Wednesday, 21 July 2021

None shall escape the judgement - roots reggae (1974-81)




This is a fine collection of roots reggae artists, mainly from the mid-late seventies. They are, in order that I have covered them - Linval Thompson; The Mighty Diamonds; The Gladiators; The Abyssinians; Johnny Clarke; Culture; Jacob Miller; Aswad; Cocoa Tea; Althea & Donna; Ziggy Marley; Misty In Roots; Burning Spear; Zap Pow; Linton Kwesi Johnson; Steel Pulse; Cymande; Weapon Of Peace and Michael Prophet....

Linval Thompson - Ride On Dreadlocks (1975-1977)

Linval Thompson is up there with Johnny ClarkeThe AbyssiniansThe GladiatorsThe Mighty DiamondsCultureThe CongosThe HeptonesJacob MillerMax Romeo and Junior Murvin as one of the great roots reggae vocalists. His material was a few years in advance of some of the others, so his influence was considerable. He went on to be more of a producer than a singer, as indeed many of the roots artists did. This is an excellent Blood and Fire compilation of Linval Thompson's influential, ahead-of-the-game roots material from 1975-1977. Much of this material achieved cult popularity a few years later as part of the punk-roots reggae crossover, when it became part of the soundtrack for several Notting Hill Carnivals.

Most of the material was produced by the legendary Bunny Lee, and a lot of them either have extended dub sections or are very dubby anyway. The bass is huge, as you would expect, but melodic too and there is that razor sharp cymbal sound known as Lee's trademark "flying cymbal" sound. You instantly know it if you hear it. The lyrics are unsurprisingly Rasta-oriented, about devoutness and the glory of having dreadlocks.

Jah Jah Is The Conqueror is a wonderful slice of mid-pace roots skanking, extended here to include the big, bassy dub version. Check out that infectious bass/cymbal work near the end of the dub passage. Long Long Dreadlocks is a dubby and brassy song in praise of having the locks - "if you don't have a long long dreadlocks I sorry for you....". The dub passage has those cymbals again plus that brass sound that comes and goes, often cutting off half way through a bit, leaving just the "riddim". This dub was the sort of stuff that many bands would imitate in the late seventies/early eighties, including The Clash on Armagideon Time and UB40 on Dream A Lie (extended).

Ride On Dreadlocks is an upbeat cut and one of Thompson's better known ones, full of great guitar and a lively beat. Thompson's voice is yearningly good on here too. Check out that oh-so-deep bass line too. Dub reggae heaven. I love this. 
Don't Cut Off Your Dreadlocks leaves the Rastaman in no doubt as to his course of action - don't visit that barber man. 12 Tribes Of Israel was one of the three tracks produced by Thompson, and, notably, it features a more catchy "one-drop" drum sound. The dub passage of this track is excellent. Check out that rumbling bass line.

Everybody Needs Money
 is a dub-drenched slow groove, full of reverb and echo. Don't Try To Rob I is a lively and enjoyable number, one of the album's most catchy. 
Cool Down Your Temper is a return to massive, dubby vibrations, crystal clear flying cymbals and devout lyrics. A Big Big Girl passes by without registering particularly. The last two tracks, Jah Jah Is I Guiding Star and Can't Stop Natty Dread Again are the other two Thompson-produced tracks. The former is deep and rhythmic, the latter lighter and more breezy, with an excellent dub passage. Overall, this is a rich dubby compilation full of late seventies atmosphere. Time for some Red Stripe and curry goat. (The pic featured above is not Thompson, it just suits the music).

The Mighty Diamonds - Go Seek Your Rights

The Mighty Diamonds were kings of harmony and, while their material has its rootsy - Rasta consciousness, devotional "message" - it also has a most light, melodic quality to it. This is a fine compilation of their workThis is actually a combination of tracks from three albums by the roots reggae band The Mighty Diamonds. Some critics I have read are not happy with it, feeling somehow the record company are "cheating" the fans. Why? It is just a collection of good material allowing people, like me, to get into the music of The Mighty Diamonds. Which is pretty good, as it happens. In fact, all ten tracks from 1976's album, The Right Time are included on here anyway, and in excellent remastered sound too. The Virgin Front Line reggae series is outstanding both in its breadth of material and sound quality.
         
