Sunday, 30 June 2019

Punky Reggae Party Playlist





In the punk years of 1976-79, a musical and cultural fusion took place between the punks and the roots reggae-listening West Indian youth. As Big Audio Dynamite said - "the rocker and the ras began to get along...". Dub-heavy roots reggae dominated the pre-gig music at punk shows as punk and roots reggae seemed to go hand in hand, led by punk groups like The Clash, whose love of the whole roots reggae thing was made clear. While for many, like me, punk and new wave was the soundtrack of those years, the sound of a shaking sound system and that huge, deep bass sound was just as evocative of the era.

1. Bag A Wire Dub - King Tubby
2. Black Harmony Killer - Jah Stitch
3. Ghetto Living - Prince Far I
4. Armagideon Time - The Clash
5. Jah War - The Ruts
6. Police And Thieves - Junior Murvin
7. Police And Thieves - The Clash
8. Handsworth Revolution - Steel Pulse
9. None A Jah Jah Children No Cry - Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus
10. None Shall Escape The Judgement - Johnny Clarke
11. War - The Wailing Souls
12. Man In The Hills - Burning Spear
13. The Guns Of Brixton - The Clash
14. I Heard It Through The Grapevine - The Slits
15. Walking On The Moon - The Police
16. War Ina Babylon - Max Romeo
17. Warrior Charge - Aswad
18. Yabby You Sound - Yabby You
19. Casmas Town - I-Roy
20. Youth Of Eglington - Black Uhuru
21. Know Yourself - Weapon Of Peace
22. Watching The Detectives - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
23. Waste Not Want Not - The Pretenders
24. Bloody Dub - Stiff Little Fingers
25. Dreadlocks The Time Is Now - The Gladiators
26. Fisherman - The Congos
27. Feel On Baby - The Rolling Stones
28. Dreadbelly - Billy Bragg
29. Revolution Rock - The Clash
30. Fire House Rock - The Wailing Souls
31. Slavery Days - Third World
32. King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown - Augusts Pablo/King Tubby
33. Bra - Cymande
34. Smoking - Keith Hudson
35. Chalice In The Palace - U-Roy
36. Screaming Target - Big Youth
37. Walking On Sunshine - Eddy Grant
38. 54-46 Was My Number - Toots & The Maytals
39. Night Bus To Dalston - Bad Manners
40. Strange Fruit - UB40
41. Robber Dub - The Clash
42. All We Doin' Is Defendin' - Poet & The Roots
43. Want Fi Goh Rave - Linton Kwesi Johnson
44. Ranking Full Stop - The Beat
45. Typical Girls - The Slits
46. The Only One - Stiff Little Fingers
47. The Equaliser - The Clash
48. Dread Combination - Mikey Dread
49. Two Sevens Clash - Culture
50. Punky Reggae Party - Bob Marley & The Wailers

Hot Summer's Day Playlist




...and now some summer hits for a hot day....

