Tag Archives: Roberto Sánchez

Yet another impressive set from Alpheus and Roberto Sánchez

disc-3153-alpheus-good-prevailsThree 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.

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Good prevails on Alpheus new album

disc-3153-alpheus-good-prevailsUK-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.

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Exquisite rub a dub from Ambassah

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 BreezeTwo 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.

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Alpheus has a timeless taste



UK-singer Alpheus recently dropped his third album From Creation to wide critical acclaim. Reggaemani got a chance to talk to him about his love for ska, rock steady and legendary producer Coxsone Dodd.

Alpheus

Alpheus grew up listening to ska and rock steady music

I had never heard of Neil “Alpheus” Martin until I read about his third and latest album From Creation, produced by Spanish talent Roberto Sánchez. A bit strange since he has recorded for legendary producer Coxsone Dodd as well as French label Special Delivery.

From Creation is milestone in Alpheus’ career. He has given up on one drop riddims. Now his music will be all about ska, rock steady and roots rock steady. At least that is what he told online magazine United Reggae some months ago.

“I think I made a few people upset when I mentioned that”, laughs Alpheus on the phone from Roberto Sánchez studio in Santander, Spain, and continues:

“There is a new kind of reggae now. The new one drop. I mean there are good songs, but I prefer ska, rock steady and roots rock steady. It makes me feel good. And it stands the test of time. It doesn’t sound old or new. It’s just great music.”

Love for ska and rock steady
Alpheus met Roberto through Sergio from Heartical Sound in France. He set up a show in the Basque country and introduced him to Roberto and his band.

“Roberto and his group were going to back me at the concert and we had a good connection right there”, says Alpheus.

This was in 2006 and the first song they recorded was the groovy From Creation. Roberto wasn’t really into ska and rock steady at the time. He concentrated on roots from the late 70’s. Channel One style.

Alpheus on the other hand grew up on ska and rock steady. His mum used to play that kind of music and he says that he can easily find a melody to a ska and rock steady beat.

Worked with Coxsone Dodd
But From Creation is Alpheus’ third album. His first album Quality Time, put out in 1999, was a broader effort that included several reggae genres.

Alpheus says that he learned a lot from Quality Time and working with its producer Coxsone Dodd.

“It was better than fantastic to work with Coxsone Dodd. I was going through some sad times when I met him and it was the best thing that has ever happened to me musically”, he explains and continues:

“He showed me how to use my voice, arranging backing vocals, hooks and explaining stories.”

They met in New York through former Melodians singer Tony Brevett, who Alpheus had met in Florida.

“I lived in Brooklyn for some years and the Studio One studio was only about 30 minutes from home. I was there to learn and to write”, says Alpheus and continues:

“There is a different vibe in the U.S. In New York you have to do it in one take. You have to be prepared. It is much like Jamaica. In London it’s more laid back and not as much vibe as in the U.S. And in Europe everyone is happy to be in the studio with you. It’s exciting.”

From the foundation
And it seems that Roberto and Alpheus had an exciting time recording From Creation. It is recorded with an undeniable love for 60’s ska and rock steady and is based on both fresh and original riddims as well as relicks of some masterpieces from the 60’s.

You would expect riddims from Coxsone Dodd. Somewhat more surprising is that riddims from Phil Pratt get the Sánchez/Alpheus treatment.

“I am not much of a connoisseur and I didn’t know much of Phil Pratt’s music. It was minor key and I didn’t know of it. But it felt good and people told me that it was a big riddim [Dirty Dozen]. It’s nearly my favourite. It was lovely to write and lovely to sing to.”

New themes
On his previous albums love and relationships have been obvious themes. From Creation is more about upliftment and based on many different subjects.

“Love is a subject that concerns everyone. It’s everyday life. Love is relationships and something that everyone can relate to”, Alpheus explains and continues:

“The new album is broader and only four out of the 16 tunes are about love. Inside Out for example is about a person and that it’s the inside that sets the character.”

A FEW FAST ONES TO ALPHEUS

Favourite artist/group?
Don’t have one

Favourite label?
Studio One

Favourite album?
Really don’t know

Favourite tune?
Your Love – Larry Marshall

Favourite producer?
Clement Dodd

Favourite riddim?
Your Love riddim

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Roberto Sánchez knows vintage reggae

Trying to imitate or copy a sound without sounding dull is tough. Many have tried but few have succeeded. Roberto Sánchez from Santander in north Spain has however managed to produce records that are both foundation rocksteady and roots reggae. Reggaemani got a chat with him from his studio on the day Alpheus new album From Creation hit the streets.

Roberto Sánchez is a talented man. He is a producer, engineer, singer, song writer and musician. He also owns and operates A-Lone Ark Muzik Studio and A-Lone Productions (his label) as well as heads the Lone Ark Riddim Force, a live and studio band.

The label was created in 1997 and has since its inception released tunes from both veterans and newcomers.

Last January saw the acclaimed release of And God Said to Man from foundation singer Earl Zero. That album was in a style that Roberto Sánchez is most comfortable with – late 70’s roots.

The new album from Alpheus is a completely different story. From Creation is all about rocksteady and ska – Jamaican music from the 60’s – and is based on riddims from producers Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid and one of the many unsung heroes of reggae – Phil Pratt.

“It’s like a old picture”
 “I’ve always loved Studio One productions and the productions just before Jackie Mittoo left for Canada. You know the tunes from Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson and Ken Boothe. They’re amazing”, says Roberto Sánchez, and continues giving a comparison between two legendary labels:

“Treasure Isle has always had a more sophisticated sound. I love the rawness of Studio One. It’s warm and not a lot of clarity. It’s like an old picture”.