On to the music -  the bass is perfectly lilting and certainly not as speaker-shaking as some roots/dub reggae can be (not that there's anything wrong with that, but sometimes the qualities of a song benefit a lighter vibe). Have Mercy is just sublime - excellent vocals, crisp, razor sharp percussion and that small beautiful bass. Why Me Black Brother Why is similar. The singing is magnificent and the brass backing vibrant. That brass is just as impressive on the intuitively nonchalant Shame And Pride

Right Time is a slice of militancy but, as with all the material, it is gently delivered. The Mighty Diamonds are similar to The Gladiators in their lightness of touch. Both of them brought roots reggae to life, beautifully. Gnashing Of Teeth is a dread warning about "weeping and wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth.." from Matthew 13:42. In the hands of The Mighty Diamonds, it is bassy and almost beatific, as opposed to hellishly terrifying. Them Never Love Poor Marcus is incredibly catchy. Once again the bass is intoxicating and uplifting.

I love roots reggae like this - clear but warm bass sound, great vocals and irresistible tunes. I forgot to mention that the rhythm backing is played by 
Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. Impeccably, of course. One Brother Short is a Marley-esque "woy-oy" irrepressible skanker. The riddim is hypnotic. Just listen to those addictive drums and horns on Master Plan. You also get the jaunty, romantic Sweet Lady which has the Diamonds sounding like Aswad, all commercial as opposed to rootsy. I won't go into every track in detail, because they are all good, I am sure you have got the picture by now. If you want to dip into the roots reggae music that was so intrinsic to those wonderful "punky reggae party" years of 1976-1979 then you can't go wrong with this.

The Gladiators - Dreadlocks The Time Is Now (1976-1980)

The Gladiators, were, along with The Mighty Diamonds and The Wailing Souls, one of those roots reggae groups from the mid seventies that combined a devotional Rasta consciousness with some melodic, mid-pace reggae “riddims”. Their brand of roots was, on the whole, upbeat, gently singalong and while having a full bass line, was certainly not in the realms of heavy dub. This album features 
material from 1976-1980 - Bellyfull and Mix Up are classic examples of that sound. The sound quality on this album is excellent too, crystal clear on the trebly percussion and rich and warm on the ubiquitous bass lines.
                                         
A favourite of mine is the subtly melodious Looks Is Deceiving - a delicious slice of lilting reggae, rumbling guitars and some “stream of Rasta consciousness” lyrics about Babylon and parables and the like. Chatty Chatty Mouth has an irresistible piano intro and a booming, steady beat, just perfect seventies roots-inspired reggae. The Gladiators were probably my favourites of this particular arm of the genre. The vocals were the lightest and the most tunefully affecting. The backing is top notch throughout - crystal clear, rhythmic and toe-tapping. Their cover of Bob Marley’s Soul Rebel is superb, as good as the original, to be honest, and that is saying something. Lovely clear backing, great vocal, great backing vocals and that omnipresent rumbling bass. Great stuff. Nice semi-dubby part two thirds of the way through.

Eli Eli
 is a very Rasta-inspired song and very uplifting with yet more soaring vocals. This really is seventies reggae of the highest quality. 
Hearsay is a warning type of song, as if delivered from a pulpit. There is lot of religious meaning in the lyrics to these songs, but it doesn’t really matter because the backing is so good. There is some lovely light guitar skanking parts on this one. Rude Boy Ska is suitably vibrant and joyful, with a thoroughly addictive singalong refrain. Another favourite is the rumbling Dreadlocks The Time Is Now, with an intoxicating skank. It is a militant, “culture conscious” song and should be on any “punky reggae party” playlist. It is just so 78-79 West London. Some excellent instrumental parts in it and a yearning vocal. The percussion and bass at the beginning of Jah Works is just stunning. I love the clarity of reggae sounds like this. Pocket Money has another captivating riddim and bass line. Check out that big pounding thump of a bass on Get Ready and the cymbal work. Marvellous stuff. I could wax lyrical about all the songs on this excellent album. Needless to say they are all good. Just a breath of fresh summer air. Somehow this album suits a sunny summer’s morning.