1. Hot Hot Hot - Arrow
2. Sun Is Shining - Bob Marley & The Wailers
3. 96˚ In The Shade - Third World
4. Walking On Sunshine - Katrina & The Waves
5. Beach Baby - First Class
6. Surfin' USA - The Beach Boys
7. Sunshine Day - Osibisa
8. Lovely Day - Bill Withers
9. Loco In Acapulco - The Four Tops
10. Some Kind Of A Summer - David Cassidy
11. Summer Nights - John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John
12. Walking On Sunshine - Rockers Revenge
13. Summer (The First Time) Bobby Goldsboro
14. Summerlove Sensation - The Bay City Rollers
15. I Think We're Alone Now - The Rubinoos
16. Montego Bay - Freddie Notes & The Rudies
17. Barbados - Typically Tropical
18. La Bamba - Los Lobos
19. In The Summertime - Mungo Jerry
20. All Summer Long - Kid Rock
21. Sweet And Dandy - Toots & The Maytals
22. Dancin' On A Saturday Night - Barry Blue
23. Summer Breeze Parts 1 & 2 - The Isley Brothers
24. Spanish Stroll - Mink De Ville
25. Wouldn't It Be Nice - The Rubinoos
26. Sloop John B - The Beach Boys
27. Guajira Guantanamera - Grupo RaĆ­son
28. Girlie Girlie - Sophia George
29. Kokomo - The Beach Boys
30. Seaside Bar Song - Bruce Springsteen
31. Gimme Hope Jo'Anna - Eddy Grant
32. Fun Fun Fun - The Beach Boys
33. Soul Limbo - Booker T. & The MGs
34. Funky Nassau - The Beginning Of The End
35. Rockaway Beach - The Ramones
36. Daydream Believer - The Monkees
37. On The Beach - Chris Rea
38. The Other Side Of Summer - Elvis Costello
39. Sun Shine People - Zap Pow
40. Hot Love - T. Rex
41. Here Comes The Summer - The Undertones
42. Good Day Sunshine - The Beatles
43. Automatically Sunshine - The Supremes
44. Our Last Summer - ABBA
45. Young Gifted & Black - Bob & Marcia
46. Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd
47. Lady Lynda - The Beach Boys
48. Long Hot Summer - The Style Council
49. Love in The Sun - The Glitter Band
50. Here Comes the Sun - The Beatles

Northern Soul Playlist




Now here are some of my favourite Northern Soul floor-shakers. There are probably a few in here that real die-hard Northern aficionados will shake their heads about and say "that's not a Northern record", particularly the Motown ones. Never mind, though, it is all enjoyable stuff. Real feel-good music.

1. Ride Your Pony - Lee Dorsey
2. No Sad Songs - Oscar Toney Jr.
3. Turnin' My Heartbeat Up - The M.V.P.'s
4. Moonlight Music And You - Laura Greene
5. Hold Back The Night - The Trammps
6. I'll Always Need You - Dean Courtney
7. Ain't That A Lot Of Love - Taj Mahal
8. Time Will Pass You By - Tobi Legend
9. Blowin' Up My Mind - The Exciters
10. Love on A Mountain Top - Robert Knight
11. He Who Picks A Rose - Carstairs
12. Helpless - Kim Weston
13. Come On Train - Don Thomas
14. Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy - The Tams
15. What More Could A Boy Ask For - The Spinners
16. So Is The Sun - World Column
17. He Who Picks A Rose - Jimmy Ruffin
18. Heaven Must Have Sent You - The Elgins
19. Just Walk In My Shoes - Gladys Knight & The Pips
20. I'll Turn To Stone - The Four Tops
21. Just A Little Misunderstanding - The Contours
22. The Night - Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
23 Do I Love You (Indeed I Do ) - Frank Wilson
24. I Got A Feeling - Barbara Randolph
25. You Didn't Say A Word - Yvonne Baker
26. Long After Tonight Is All Over - Jimmy Radcliffe
27. I'm On My Way - Dean Parrish
28. Soul Time - Shirley Ellis
29. Ain't Nothin' But A House Party - The Showstoppers
30. Love Is Getting Stronger - Jason Knight
31. Landslide - Tony Clarke
32. The Girl Across The Street - Moses Smith
33. A Lil' Lovin' Sometimes - Alexander Patton
34. Out On The Floor - Dobie Gray
35. I'll Do Anything - Doris Troy
36. Open The Door To Your Heart - Darrell Banks
37. Bring Your Love Back To Me - Lynda Lyndell
38. Everlasting Love - Robert Knight
39. That's What I Want To Know - James Carr
40. The Snake - Al Wilson
41. I Wanna Know - John Paul
42. Shake A Tail Feather - James & Bobby Purify
43. I'll Always love You - Detroit Spinners
44. Stop Her On Sight - Edwin Starr
45. Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache - Bandwagon
46. Everything's Gonna Be Alright - P.P. Arnold
47. Our Love Will Grow - The Showmen
48. Hitch-Hike To Heartbreak Road - Bobo Mr. Soul
49. There Was A Time - Gene Chandler
50. Sweeter Than The Day Before - Valentines

Punk Playlist

  

This is a selection of classic songs from the punk years of 1976-1979. Yes, I know some of them are not quite full-on punk, a lot of them are the type of material that morphed into new wave, as opposed to "oi"-style punk. However, they are of the time, If you were there, as I was, these songs formed the soundtrack to these few wonderful years. 1-2-3-4!!

