UK producer, DJ and multi-instrumentalist Will Holland has two monikers. Via Quantic he produces and releases electronic dance music and through Flowering Inferno he makes reggae and cumbia music. He’s also behind the funky Quantic Soul Orchestra.
Flowering Inferno dropped the first set in 2008 and two years later its follow-up was put out. Now a third effort has been revealed and 1000 Watts is the most reggae-oriented one to date. On 1000 Watts he has crafted a beautiful and mostly instrumental set with warm vintage grooves, summery vibes, dub wizardry and excellent musicianship.
It carries guest performances from U Roy, Alice Russell, Hollie Cook and Christopher Ellis and they all shine bright. U Roy delivers swinging toast on the first single A Life Worth Living, a track where retro soul-singer Alice Russell brings sweet harmonies, and Hollie Cook’s high pitch suits the nocturnal Shuffle Them Shoes perfectly.
Stylish retro-reggae like this is almost tailor-made for a soulful vocalist like Christopher Ellis and his performance on the jazzy title track and the smooth Stevie Wonder cover All I Do Is Think About You is probably his best piece yet.
Even though 1000 Watts is most certainly a reggae album, it does come with latin influences. Chambacú is an excellent cocktail of thunderous bass and drum with a cumbia melody and the up-tempo Macondo throws in some cumbia-fied ska.
As pointed out before – the reggae market isn’t crowded with instrumental sets. A pity since most of them tend to be sonically divine.
Since Alpha Blondy has increasingly moved towards rock and pop music, Ivorian reggae star Tiken Jah Fakoly is Africa’s king of reggae. At least if you ask me.
On his new album Racines – Roots in English – he travels back to his roots and covers some of the songs he danced to as a youth. He has re-shaped eleven mostly classic reggae joints, cuts originally voiced by reggae luminaries such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Max Romeo, Burning Spear, Junior Byles, Buju Banton, Junior Murvin and Alpha Blondy.
To recreate their masterpieces he is joined by Ken Boothe, Max Romeo, U Roy and Jah9 on vocals along with Sly & Robbie as riddim section. The foundation of the album was recorded in Jamaica and it was later overdubbed in Mali adding traditional African instrumentation. The result is excellent and Tiken Jah Fakoly presents his own versions of these classics and gives them a new bright shining light.
According to the press release Tiken Jah Fakoly has previously not really allowed himself to record cover versions. And with this album he certainly pays a very personal homage to some of the artists and musicians that helped to create reggae. As Bob Marley once said, and quoted in the press release, “reggae will come back to Africa”.
Pioneering deejay U Roy is sometimes labeled as the originator of the modern Jamaican deejay style and has been a vital force in reggae music since the late 60’s when he scored his first smash hits and held the three top spots on the Jamaican music chart with Wake the Town, Rule the Nation and Wear You to the Ball recorded over some of the late Duke Reid’s biggest rock steady cuts.
He has recorded music for almost five decades, including working with Niney, Joe Gibbs, Tony Robinson, Tappa Zukie and Mad Professor. His two latest sets – Now released in 2001 and Rebel in Styylle put out in 2003 – have been combination albums, meaning U Roy joining forces with a singer on each track.
His brand new album Pray fi di People is in the same style, and has U Roy teaming up with Jamaican, African, American and European singers, including Marcia Griffiths, Horace Andy, Chezidek, Tiken Jah Fakoly and Harrison Stafford aka Professor from U.S. progressive reggae rockers Groundation.
The album was produced by Bravo in Jamaica and collects 13 live played tracks over mostly refurbished vintage riddims, of which one is a cover version of Toots & The Maytals’ 70’s party starter Pomps and Pride. Tarrus Riley does a fine interpretation as Toots.
Pray fi di People might be a bit ordinary and generic, and U Roy is a little less energetic compared to his previous work, but considering the man being 70 years old he certainly does an excellent job. And the album is at its best when he shares vocal duties with the dramatic voiced Professor and the sweet timbre of Horace Andy.
Pray fi di People drops on French Soulbeats Records on Tuesday October 9 as CD and digital download.