Review: Power House reissue a classic slice of roots from the early '80s courtesy of the mighty Barrington Levy. "Praise His Name" is a quietly fortified cut with Levy in full spiritual mode, keeping his vocal register characteristically high and sweetly soulful over the riddim. The riddim itself is outstanding, coming from Power House owner George Phang's signature style of tight, minor key chops and a pattering beat that manages to be nimble and heavy at the same time. Flip it over for the version, if that's your persuasion, and you can enjoy the bare bones of the riddim in all its glory. Seminal stuff from a reggae master.
We Are The Band Of Enlightenment, Reason & Love (instrumental) (4:08)
Review: A few years ago, West African music obsessive and Philophon label boss Max Weissenfeldt decided to make some roots reggae with his friend and fellow drummer Josie Coppola. Yet this would be no regular reggae, as they'd be working on songs by Ghanaian artist Y-Bayani (real name Yusef Hussain). Since then, the project has developed further with the addition of a second lead singer, Baby Naa (Naomi Addy), a clutch of talented musicians and a Ghanaian choir. The result is this debut album, a wonderfully hazy, sun-kissed shuffle that does a brilliant job in putting a new, Afro-centric spin on Jamaican roots reggae. The riddims are strong, the multi-lingual vocals superb, the musicianship spot on and the production authentically warm and weighty. In other words, it's an unlikely gem.
Review: Lee Perry's classic "Disco Devil" series on Studio 16 returns with another choice selection of mixes from his famous Black Ark Studio during the years 1977, '78 and '79. Thanks to his ubiquitous "Police And Thieves", Junior Murvin became one of the most recognisable names in dub. His iconic falsetto voice appears here twice, firstly on the gently swaying deepness of opener "Cross Over" before closing out with the supple rhythms of "Memories" on the flip. There's also spaced out stuff from Twin Roots, slow motion rocksteady from Watty Burnett and Michael Campbell's excellent "Schoolgirl" in between to make this another fine package.
Review: Henry "Junjo" Lawes produced "Jacqueline" by Hugh Mundell back in 1982 and now it's re-issued on 7" single, backed with the Roots Radics dub mix by Scientist. The original is a spaced out riddim with plenty of smart studio trickery fleshing out the heady atmospheres. The lazy drums and horns are slowly but surely absorbing and the vocals full of love. The flipside is even more sparse, allowing ear head room and inviting you right into the mix. Tasty stuff all round, and definitely one to add to the collection before it disappears again.
Review: Freddy McKay's "Bring Back The Good Old Days" is one of roots reggae's rarer singles. It was recorded and pressed up on a white label "45" sometime in the 1970s, though quite how many copies exist remains a mystery - hence any copy that does come up for sale online tends to go for serious money. Helpfully Typhoon has decided to finally give it a release. Produced by McKay's regular collaborator Alvin Ranglin (AKA soundsystem operator GG), the track sees the singer soulfully but wearily plea for the good times of old over a deep but jaunty roots-reggae riddim. Ranglin's flipside dub mix is superb, too, and sounds every bit as good as anything produced by contemporaries such as Lee 'Scratch' Perry and King Tubby.
Review: Studio One have put out plenty of big tunes and this is the latest to get a big reissue on a super loud-cut 12" single for extra devastating impact. It's a well-known classic every self-respecting reggae fan should know and blows up any party, especially when tweaked like these two versions. They were originally produced by Studio One bossman Coxsone Dodd and have been covered by The Clash as well as sampled by The Fugees and hip hop MC KRS One. The snaking lead synth, the rumbling drums and classic ska trumpet are all straight up irresistible.
Note To Self (Okay) (feat Chronixx - Shane & Errol Brown mix) (4:06)
New Race (A Way) (feat Akala) (5:15)
Hey You (4:17)
Highly (Get To Me) (Shane & Errol Brown mix) (3:43)
You & I (feat Pressure Busspipe) (3:42)
Ready To Play (feat Tarrus Riley) (3:48)
Could It Be (4:35)
Review: Since releasing her debut album in 2013, Janine 'Jah9' Cunningham has risen to become one of the genuine underground stars of Jamaican reggae music, with a distinctive vocal style - part singer, part toaster, part spoken word beat poet - that seems to suit a wide variety of reggae-related styles. She's at her diverse best on "Note To Self", singing and toasting over backing tracks that variously touch on contemporary reggae, 1970s roots, dub, dancehall and the kind of digital 'riddims' that were all the rage in the late 1980s and early '90s.
Review: Originally recorded in 1981 but first issued on 12" in 1981, Prince Alla's "Jah Give I Love" remains one of the most potent roots reggae club cuts of the disco era. This Tuff Scout reissue wisely offers up the full extended mix rather than the radio edit, and that's a wise move: while Alla's vocals and the sweet song itself are superb, it's the dancefloor dub style production and weighty groove showcased in the second half of the ten-minute track that really pushes it towards "classic" status. Over on the flip you'll find the similarly lengthy "Jerusalem"; this, too, progresses from a quietly soulful roots reggae number into a dubbed-out dancefloor heater over the course of eight essential minutes.