The Abyssinians - Satta Massagana (1976)

Like other roots groups The Mighty DiamondsThe Gladiators and Israel Vibration, The Abyssinians managed to mix a devout Rastafarian message with some absolutely sumptuous, tuneful, catchy reggae. Here are two of their most crucial albums. This was the debut album from The Abyssinians, and is up there as one of the most crucial roots reggae albums. The group had excellent vocal harmonies and a lightness of sound that was really infectious. Whereas the "toasters", DJs like Big Youth, Prince Far I, Tappa Zukie, I-Roy and U-Roy often croaked out their devotions fervently over a deep dub beat, groups like The Abyssinians delivered their Rasta paeans in a completely different, lively and energising manner. There were other roots groups like Burning Spear and Black Uhuru who were also much deeper in their sound. Although the pace of the songs remains constant throughout the album it doesn't really matter, its subtle, serene grooves offer a relaxing, seductive listen.
                
Declaration Of Rights is deliciously laid-back, breezy and melodic, with a lovely organ sound backing it. The Good Lord features some mystical-sounding flute which gives it a slightly different feel, despite the same pace beat that all the album has. Forward On To Zion has that cool, light Third World-style sound that is just so appealing. It features some excellent saxophone too, relatively unusual for a roots song. Know Jah Today is very Bob Marley & The Wailers influenced, particularly in its backing vocals.

Abendigo
 
features some vibrant horns over a mid-pace skanking backing. Yimasgan has some funky, electric-sounding keyboards. Reggae does this. It relies on subtle changes from track to track, while the foundation riddim remains unchanged. Saxophone, horns, organ - all these offer slight differences to the songs they appear on. Black Man Strain has a hard-hitting message to convey, and it does so over an intoxicating roots rhythm that draws you in. I And I has a lovely falsetto vocal, while African Race, after a gentle introduction, gets into a winning, gentle groove. 

The title track, Satta Massagana, has gone down in critical history as one of the archetypal examples of devout Rasta roots reggae and will be included in a lot of compilations and playlists. This is an essential album for any collection that wants to include something from the early years of the roots reggae boom. The extra tracks on this "original Jamaican mix" release are excellent, including the single and several impressive, rhythmic dub versions. 

The Abyssinians - Arise (1978)

Coming right in the middle of the roots reggae boom and the credibility offered to it by its popularity with punk rockers, this second album from The Abyssinians is an excellent offering, one of my favourite roots reggae albums. Like The Mighty Diamonds, Israel Vibration and, to a certain extent, The Gladiators, The Abyssinians managed to combine a rootsy beat, a Rasta devotional message with really melodic, appealing vocals. The tracks are nearly all upbeat and uplifting, like a breath of fresh Caribbean air. Despite the liberal sprinkling of Rasta consciousness, this is certainly no gruff, preachy, doom-laden album of warning. It is an optimistic album and highly enjoyable. The group pushed aside a few boundaries - more power to them for it. The album was also released on several different labels.

Oh Lord is a delicious opener, with an infectious bass line and lovely vocal. It has a great Catch A Fire-style guitar solo too and some impressive organ. This track skanks beautifully. This Land Is For Everyone is also a catchy, melodic delight, full of great vocals and a fetching rhythm. This is not a track that would please the hard-core roots aficionados, but for me it shows a willingness on the part of the group to produce a different style of roots. 

The Mightiest Of All
 is an insistent, deeply attractive groover. Meditation is a gloriously enjoyable number. Lovely bass and guitar interplay. It almost gets into a sort of soulful/jazzy guitar-driven groove at times. A most impressive and slightly different roots reggae track. 
Wicked Man is the first overtly "fire and brimstone" number but still manages to retain that irresistible, tuneful sound. 

Jah Loves is upbeat, lively, harmonious and in possession of some sublime, crystal clear cymbal sounds, as well as a winning bass line. It has a feel of Third World about it. That whole airy, breezy jazzy ambience. There is something a bit dance-disco underpinning it. Just a great song, I have to say. That same vibe continues on the sensual, rhythmic Dem A ComeSouth African Enlistment has a lilting, vaguely South African-sounding guitar sound, a thumping bass and drum sound and some excellent vocals once more. Hey You is vocally perfect and has a really impressive guitar skank to it too. Let My Days Be Long has an almost sixties-sounding bluesy soulfulness to it and some punchy horns and strong female backing vocals. Make no mistake, this is an excellent roots reggae album and one of the genre's most enjoyable offerings. The dub cuts on the extended version are good too, not just all bass and drums, but still using vocals in places and other instruments, such as the flute on This Land Is For Everyone. Wicked Man has some killer bass too. Highly recommended. Well remastered too.