1. God Save the Queen - The Sex Pistols
2. Blank Generation - Richard Hell & The Voidoids
3. Automatic Lover - The Vibrators
4. Hong Kong Garden - Siouxsie & The Banshees
5. Teenage Depression - Eddie & The Hot Rods
6. Blitzkrieg Bop - The Ramones
7. In The City - The Jam
8. Borstal Breakout - Sham 69
9. Suspect Device - Stiff Little Fingers
10. Gary Gilmore's Eyes - The Adverts                      
11. Go Buddy Go - The Stranglers
12. Lookin' After No. 1 - The Boomtown Rats
13. Ain't Gonna Take It - The Tom Robinson Band
14. What Do I Get? - The Buzzcocks
15. Do You Remember L-L-L- Longwick? - The Haircuts
16. The Sound Of The Suburbs - The Members
17. Top Of The Pops - The Rezillos
18. Into The Valley - The Skids
19. Teenage Kicks - The Undertones
20. Oh Bondage! Up Yours! - X-Ray Spex

21. Babylon's Burning - The Ruts
22. Fall Out - The Police
23. No Passion - Vice Creems
24. C30 C6-C90 Go - Bow Wow Wow
25. Love Song - The Damned
26. Precious - The Pretenders
27. Sonic Reducer - Dead Boys
28. Cherry Bomb - The Runaways
29. I'm Stranded - The Saints
30. White Riot - The Clash
31. Don't Dictate - Penetration
32. Public Image - Public Image Ltd
33. Do Anything You Wanna Do - Eddie & The Hot Rods
34. Janie Jones - The Clash
35. All Around The World - The Jam
36. Swallow My Pride - The Ramones
37. Roadrunner - Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers
38. No Action - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
39. Alternative Ulster - Stiff Little Fingers
40. Police And Thieves - The Clash
41. Pretty Vacant - The Sex Pistols
42. Hanging Around - The Stranglers
43. Ask The Angels - The Patti Smith Group
44. Beware Of The Flowers - John Otway
45. Is Vic There? - Department S                            
46. Emergency - 999
47. Pump It Up - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
48. Rip Her To Shreds - Blondie
49. Shot By Both Sides - Magazine
50. Typical Girls - The Slits


Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Brian Eno



Covered here are:-

Here Come The Warm Jets (1973)
and Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy (1974)

Scroll down to read the reviews chronologically.

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HERE COME THE WARM JETS (1973)

1. Needles In The Camel's Eye
2. The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch
3. Baby's On Fire
4. Cindy Tells Me
5. Driving Me Backwards
6. On Some Faraway Beach
7. Blank Frank
8. Dead Finks Don't Talk
9. Some Of Them Are Old
10. Here Come The Warm Jets      

While still hanging around as part of Roxy Music for a few more months at least, oddball keyboards genius Brian Eno brought along Roxy members Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay to help him record this completely leftfield album that slipped under the radar in 1973, despite the Roxy associations. King Crimson's Robert Fripp is on the album too. The songs are quirky and downright weird at times, but they are always catchy and poppy. Eno is on vocals and he doesn't have the best voice, you have to say, but it has a reedy, whiny punky quality that was way ahead of its time. Yes, it is an avant-garde creation, but a very accessible one. Its sound, however, despite remastering, is decidedly muffled at times, however. Maybe that adds to its strange appeal. The album didn't do very well in 1973. It was just too bizarre. It may well have been more successful in 1981 but that is the thing with works that were ahead of their time.

You have to listen to it a few times to appreciate it, however. You hear little bits in the sound here and there that you missed first time around.