Review: This big one from Johnny Osbourne has never, ever, officially been on 7" before now. It comes from a time when roots was at its peak, but dancehall was on the horizon and starting to make an impact. The longing vocals are matched by drawn out slide guitar, distant reggae riffs and a bendy bassline that takes you on a real journey. Roots Radics appear on the flipside with their own take on things with "Dangerous Match Four" before proceeding to serve up an even more horizontal take on the original.
Ric Carbi & Dohlance - "Smoking The Highest" (3:44)
Salute - "Smoking Riddim" (4:21)
Review: This is a classic riddim from the hard working folk at Room In The Sky with a new vocal on top, available for the first time on vinyl. Produced by Lewis M, lead tune 'Smoking The Highest' teases and toys with you until it eventually drops into a big, happy, horn lead groove. The vocals are clean and crisp on top, paying love and respect to the smoke as the drums wiggle and horns continue to reach for the skies. Salute takes care of the remix on the flip and ups the ante, with fat bottomed bass and a more noodling lead all vying for your attention.
Review: Horus Records look back to the mid-seventies for this fine piece of instrumental funk reggae outta Jamaica. It comes from Keith Rowe and is the sort of tight little groover and well detailed rhythm to get you on your toes and sliding all over the floor. You'll also find a dubbed out version of rocksteady hit "Tonight" on the flipside, riddled with endless reverb that encourages you to sink in deep before the vocal comes on like a cosmic apparition and the woody hits scatter around you in the stereo field.
Augustus Pablo/Rockers All Stars - "Africa 1983" (3:04)
Augustus Pablo/Rockers All Stars - "Africa Dub" (2:52)
Review: This choice various artists 10" brings together three of reggae's most iconic names - Hugh Mundell, Augustus Pablo and Rockers All Stars. Mundell's impassioned cries on "Africa Must Be Free" resonate as loudly now as they did back then, while "Park Lane Special" from Pablo is a swaggering gem full of multi-layered synths and icy, snaking hi hats. Rockers All Stars appear on three cuts of meandering dub, and each one is laced with fine chord work and a real sense of optimism.
Review: Four years ago Ethio-jazz elder Mulato Astatke came good on a promise he made way back in 2009 and joined forces with Australian collective Black Jesus experience to record a collaborative album. That album, "Cradle of Humanity", did a good job in fusing traditional Ethiopian songs and musical sounds with heady dancefloor grooves rooted in soul, funk and jazz. "To Know Without Knowing" takes a similar approach, balancing certified dancefloor workouts (see the fiery Ethio-funk-meets-Latin jazz flex of "Mascaram Setaba", bustling "Kulun Mankwaleshi" and breezy soul-jazz number "To Know Without Knowing") with deeper, more downtempo excursions that are every bit as alluring.
Review: The Montpellier-based crew behind new roots reggae label Samuel have a slightly different take on the sound than some of their contemporaries, with some of the tracks on this fine, compilation style debut EP drawing inspiration from other musical styles. So while Benjamin's vocal opener "Give Thanks" is a deliciously chunky slab of soulful reggae rich in hazy organs and dub style bass, Armel Courree, Pascal Bouvier and Corentin Lehembre's "Ethio Roots Theme" brilliant combines dub-wise reggae rhythms with duelling horn solos more akin to Ethio-jazz. The crew's global influences come the fore on the flip, where Lone Ark dubs out "Give Thanks" - with some subtle nods towards Turkish psych-funk, and Hoarang turns "Ethio Roots Theme" into a Binghi percussion workout with added hazy horns.
Review: An original copy of this cult classic from Black Uhuru is impossibly hard to find, let alone put a price on. The Kingston formed group really set the standard with it in 1973, when it was only their second record. Augustus Pablo features on the melodica, leading the top line action with classic Zionist vocals ringing out below. Impact All Stars' "Zion Dub" on the flip is devastatingly futuristic even now thanks to its sci-fi synths, slick studio trickery and endless amount of lovely, luscious reverb. A sparse but enthralling dub that steals the show.
Review: Keith & Tex are best known for their "Stop That Train" fame, but now come good with a hot new tune filled with OG roots goodness. The excellent Soul Of Africa act as backing and to make this a lushly orchestrated tune with lazy lead trumpets and a bubbly bassline. Vocals muse on class, the divide between rich and poor and plenty more socially and politically sensitive subjects that have resonated for many years. On the flip, it's a trip into spaced out dub and liquid synth puddles with so much echo you will end up not knowing which way is left and which is right.
Review: It was 1973 when uber-prolific reggae legend Dennis Brown's "At The Foot Of The Mountain" made its first impact. Now, after many reissues and represses, it is still very much a heavy hitter that does plenty of damage. As such Impact and Onlyroots link up to put it out once more. It's an easy going rhythm with scattered wooden hits and tin pot percussion, lazy beats swaying in a warm summer breeze with Brown's buttery delivery finishing things in smooth fashion. The flipside "Version" is filled with whimsical, breathy coos and flutes that makes it even more escapist.
Review: This third volume of the Disco Devil Black Ark series pulls together 6 classics from Lee "Scratch" Perry's studio. 4 discomixes and 2 vocal/dub edits - the audio on these tracks has been extensively restored from original pressings yet it allows Perry's bizarre and wonderful tricks and techniques to shine through while maintaining the raw quality that made them so real in the first place. Jamaican roots music that's imbued with plenty of ganja spirit, from tricked out and cosmic to deep and more insular, brought about by one man's brilliant work behind the boards.