Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Jacob Miller & Inner Circle - Reggae Greats


  

Jacob Miller was an artist who arrived at the beginning of the roots reggae scene around 1975-76. His material is, although rootsy, also quite poppy. He was one of only a few roots reggae artists to release as much light, poppy material as deeper "conscious" Rasta devotional stuff. Miller's singing voice had a lightness of tone and a strange vibrato styling that he would use regularly, but all the time. Most of his material skanks in a pleasant, breezy and highly melodic fashion. Miller was a really popular singer in Jamaica in the late seventies and before his untimely death at only twenty seven in a car accident he had become part of the reggae "crossover" scene, performing reggae-fied cover versions of  popular rock and easy listening songs. There are many who would argue that his best material was his early roots work with Augustus Pablo and the songs included on here, which highlight his rootsiness with his ear for a lilting melody perfectly.

The sound quality on this Island compilation is excellent too. Nice and bassy and a clear stereo separation.

TRACK LISTING

1. Shaky Girl
2. Tenement Yard
3. Suzy Wong
4. Sinners
5. Healing Of The Nation
6. 80,000 Careless Ethiopians
7. I've Got The Handle
8. Tired Fe Lick Weed Ina Bush
9. Roman Soldiers Of Babylon
10. Standing Firm
11. All Night Till Daylight
12. Forward Jah Jah Children                          

The poppy side of Miller can be found on the catchy "Shaky Girl", the singalong "Suzy Wong" and the cool saxophone of "Sinners", which defies its devout lyrics with a thoroughly captivating, commercial rhythm. The irresitible "All Night Till Daylight" has you clapping along too. "I've Got The Handle" is a brassy, sweet groove with a lovely vocal and bass line.

"Tenement Yard", while a Rasta number also uses the stuttering, quirky voice on another lively number. A more rootsy sound can be found on "Healing Of The Nation" extols the virtue of the sacred weed, again over a deep, but heavily skanking and appealing beat. "80,000 Careless Ethiopians" cooks even more, with a thumping roots backing. "Tired Fe lick Weed Ina Bush" is a glorious piece of poppy roots, complete with shaking, tremulous vocal.

"Roman Soldiers Of Babylon" is a lively, horn-driven upbeat slice of roots. There are echoes of Bob Marley & The Wailers but also hints of Aswad and Burning Spear, for me. "Standing Firm" is another in the same mould - pounding, conscious roots but with a definite ear for a melody. "Forward Jah Jah Children" is a superb roots track. Check out that infectious percussion sound.

This excellent compilation gives the listener an uplifting forty minutes or so of poppy roots reggae, Mix tracks from here with some of the heavier, dubbier material from the same period and you have a  good representation of the reggae scene from 1976-79. I really like this collection. Great stuff.

B-

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