  

Needles In The Camel's Eye is a Velvet Underground-influenced number with a dense, murky sound with undermines the track somewhat. Eno's vocals aren't great either. It still has an appeal, though. There is also a VU vibe to the bizarrely-titled The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch which has Eno adopting a quirky, high-pitched David Byrne-style post-punky vocal years before the sub-genre existed. The funky guitar line is one that Talking Heads would use a lot too, early in their career. You have to say that this is way ahead of its time. Check out those odd piercing noises that populate the track. Innovative Eno at his best.

Baby's On Fire is another one that fits the post-punk description. It is a genuinely infectious oddity. It is full of of strange synthy backing, a great Robert Fripp guitar solo and addictive percussion, along with Eno's hammy vocals. For me, it is the best cut on the album.

Cindy Tell Me has a Velvet Underground-inspired title and more Lou Reed influence is all over it. Once again, you can really imagine how Talking Heads surely knew of this record while listening to it. So much of it can be heard in their first album. It has some excellent synth parts swirling around too. The lyrics are not without a certain tongue-in-cheek humour, either. Driving Me Backwards features some beguiling guitar/keyboard parts and mysterious wailing vocals. The backing sounds Joy Division-like in places.

On Some Faraway Beach is almost like a Groove Armada "chill-out" thing - an indistinct-sounding instrumental that drifts along without ever getting anywhere until it suddenly builds up into a grandiose Teutonic climax, like a prototype for early Ultravox. Finally, three minutes in, just when you least expect it, a mournful Eno vocal arrives. There are hidden depths to this interesting number. It is so Velvet Underground again, I have to say.


Blank Frank is so 1978-79 it could be Public Image Ltd. It mixes a sort of Bo Diddley rock 'n' roll drum beat with the sort of sounds PIL would come up with five yeas or so later. Dead Finks Don't Talk has a solid, mid-pace rock beat and some haughty spoken vocals from Eno. It ends with some incongruous, deafening feedback that sort of spoils it slightly. Some Of Them Are Old has hints of The Beatles at their most idiosyncratic. The Hawaiian guitar sound at the end is, I am sure, Phil Manzanera. He used the same sound on a Roxy 'B' sideHula KulaHere Come The Warm Jets is an instrumental (with occasional vocals) that surely inspired Ultravox.

I remember just not "getting" this album back then. Although weirdness was all around in the whole avant-garde arm of glam rock this was just too weird. In many ways it still is. There's no getting away from it, this is a very peculiar, eccentric and totally unconventional album.

Photo by Karl Stoecker

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TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN BY STRATEGY (1974)

1. Burning Airlines Give You So Much More
2. Back In Judy's Jungle
3. Fat Lady Of Limbourg
4. Mother Whale Eyeless
5. The Great Pretender
6. Third Uncle
7. Put A Straw Under Baby
8. The True Wheel
9. China My China
10. Taking Tiger Mountain  

This was Brian Eno’s follow-up to the beautifully strange Here Come The Warm Jets and this offering was just as peculiar, just as weirdly futuristic and experimental. Again, it didn’t sell very well, but has gained considerable subsequent gravitas. As with the previous album, its sheer oddness puts its in a different pigeonhole to any of its contemporaries.  Eno had left Roxy Music the year before, by the way.

The sound is much better on this album than its predecessor too - clearer in its treble and warmer in its bass. The murkiness is largely gone.

Burning Airlines Give You So Much More is a jerky but rhythmic opener, staccato but with appealing percussion and a vague Chinese/Japanese feel to it. The lyrics are completely weird, of course. They reference Japan, actually. The track has a hint of David Bowie about it, several years before the Lodger album it reminds me of. Back In Judy's Jungle has a thirties-style piano backing and a haughty vocal of the kind Sparks would use in the same year.

Fat Lady Of Limbourg is a haunting number that sounds like something from the post-punk years of the early eighties, as opposed to 1974. There was simply nothing around in 1974 anything like this.  It is a track full of atmosphere and is enhanced by Andy Mackay’s parping early Roxy Music-style saxophone. This is one of Eno’s most obviously early Roxy-influenced tracks. It really is a strange delight.

