Chinese/Jamaican roots singer I Kong aka Ricky Storm – cousin to the late producer extraordinaire Leslie Kong and formerly a member of vocal harmony group The Jamaicans – is back with a new album, only a year after its predecessor A Little Walk. And even though I Kong is in his 60s today, he’s at a productive peak with two albums released over a little more than a year.
Pass It On is just A Little Walk recorded together with Swiss roots band Najavibes between Switzerland and Jamaica and mixed by the immensely talented Roberto Sánchez at his studio in Spain.
This recipe has proven fruitful and it works yet again. Actually even better this time, because Pass It On is more straight-forward and is both superb and sublime with its powerful rhythms and infectious melodies mingling effortlessly with I Kong’s soothing singing.
His voice has retained its tone and character and on a cut like the slightly discofied Keep Grooving he dives into a deep and gritty soulful groove letting his voice loose over handclaps, bright horns, joyous backing vocals and a pulsating riddim section.
If A Little Walk was a triumphant return for I Kong, this album certainly cements his arrival after almost ten years out of the spotlight.
Africa has a fast rising reggae star. His name is Bi.Ba and he’s from Madagascar. He’s actually been around for quite some time and on his brand new album Massavana he has collaborated with Spanish musician, producer and mixing maestro Roberto Sánchez and his Lone Ark Riddim Force. When Roberto Sánchez is involved satisfaction is usually guaranteed. And this is the case with Bi.Ba’s second album.
Bi.Ba has a touching and soothing tone in his voice and the production is heavily influenced by 70s Jamaican roots. Roberto Sánchez has given the set a feel of authenticity with vintage vibes and live instrumentation complete with beautiful harmonies – listen to Mr. Babylon – and dub versions to four of the cuts.
A stunning album from an artist that will put Madagascar on the reggae road map.
French label and sound system Blackboard Jungle has once again put out a killer release with help from France’s Rockers Disciples and Spain’s Roberto Sánchez along with a few other key musicians.
Sounds From the Ark is a stellar 12 track album where wonderful instrumentals rub shoulders with killer vocal cuts and lethal dub versions. The set is inspired by nature and the classical elements, and with that backdrop a team of musicians, including Rockers Disciples, The Producers, Don Fe and Prince Jamo, created a number of instrumental pieces that later formed into Sounds From the Ark.
The inspiration for this album is clearly showcased by the song titles – Water of Life, Fire Rises and Mystic Wind – and the set is organic taking the listener on a journey from the depths of the oceans to the mountain tops.
A beautiful album. Just as nature.
About five years ago I had the opportunity to interview Spanish producer, mixing engineer and musician Roberto Sánchez. In the interview he mentioned a few dream projects and one of those was working with Jamaica harmony trio The Viceroys. That’s no longer a dream and the project has materialized.
Memories is a the second showcase album on Iroko Records produced by Roberto Sánchez along with Iroko’s own Herve Brizec, and it follows Noel Ellis’ Zion.
This brand new album includes six beautiful vocal cuts directly followed by their ground shaking dub counterpart. Just listen to All I Dub. When the bass line drops it’s like you want to shed a tear.
And just like all other productions coming from Roberto Sánchez and his Lone Ark Riddim Force this sounds vintage to the bone. This could have been a forgotten gem recorded by The Viceroys at Channel One back in the late 70s.
This is heavy roots. This is roots full of culture and consciousness. Just like way back when.
Noel Ellis, son of the late and great Jamaican singer Alton Ellis, dropped his self-titled debut album in 1983. It was recorded in Canada and overlooked at the time of release. Fortunately it was picked up Light in the Attic Records and reissued almost ten years ago. Now – more than 30 years after the release of his debut – Noel Ellis has finally put out his second album Zion.
It’s a twelve track showcase set – six vocal cuts and six dub versions – released by French label Iroko. It’s facilitated by acclaimed producers Hervé Brizec and Roberto Sánchez and has a distinct vintage feel to it.
Zion is a coherent and classic set with pleasant and heavy dub versions where Roberto Sánchez has put the smattering percussion in front of the mix, as shown on the deep Jah Dub, the version to the excellent and devout Jah Love.
Noel Ellis has a versatile voice with a melancholic tone and album opener Zion presents a mode where his graceful singing sounds a bit nervous, while he on the cavernous and slow Reggae Music shows a more powerful style. On I Know he actually sounds a little like the great Ken Boothe, grittiness excluded.
Roberto Sánchez has previously recorded a number of vintage reggae singers to wide critical acclaim. And Noel Ellis’ second album can definitely be filed next to soon-to-be-classics like Milton Henry’s Branches and Leaves and Earl Sixteen’s Natty Farming.