Johnny Clarke - Authorised Rockers

Johnny Clarke made his name in 1974, with Bunny Lee & The Aggrovators as his backing band on the now iconic, and much-sampled roots cut None Shall Escape The Judgement (not included on this collection). This Virgin Front Line compilation features material from 1975-1978. In 1975 and 1976 he became one of Jamaica's most popular singers and he mixed deep roots material and lovers-style romantic material. His light, lilting voice was suited to both reggae sub-genres. 
He was very much a "conscious" Rasta-themed artist, however, as tracks like the rootsy African RootsLet's Give Jah Jah Praises and Ites Green And Gold exemplify. He could also introduce a pop sensibility to his roots material, though, such as on the catchy Rockers Time Now. There was always a melodic rhythm to his output, despite the often devout Rasta roots messages contained in the lyrics. Check out a track like Be Holy My Brothers And Sisters. It delivers a sermon, quoting Marcus Garvey but it does so over a delightful backing rhythm full of infectious guitar sounds. This is roots reggae at its most accessible.

Clarke also takes The AbyssiniansSatta Massa Gana and gives it his mellifluous treatment. Stop The Tribal War is impressive too, as is the poppy I Wish It Could Go ForeverProphecy A Fulfilled skanks along with a Lee "Scratch" Perry-style backing, augmented by some Catch A Fire-style electric guitar. 

Marcus Garvey, also done by The Mighty Diamonds and Burning Spear, is covered in a bassy fashion. On Roots, Natty Roots, Natty Congo, Clarke covers the issue of those born in Jamaica, England and the USA but conscious of their African roots. Clarke's vocal on here is Jacob Miller-esque. I like his cover of Peter Tosh's Legalise It as well. You can put any of these Johnny Clarke tracks into a playlist of reggae from 1976-79 and they would be highly credible inclusions. Most opt for None Shall Escape The Judgement, but there is some good stuff on here too. The sound quality, as on all these Front Line compilations, is excellent as well.

Culture - Two Sevens Clash (1977)

Culture were one of many excellent roots reggae groups that released impressive material between 1975 and 1979. They were certainly one of the best and this album has passed into history as a benchmark of the genre. Culture’s music was  light(er) in comparison to others, although their lyrics were as fervently Rastafarian as anyone, their vocalist, Joseph Hill had a subtlety and texture that was unique and the music was not quite as dubby or bass-heavy as some. The rhythms were almost rock-steady at times, while still retaining their rootsiness. While their lyrics were fervent, they did not have the full-on militancy of Black Uhuru or the consciousness in every track of Burning Spear. All that is not to say that Culture did not have a superb warmth and richness of rhythm, or that they did not get their message across. They undoubtedly did, so much so that their “two sevens clash” prophecy relating to July 7th, 1977, resulted in many superstitious, panicked Jamaican staying indoors on that day. Nothing happened, of course. The album had a considerable effect though. On to the tracks:-
                      
Calling Rasta For I
 is vibrant, clear, harmonious and joyful as is I’m Alone In The Wilderness - tuneful, melodious roots reggae at its absolute best. Joseph Hill’s voice is a unique one - nasal, high-ish in pitch but perfect in timing and intuitive interpretation. 
Pirate Days is a beautifully lilting, skanking upbeat joyful song, despite its historically aware black consciousness lyrics. The title track has an irresistible hook, rhythm and plaintive vocal from Hill, warning of all sorts of things about to happen on 7/7/77. 
I’m Not Ashamed has hints of the sort of “easy reggae” hits that bands like Aswad had in the eightiesGet Ready To Ride The Lion To Zion has some innovative, weird percussion noises, some wah-wah guitar and even a lion’s roar is sampled at one point. Black Starliner Must Come is a staccato, syncopated shuffle with some militant lyrics, with a twiddly organ part coming from the left speaker intermittently.

Jah Pretty Face
 is a fast-paced rocker, with some potent percussion. See Them A Come has a joyful, lively groove, a mix of roots and urgent rock steady. 
Natty Dread Taking Over has an almost jazzy, swing-like horn backing and ends the album on an uplifting, positive note. So much for all those prophecies of doom! This album was nowhere near as melancholy as many roots albums. It had a real joie de vivre.