 

Mother Whale Eyeless is another bizarrely-titled number with a bit of Sparks meets early Cockney Rebel about it. To be honest, though, you can’t really compare Eno’s music to anything. The influence this would have on Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club is clear, however, right down to the backing vocals. The Heads' Listening Wind and The Overload are brought to mind on The Great Pretender. A huge Talking Heads-style riff introduces the decidedly punky Third Uncle. Magazine must have been influenced by this too. So much. And Gang Of Four for that matter.


Put A Straw Under Baby keeps the bizarre titles coming with a weird lullaby sort of thing. A very early eighties electronic intro ushers in the Tom Tom Club-ish The True Wheel. Eno’s vocal is very David Byrne here.

China My China is full of mysterious percussion and lyrics that are even more so. David Bowie would have loved his random words on bits of paper to have given him something like this. Musically and lyrically, it is preposterously ahead of its time. Taking Tiger Mountain is a mournful extended, slow chant-like song to end another perplexing but fascinating album. Eno went on to compose soundtrack music and ambient instrumental stuff but these two odd albums were really quite ground-breaking, although not many knew it at the time.

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Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Peter Frampton



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FRAMPTON COMES ALIVE! (1976)

1. Intro/Somethin's Happening
2. Doobie Wah
3. Lines On My Face
4. Show Me The Way
5. It's A Plain Shame
6. Wind Of Change
7. Just The Time Of Year
8. Penny For Your Thoughts
9. All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)
10. Baby I Love Your Way
11. I Wanna Go To The Sun
12. Nowhere's Too Far For My Baby
13. (I'll Give You) Money
14. Do You Feel Like We Do
15. Shine On
16. White Sugar
17. Jumpin' Jack Flash
18. Days Dawning  

It was the broiling hot summer of 1976. An essential accompaniment to those roasting hot days was always the radio. One sound you were guaranteed to hear was the  "wah - wah/wah/wah/wah - wah" of Peter Frampton's unique "talk-box" sound enhancer intro to Show Me The Way. It was very much the radio song of that memorable summer. Similarly, every time I went into a record shop and flipped through the vinyl album sleeves, I would see Frampton's face from the album looking vaguely bemused and bug-eyed back at me, like a prettier Robert Plant. Who was he? I wondered at the time, where had he come from and why was he apparently so popular? The ecstatic crowd reaction at the opening to Show Me The Way and indeed throughout these US live recordings always perplexed me. It was the sort of audience reaction you may have expected for Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie or Queen, but Peter Frampton? Peter who? I just didn't get it, and still don't really.

Frampton had been in sixties band The Herd and had played guitar in Humble Pie. He had released four pretty unsuccessful solo albums, yet here he was laying down his immaculate brand of adult oriented West Coast rock before a seemingly worshipping US audience. They seemed to know every track too, I guess his albums had been more successful over there than in the UK. That didn't stop this album selling thousands in the UK too. All very odd. By the end of the year, punk had arrived and Frampton was forgotten , literally overnight. He resurfaced eleven years later playing guitar for David Bowie on his "Glass Spider" tour.                                       

Somethin's Happening is a huge, riffy blockbuster of an opener. Solid seventies rock with hints of Free here and there. Frampton's soloes are superb on it. The funky riff of the aptly-titled Doobie Wah is pure Doobie Brothers, as is the vocal and the song's general West Coast ambience. Lines On My Face is a beautifully summer piece of laid-back AOR. The afore-mentioned Show Me The Way is now a classic of AOR drive-time summer afternoon playlists, along with Boston's More Than A Feeling and Fleetwood Mac's Go Your Own Way. You can't argue with it, though, it has a superb mid-seventies rock sound and those iconic talk box interjections. Close your eyes, it's 1976 again.

It's A Plain Shame is an upbeat, riffy rocker, sort of Bad Company meets Mott The Hoople with The Stones hanging around somewhere as well. The ballad Wind Of Change has some Led Zeppelin III-style acoustic guitar and more echoes of Free in its its construction. The evocative Just The Time Of Year ploughs the same Robert Plant-ish vocal furrow. Penny For Your Thoughts is a short Zep III acoustic doodle that gets a totally disproportionately enthusiastic audience reaction, while the acoustic vibe continues on All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side). It seemed many rock bands had this mid-set acoustic interlude, Zeppelin and Queen being two of the main exponents of it.