Rocksteady for the first time
But the album is not entirely based on other producers’ riddims. Roberto has managed to pen a few by himself as well.

“I wasn’t really into rocksteady before I did this album and I had never worked with this kind of riddims. My aim sound is late 70’s and Channel One”, he says, and continues:

“In the 60’s in Jamaica they were doing it U.S style. It was quality back then. Just listen to Lynn Taitt’s guitar play. In the 70’s it was rawer. In rocksteady they tried to be musicians in the full sense of the word”.

Started recording in 2006
From Creation has taken some time to record. Roberto and Alpheus met in 2006 and the first tune they recorded was Ultimate, a cut of Phil Pratt’s Dirty Dozen, originally performed by trombonist Vincent “Don D Junior” Gordon.

 “Already back then, we thought of doing an album together. The album was recorded between 2006 and 2010. It was finished last summer and it took some time to decide how to release it. We decided to do it ourselves”, he says, and continues to explain how he and Alpheus work together:

“We complement each other. Alpheus knows ska and rocksteady very well and I know minor chords riddims. And the results are amazing”.

Even though From Creation only has been out for about a week, critics have already praised it.

“We have had great response so far from media and radio. Many people seem to like the album”, he says and continues:

“I think people like it because it has original feelings. It’s from a golden era in Jamaican music. It’s also made with care and love. It has an amazing style and I think it’s Alpheus best work yet. It’s just pure loving’”.

More to come
Some of the finest music in the rocksteady era was made by vocal harmony groups like the Gaylads, the Melodians, the Techniques and the Uniques. Roberto is thrilled by the idea of making this kind of music again.

“It would be amazing to record a vocal group. The Viceroys are touring now and they would be my first choice. Tetrack would also fit on a rocksteady riddim”, he says.

But that is not in the pipeline. Not yet anyhow. Instead Roberto has plans to put out singles from Linval Thompson and Keith Rowe (Keith in Keith & Tex, responsible for hit song Stop That Train). Keith Rowe has voiced two riddims on the From Creation album.

“I’ve also started recording a showcase album from Milton Henry. It’ll be released next year. There’ll be no more albums from me this year”, he explains and continues:

“I also hope to do some more dub versions from the From Creation album. We also recorded a lot more than what’s on the album. Those songs will hopefully be put out as 7, 10 or 12 inches”.

A FEW FAST ONES TO ROBERTO SÁNCHEZ

Favourite artist/group?
Naggo Morris

Favourite label? 
Many!!! Observer

Favourite album?  
Johnny Osbourne – Truths and Rights

Favourite tune?
At the moment Little Roy’s False Talk

Favourite producer?
Dennis Bovell

Favourite riddim?
Studio One and Cornell Campbell´s Stars

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Alpheus takes it from the foundation

London born singer Alpheus has together with talented Spanish producer Roberto Sánchez managed to create one of the better albums I’ve heard in a while.

From Creation consists of sixteen tunes of pure ska and rocksteady magic recorded with live instruments. There are twelve vocal cuts, two instrumentals and two dub versions. Seven of the tracks are relicks of riddims from producer Coxsone Dodd and the more obscure – but just as great – Phil Pratt. The other five are written by the duo themselves.

And interestingly enough the tunes penned by the duo are just as good as the relicks. The haunting Far Away and the stomping We Are Strong could easily have been written in the 60’s.

Alpheus singing is inspired. By the natural way he rides the riddims it certainly seems like he has enjoyed the time in the studio. His powerful tenor is deep, soulful and sometimes dramatic, such as in the minor chord masterpiece From Creation, which is nicely complemented by an intense percussion driven dub version. It’s as if Roberto Sánchez had invited legendary Jamaican percussionist Bongo Herman to the session.

From Creation is obviously created by people who love music. It’s carefully made by the exact blend of heart, mind and soul. A must have in any good record collection.

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Earl Zero’s still got it

In the past couple of months two well-known reggae veterans have released albums – Horace Andy with Serious Times and Clinton Fearon with Mi Deh Ya. But in the shadows one of the more unsung heroes of reggae music has released a showcase album with classic 70s roots.

In late March came the release of Earl Zero’s And God Said to Man album. A piece of heavenly roots music with a sound reminiscent of the mid and late 70s.

The album consists of twelve tunes – six vocal cuts and six dub versions – signed Spanish producer, label owner and musician Roberto Sánchez, who has previously worked with artists such as Rod Taylor, Kenny Knotts and Glen Washington.

Roberto Sánchez’ work aims to keep the style and sound of the 70s roots reggae music alive in terms of recording techniques, instruments used and artists to record. And he really succeeds with his vision. This album sounds like it could’ve been recorded in Jamaica 35 years ago.

And God Said to Man is as much deep conscious roots as the material Earl Zero recorded with, among others, Bertram Brown and Earl “Chinna” Smith in the 70s. Listen to You Are Gonna Fall with its intense drums or the mighty version of the classic None Shall Escape the Judgement. It’s close to Earl Zero’s own 70s version and the sound is more 70s steppers than flying cymbals and the version that made Johnny Clarke known.

The dub versions lie close to King Tubby and have few sound effects. Instead they’re stripped down and intimate.

Earl Zero and Roberto Sánchez began collaborating in 2007 with the tune Root of David. Hopefully they will continue to make music together. And God Said to Man shows that Earl Zero has a lot more to give and Roberto Sánchez has interesting ideas that I want to hear more about. Much more in fact.

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