pura Vida’s lead singer Bregt “Braithe” De Boever and Congo Ashanti Roy and collects eleven tracks, of which two are dub versions, recorded in Belgium and Jamaica. The production and mixing were handled by Poddington Krank.
The album is swirling, richly textured and atmospheric and sounds like it was recorded in a dense greenhouse full of ganja. The musicians utilizes a number of unexpected instruments, such as harmonica on the country-tinged Shadows of the Evening, strings on Hard Road and what sounds like a pan pipe on album opener Only Jah, a nyahbinghi track similar to Ras Michael’s album Love Thy Neighbour.
Even though Lee Perry has not been involved in this project his fingerprints are all over the place, and Hard Road is a fascinating musical journey with call-and-response singing, trancelike grooves, sublime horn arrangements and adventurous song structures.
Hard Road is available on digital platforms worldwide and a limited edition vinyl copy can by ordered via Lost Ark Music.
Jamaican vocal harmony group The Congos are responsible for one of the best reggae albums ever made – Heart of The Congos. It surfaced in 1977 and showed the extraordinary talents of producer and engineer Lee Perry.
A full-blown masterpiece like Heart of The Congos is naturally hard to follow-up. Maybe one or two thought The Congos would manage to do it in 2010, when the album Back in the Black Ark was put out. This was a decent set, but no way near their debut, and felt more like a marketing gimmick.
But last year The Congos quietly dropped We nah Give Up – a 17 track double disc recorded and produced together with Belgian reggae rockers Pura Vida. This album is by far the best album by The Congos since their magnum opus back in the 70’s.
We nah Give Up is the brainchild of Pura Vida’s lead singer Bregt “Braithe” De Boever, and the blueprint of the set was laid in Jamaica.
The album boasts nine excellent cuts from the Congos with lead vocals shared between Cedric Myton’s falsetto, Congo Ashanti Roy’s tenor and Watty Burnett’s baritone as well as eight equally first-rate vocals and dubstrumentals from Pura Vida.
The atmospheric, steamy and hypnotizing Black Ark sound texture is present throughout the album. The vocals soar overhead the swirling instrumentation with sublime melodies and unexpected arrangements.
It’s a shame this album was so poorly marketed. Had I heard it last year it would have been put on my list of best albums of 2011. Anything else would have been an outrage.
We nah Give Up is available as a limited edition double LP from Lost Ark Music and as digital download.