The bass and drums are back for the gentle, attractive Baby I Love Your Way, the album's other big hit. The ambience is still laid-back, though, despite the slightly more solid backing. Some Elton John vibes can be heard on the piano-driven and vibrant I Wanna Go To The Sun. It is nice to hear the rock back, to be honest. The powerful riffage continues on the slightly Who-sounding Nowhere's Too Far For My Baby(I'll Give You) Money is a heavy rocker with huge, chunky riffs and a great solo. Do You Feel Like We Do is a fourteen minute monster of a seventies rocker, full of power and   indulgence. Excellent stuff. The talk box makes a re-appearance in the middle too.

Shine On and White Sugar are both rocking crowd pleasers as, unsurprisingly, is the cover of Jumpin' Jack Flash. While it keeps the riff, it slows the verses down somewhat to make it sound slightly different to the original. Days Dawning is another Doobie Brothers/Little Feat-sounding slightly bluesy/soulful number.

You know, apart from the well-known tracks I had never listened to this album properly. I actually missed out because it is a good album of its type. Perfect mid-seventies rock. The sound quality is excellent for a live recording too. Highly recommended for a bit of nostalgia.

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Monday, 24 June 2019

Damian Marley



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WELCOME TO JAMROCK (2005)

1. Confrontation
2. There For You
3. Welcome To Jamrock
4. The Master Has Come Back
5. All Night
6. Beautiful
7. Pimpa's Paradise
8. Move!
9. For The Babies
10. Hey Girl
11. Road To Zion
12. We're Gonna Make It
13. In 2 Deep
14. Khaki Suit
15. Carnal Mind   

This was a very successful album for Bob Marley’s youngest son, who was two when his legendary Father died. It is a sprawling cornucopia of all sorts of styles, uitilising a fair amount of studio sound effects and merging rap, r’n’b and, at times, jazz grooves with ragga/reggae. It is effective too, for me, anyway, As I write it is already fourteen years old, but that is contemporary as far as I’m concerned. I am someone whose roots are firmly in the sixties and seventies, remember.                            
You would have expected the collaboration with reggae legend Bunny Wailer on the opener, Confrontation to be excellent. However, it is a most odd, disconcerting, tuneless number that, for me, just doesn’t do it.

There For You is a delightful, melodic love song featuring, surprisingly some string orchestration. The bass line and vocal are truly delicious. Welcome To Jamrock is a deep, dub heavy ragga/dancehall style Notting Hall Carnival favourite complete wth that crackling sound put on there deliberately, plus police siren sound effects. It was a huge hit on urban radio during the summer of 2005, apparently, not that I know much about that.

The Master Has Come Back is a pounding, resonant ragga number, enhanced by appealing quirky female backing vocal parts. It is a sort of rap meets reggae thing. All Night is a fun, slightly poppy, lively number with one of those addictive Fatboy Slim-style drum sounds. Marley’s ragga vocal gives it some reggae authenticity. It has a great tenor saxophone (?) break in it too.

Rap meets smooth late night jazz on the Bobby Brown duet Beautiful, which really is quite an appealing track. Pimpa's Paradise has Damian initially sounding like Bob on Redemption Song before it breaks into a Santana on Supernatural-sounding Latin-ish rap.

Move! exhorts some of the spirit of Bob’s Exodus but those are the prefereable bits to the breakneck ragga vocals and thumping beat. It is ok, but doesn’t quite get there, although on second and third listens it starts to, so maybe that is a good thing.

For The Babies is a nice track. I’m told it is “trip-hop”. It has a spacey processed backing vocal and a “chilled out” vocal from Marley over a lighter groove than on other tracks.

The dancehall-esque Hey Girl has lyrics that are pretty clumsy at times but the message is a pertinent one. Marley urges young men to “think with your mind and not your penis..”. Indeed. Road To Zion is another Santana-sounding rap collaboration. Damian sounds a lot like his Dad on the lively We're Gonna Make ItIn Deep 2 is full of social comment and a quirky rhythm.

