Junior Kelly is a mature reggae artist with great confidence. That’s clear when listening to his latest full-length set Urban Poet. This album is an album firmly rooted in old school soul and its sound is described by Junior Kelly himself as Motown Reggae. And that’s a telling description. It’s positive, vibrant and joyous from beginning to end and it sounds like Junior Kelly had a great time recording it together with Austria’s Irievibrations Records.
He has had artistic freedom when making the album and he’s obviously a fan of 60s and 70s soul and funk. Just listen to cuts like the infectious Mile In My Shoes, the insanely funky Hooked On Mary with its lovely guitar lick and To Get By with its pulsating disco bass line.
But fans of classic Junior Kelly won’t be disappointed. There’s plenty of reggae included as well. Both Power To the People and Put It Pon Me is excellent contemporary rootsy reggae.
Press releases from labels always tend to exaggerate and I rarely agree with the great amount of superlatives used to describe the artist and the music. But when reading about Urban Poet I must agree. This album collects “incredible live riddims, exciting musicianship and vocal artistry at its best” and is a “masterpiece”.
Combinations, combinations and yet another set of combinations. That summarizes the latest Marcia Griffiths album Marcia Griffiths and Friends. This double disc collects 38 (!) unreleased and already put out duets with a veritable who’s who in vintage and contemporary reggae. It’s a mix of original material, relicks of classic riddims and covers of familiar pop songs.
The list of soulful vocal partners goes on and on, while the more rugged voices are too few and far between, even though the incarcerated Buju Banton shows up on five tracks, including standouts Childish Games and Closer.
And it’s usually the tracks where Marcia Griffiths shares vocal duties with a singer with a different style and approach than her own that shines the most, for example Round and Round with Queen Ifrica, Riddim Affi Roll with Lady G or Ready to Go with Tony Rebel.
The slick and polished production is strongly influenced by pop, rock and R&B and is handled by Donovan Germain, a producer with a list of merits going back to the 70’s and tough roots albums by Cultural Roots and Mighty Diamonds.
Marcia Griffiths and Friends is an adult and radio-friendly album that showcases Marcia Griffiths’ solid voice and her strong reputation in the reggae industry.
Bass player Taddy P has toured the world and performed on stage with artists such as Freddie McGregor, Sanchez and the late Dennis Brown.
His skills has also been utilized by lovers rock singer Maxi Priest, and Taddy P has been his personal bass player for many years.
Maxi Priest is also one of the 14 singers that Taddy P has invited for his sophomore album Gimmie Di Bass. Other well-known names are Tanya Stephens, Shaggy and Bunny Rugs of Third World.
Gimmie Di Bass hosts 15 tunes whereof two are dub versions. It’s soulful, mellow and harmonious. It also has a lot of bass solos. Too many actually. It gets a bit tiresome and cheesy after a while. Especially in the softer tunes, such as the largely instrumental Michael Jackson tribute Lady in My Life and Too Busy that features strings and Maxi Priest on vocal duties.
I usually also like by bass lines deep, rough and tough. Gimmie Di Bass is too cozy and smooth.
There are of course exceptions. The hypnotic Play for Me with Deesha on the microphone and the rhythmic and melodic Let’s Get it Started, with vocals from Shaggy, Red Fox and Chevaughn, are two such.
But Gimmie Di Bass is probably better suited for the bedroom than the dancefloor.