The second showcase album from French label and sound system Blackboard Jungle features renowned Spanish producer, mixing engineer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Roberto Sánchez and French roots rockers The Rockers Disciples. It follows the first showcase album on which The Rockers Disciples teamed up with UK vocal duo Reality Souljahs.
And just as the first volume, Blackboard Jungle Showcase Vol. II comes with 12 tracks and each has a hard and driving dub version.
It’s a stellar set. Even better than the first volume. Roberto Sánchez is a gifted vocalist with a smooth, yet passionate, style. And the riddims, oh the riddims. They are rough and touch and sounds like they’re directly lifted from a Channel One album recorded in the late 70s, when roots reggae started to give way for early dancehall.
The set is magnificent from start to finish, but stand-out cuts include the groovy Rising Light, the militant Some More (Politricks), the dread Tell it to the Children and the galloping Fire.
Excellent vintage-sounding roots and dub from some of Europe’s finest musicians.
You have to be impressed by Spanish producer, mixing engineer and musician Roberto Sánchez. A few weeks ago he and Alpheus dropped a sweet and soulful rocksteady album. Now, he’s responsible for another set, but in a completely different vein.
Earl 16’s Natty Farming is rub-a-dub old school style. Properly old school since the relentless drum patters are laid by Style Scott of Roots Radics fame and originally recorded at Channel One in Kingston.
Just as several other notable album releases from Roberto Sánchez and his A-Lone Productions, Natty Farming is a showcase set with six vocals and their six dubs. Three songs are originals and three are cover versions.
Natty Farming is organic and analogue. It’s warm and Earl 16’s pleading voice floats over the throbbing and syncopated riddims with elegance.
I have yet to hear a below par album or tune from Roberto Sánchez and his crew.
Three years ago UK singer Alpheus dropped the critically acclaimed rocksteady and ska-tinged album From Creation, and in an interview with United Reggae he said that he would from now on only record in the same vein. No more roots or one drop. Just the sweet and smooth sounds of early Jamaica.
He has kept this promise and together with Spanish producer Roberto Sánchez he has again recorded a sublime 14 track set that consists of striking relicks and fresh originals. And just as From Creation Good Prevails sounds authentic and vintage, almost as the album was recorded in the mid to late 60s.
Alpheus’ singing is warm and comforting and the live recorded riddims are heartfelt and soulful, spiced with plenty of bright horns and moody organ and guitar licks.
This album is impressive to say the least. So skip the poorly sounding rocksteady reissues and go for this meticulously constructed and well-produced set. This is the sound of real reggae music.
UK-based singer Alpheus teamed up with renowned Spanish producer Roberto Sánchez about four years ago and in 2011 the acclaimed album From Creation was released. It was a step in a new and different direction for both Alpheus and Roberto Sánchez.
From Creation was not the usual European one drop or hard Channel One roots reggae. It was something completely different – soulful rocksteady and swinging ska.
Now this duo has a new album – Good Prevails. It collects 14 tracks, of which two are melodica instrumentals. It also offers a mix of fresh originals and re-vitalized versions of riddims created by Coxsone Dodd, Phil Pratt and Winston Riley.
Good Prevails hits the streets on LP and CD on April 28. If you can’t wait to hear how it sounds, check Our Strength taken from the album.
Unfortunately I don’t know much about the Spanish reggae scene apart from my encounters with producer and musician Roberto Sánchez. His productions together with Earl Zero and Alpheus are essential in any record collection.
But now my horizon is widened, since another Spanish producer has come forward. Ambassah has collected 17 tunes recorded between 2005 and 2011 on Rub A Dub Showcase Part II, a compilation where Robero Sánchez turns up as co-producer, engineer and musician. Nine of these tracks have previously been released on Pirate’s Choice Recordings as 10”. The other eight are actually unreleased until now.
Rub A Dub Showcase Part II carry some deep early 80’s dancehall grooves and the eight different riddims – of which two are relicks – are built on live instrumentation. Vocalists include singers such as Alpheus, Horace Martin and the Godfather of Dancehall himself – the late Sugar Minott. All three makes impressive efforts.
But the real masterpiece is Breeze and Trees’ – DJ’s Ranking Forrest and Jah Breeze – Two the Hard Way (Extended), where the DJ duo goes Michigan & Smiley over the skanking Monday Sounds riddim with its lethal horns riff.
Apart from vocals there is a lot of dub going on here as well. Nine of the 17 cuts are dub versions with a rich texture and three are extended versions with a similar sound.
Rub A Dub Showcase Part II is an exciting and accomplished set that builds on the best from early Jamaican dancehall.