Khaki Suit returns to a more traditional dancehall/ragga style. Carnal Mind continues in the same vein. Overall, this was a pleasant surprise for me and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I might.

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Michael Prophet



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The albums covered here are:-

Righteous Are The Conqueror (1980)
and Michael Prophet (1981)

Scroll down to read the reviews.

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RIGHTEOUS ARE THE CONQUEROR (1980)

1. Righteous Are The Conqueror
2. You Are A No Good
3. Long Long Tribulation
4. Conscious Dreadlocks
5. Make Me A Romance
6. Cassandra
7. Originally
8. What Is The Difference
9. Gypsy Woman                                          
10. Happy Days      

This was one of the first albums from Michael Prophet. Released in 1980, it came slightly later than many of the "roots explosion" albums, the peak was 1975-78, but it was a very much in the None Shall Escape The Judgement roots style, featuring a robust, bassy, slow burning pace on most of the tracks and Prophet's distinctive "crying" tenor voice. The album contains a fair amount of pious Rastafarian devotion in its lyrics, although Prophet liked a love song too. Actually, five of its ten songs are love songs. Overall, although it is a credible, genuine slice of roots reggae, the love songs are all played out over a roots backing.

Prophet is a singer as opposed to a "toaster" as well, so the songs are all sung in a more traditional style, with no vocal improvisations. The cover would appear to have been inspired by some of the 1970's Nigerian "hi-life" albums, by Fela Kuti and Tony Allen. Steel Pulse's Handsworth Revolution used a similar style of artwork too.

  
                                         
Righteous Are The Conqueror is a solid roots skank, with a deep bassy beat and a slightly Jacob Miller-style vocal from Prophet. It features a nice, rumbling dubby bass. You Are A No Good is a mid-pace, consistent bassy groove with a convincing vocal. Long Long Tribulation uses the same backing track as the previous song, but this time the lyrics are about the historical struggle of the black man - "black man sufferation...". Although both songs use mostly the same backing, there is something a bit brighter and punchier about this one.


Conscious Dreadlocks is a catchy, appealing number, melodically and vocally. Make Me A Romance is a lighter number, with Prophet delivering a suitably less-charged, romantic vocal. If it wasn't for its chugging roots beat and deep bass it could almost be a lovers rock number. Cassandra is another love song, with some infectious scratching, "cheese grater" percussion sounds. Originally has a pulsating bass line, a vibrant slow burning groove and a heartfelt social message about human rights and oppression. Check out the bass/drum interplay around three minutes in. Proper roots reggae.

What Is The Difference is another romantic rootsy smoocher. Gypsy Woman has Michael all love-up again, over a staccato drum beat and lots of reverb. This is a quirkily attractive song. Lovely bass on it once again, it sort of goes without saying. Happy Days is also in the same vein, very melodic too. In fact, this has been far less of a righteous album than the title would have you believe.

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MICHAEL PROPHET (1981)

1. Hold On To What You Got
2. Guide And Protect You
3. Youthman
4. Gunman
5. Turn Them Round
6. Up Side Down
7. Love And Unity
8. Never Leave Me Lonely
9. Help Them Please
10. Sweet Loving           

The first few albums from roots reggae artist Michael Prophet were pretty standard roots fare of which had been pretty ubiquitous from 1976-81. It was the sound of Notting Hill Carnival in those years, of the music played on sound systems before punk gigs and of the while punky reggae crossover/ party thing. Michael Prophet's music was released at the back end of the roots boom, just before ragga rhythms appeared and the digitalisation of reggae took over. This is still played on "proper" instruments and has that authentic roots vibe, down to the Rasta themes and slightly wailing voice. Prophet's voice is sort of Jacob Miller meets Gregory Isaacs in tone, without the sweetness of the latter.

