Grammy-winning reggae band Morgan Heritage released their debut album Miracle in 1994 and a few years later their breakthrough album Protect Us Jah was put out. Since then they have released another nine studio efforts, including the recently released Avrakedabra, which follows Strictly Roots, a set awarded with a Grammy in 2016.
Morgan Heritage took a break from touring and recording about ten years ago. During that hiatus some of the members took the chance to record and release solo material. But the hiatus obviously didn’t last too long and in 2013 they released Here Come the Kings, which was something of a return to a more conscious and roots-oriented approach.
On Avrakedabra they use influences from pop, rock, country, hip-hop, electronica and dubstep to create an eclectic set full of feel-good vibes and infectious melodies. This brand of reggae is by Morgan Heritage labeled as rockaz.
The album was recorded in a wide array of countries and features several collaborations – the late Bunny Ruggs, Billboard chart topping duo R. City, Ziggy and Stephen Marley, Dre Island and Kabaka Pyramid. Its sounds ranges from the rootsy Selah via the dubsteppy anthem We Are to feel-good and seductive pop hits Reggae Night, Dream Girl, Ready for Love and Dancing in the Moonlight.
Compared to its two predecessors Avrakedabra is a slightly less rootsy affair and leans more towards Caribbean pop with sunny grooves and beautiful harmonized vocals.
Sometimes I don’t understand how the entertainment industry works. Labels hate all the issues surrounding pirating, but they often create these problems themselves. For example roots reggae quintet Morgan Heritage and their latest album Strictly Roots. It was released in the U.S. a while ago and has already reached number 1 on the U.S. iTunes Reggae Chart.
At the same time it’s not available in for example Europe. You can read all about the album on various global news outlets, but if you live in Europe you can’t buy it or stream it. Enter pirates and several illegal platforms. I have a feeling the different release dates are because of marketing, but to avoid the pirate issue, it should probably have been a better idea to release it across the world and do promotion afterwards. Just a thought.
Anyhow, even though Strictly Roots isn’t available in Europe and other parts of the world yet, I’ll still write a review because the music industry is a global phenomenon and I’m in a position to receive promotional copies in advance.
Strictly Roots is Morgan Heritage’s first album on their own label CTBC Music Group. These five siblings have for this new effort teamed up with a variety of producers and guest artists for an eclectic mix of rootsy reggae, R&B, dubstep, ska, pop, dancehall and electro. It for example features heavyweight co-producers like Seani B, Shane C. Brown, Jason “J-Vibe” Farmer, DJ Frass and Bost & Bim along with vocalists like Shaggy, Jo Mersa Marley, Chronixx and Jemere Morgan.
The initial three singles off the album – Perform and Done, Wanna Be Loved and So Amazing – are telling of how the album sound – catchy, easy-going and lightweight with infectious choruses.
Morgan Heritage have never been any strangers to the slick and glossy. And Strictly Roots is classic Morgan Heritage. But don’t get fooled by the title. This album is definitely not strictly roots.
Strictly Roots drops in Europe on June 15.