Hold On To What You Got is a mid-pace gentle roots skank, with those familiar jangly reverberating guitar bits and Prophet's high-ish voice rising high above the beat. Guide And Protect You is a righteous, Rastafarian-themed number. Youthman features a nice, deep, melodic bass grumbling line and a light, Gregory Isaacs-influenced vocal. Gunman is probably Prophet's most famous track - a horn-driven, bassy, solid thump of a track with a catchy melody and a pertinent lyric about gun crime.

Turn Them Round has a huge staccato gunshot-style drum beat that makes you jump out of your skin. Up Side Down features some nice brass and a catchy melody. Love And Unity is a yearning, sonorous, deeply bassy number. Never Leave Me Lonely is a fetching horns and bass-powered love song. Help Them Please is a return to asking Jah for help over a muscular, typical roots beat. The album ends with one of its poppiest cuts, the lovers rock-ish groove of Sweet Loving. It has an excellent saxophone interjection in it.

This is a standard roots reggae album of its era sonically, however, lyrically it is a nice enough mix of love songs, warnings about crime and Rasta material. It is not totally dominated by "Jah and righteousness" lyrics, and has a variety of themes. It is perfectly ok, but not an album I turn to too often if I'm honest, I tend to have several Michael Prophet songs dotted around in "punky reggae party" and "roots reggae" playlists.

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Sunday, 23 June 2019

Gappy Ranks



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PUT THE STEREO ON (2010)

1. Mountain Top
2. Heaven In Her Eyes
3. Put The Stereo On
4. Pumpkin Belly
5. Happiest Day Of My Life
6. Musical Girl
7. Little Understanding
8. Thy Shall Love
9. So Lost
10. Heavy Load
11. Rude Boy
12. Soul Rebel                  
 
This is an innovative contemporary reggae album. Yes, it is digital in its basic rhythms and the singing is in that sort of rap/dancehall style, but the tracks are quite diverse in style and the lyrics are clever, observant and surprisingly thoughtful. Gappy Ranks, a British artist of Jamaican heritage has a an odd nasal voice and it is sometimes digitally enhanced and is something of an acquired taste, but there are certainly hidden depths to this impressive album.
                          
Mountain Top is a rootsy, Prince Far I-style toasting number, although the backing is slightly more melodic and the lyrics containing a bit more wit to them, as opposed to simply expressing Rasta devotion.

Heaven In Her Eyes has an upbeat, lively rhythm and a vocal that sings more than toasts, in Ranks’ afore-mentioned nasal tone. It is almost UB40-like in its catchy timbre and delivery. Put The Stereo On is an amusing toast about playing music at home. It abounds with reggae references - Alton EllisStudio One - and while it has that contemporary sound to the vocal, its tongue in cheek approach makes it a bit different.

  

Pumpkin Belly is a rootsy, incomprehensible skank with dancehall-style gruff Buju Banton-influenced vocals. It was originally recorded by Tenor SawHappiest Day Of My Life has a fast-pace beat that harks back to the poppy reggae of the late sixties/early seventies. It could almost be Desmond Dekker or Toots & The Maytals, save for the strange gurgly, underwater sound to Gappy’s vocal. Never mind, the organ and saxophone are straight out of the seventies. Musical Girl has a nice, deep thump of a beat to it and a laid-back melody. The voice is again doctored to give it a strange sound but after a while you get used to it.


Little Understanding is another Banton-esque song, with a well-meaning message in its lyrics. Thy Shall Love finds Gappy getting all righteous with a rootsy Rastafarian sermon. This is a real throwback to the classic roots era of 1975-78. It is good to hear.

So Lost returns to the contemporary vibe with a deep, bassy dancehall beat and vocal. This continues on the vibrant rant of Heavy Load. The pertinent lyrics are balanced by a sumptuous brass backing and a great, rumbling bass line. Some excellent saxophone enhances the catchy Rude Boy. The album ends with an appealing dancehall cover of Bob Marley’s Soul Rebel.

My reggae tastes are more towards the traditional - from ska through to lovers rock (60s to late 80s) - but, as more contemporary-style reggae offerings go, this is a good one, and one I enjoy the occasional play of.

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