Jacob Miller - Who Say Jah No Dread (1975)

Jacob 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. This is a wonderful compilation of dubby, roots reggae from the years 1974-1975 from the young Jacob Miller and dub instrumentalist Augustus Pablo. Miller's later, poppier roots material and subsequent "crossover" covers of big hits from other genres often tends to find some people overlooking the fact that here, at the beginning of his career, he put out some seriously heavy, deep  roots/dub stuff. The original Who Say Jah No Dread was a twelve track album, but this collection is expanded to twenty-two tracks and includes dub versions of all the tracks. They all cook, big time, full of rumbling, deep bass, sonorous echoey horns and Pablo's trademark melodica sound.

While I like the roots pop of Miller & Inner Circle's Reggae Greats collection, released on the Island label, I cannot deny that his best work, his most "crucial", is to be found here. It is roots reggae of the highest quality and there is an argument for it certainly going into a top twenty reggae albums of all time list. Checkout False RastaKeep On Knocking and, of course, the catchy Baby I Love You So and its iconic dub version King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown. Many claim the latter to be the best dub cut ever produced. Listening to those big bass lines and mysterious Pablo sounds you can see why. For me, 132 Version is even better. 
Hungry Town Skank is just so evocative and atmospheric too. Oh, that crystal clear rhythm. You can't beat the roots skank of Who Say Jah No Dread either.

Miller always had a mellifluous, lilting voice and it is on some of the cuts on here that he first starts to use the hiccuping vibrato that he would use for the rest of his career. A most essential album if you want to build a credible roots reggae collection. It has excellent, booming, deep sound quality too. Get those speakers shaking.

Aswad - Aswad (1976)

Aswad became well-known for their eighties poppy reggae. Here, however, I have covered their first and far more rootsy album. Their debut album, from 1976, saw them in their initial incarnation as a roots reggae band. In later years they exploited soul and pop influences to achieve a modicum of chart success. Here they are very much in a roots mould, similar to sort of material put out by Bob Marley on Rastaman Vibration - rootsy but with an ear for a tune and a use of lilting, melodic guitars as opposed to a bassy, dub-heavy sound. 

I A Rebel Soul is an upbeat, catchy opener, with Brinsley Forde’s emotive, throaty voice on good form and some very Marley-esque skanking guitar backing. Rather like The Gladiators, early Aswad blended a Rasta devotion with the recording of some attractive, appealing material. Can't Stand The Pressure is in the same groove - sumptuous rhythm, harmonious vocals, that rimshot drum bit on the backbeat that The Wailers used such a lot. A quirky organ break in the middle too. Ethiopian Rhapsody is a laid-back instrumental of the highest quality. The instrumentation, sound quality and execution on this album is excellent for a debut outing. Natural Progression is an insistent, militant mid-paced number with some blues harmonica lending a real atmosphere to it. Once again, the guitar work is outstanding - used in the way that both Marley and Peter Tosh enhanced their recordings. 

Back To Africa is a laid-back Third World-esque summery vibe with more conscious lyrics. Red Up is another captivating instrumental, with keyboard and guitar solos. This was not speaker-shaking dub booms and little else. There was some musical showing off being done here. Impressive stuff. Ire Woman is a little lightweight, and probably the weakest track on the album. The album’s lengthy closer in Concrete Slaveship is a very Marley-influenced number in the Catch A Fire-Slave Driver vein with a meaningful lyrical content, convincing vocal and a general feel of competent professionalism. This was a very impressive debut album indeed. One small drawback, however, is that it is too short, with just four tracks on each side.

Cocoa Tea - 20 Tracks Of Cocoa Tea

Cocoa Tea (Calvin Scott) is a reggae artist who came on the scene around 1986, but most of his successful work dates from the late eighties/early nineties. He was too late for the big roots boom of 1975-79 and he is very much associated with the Dancehall genre of reggae, which merged Jamaican patois rapping with digitally programmed riddims and, in the case of Cocoa Tea, employed the falsetto "sweet sing" vocal as opposed to the gruffer, DJ "toasting" style that continued from the roots era into some dancehall recordings. Cocoa Tea's material thankfully stays clear of the macho posturing and blatant homophobia of some of the genre's more hard-core exponents. Cocoa Tea is far more mainstream romantic and melodic. His music has influences from roots, dub and lovers rock and is actually a most pleasant listening experience. It is all pretty uplifting stuff. Rhythmic but still crucial and conscious.This release is a compilation covering tracks from several albums, in the Virgin Front Line series. The sound, as on all these releases is superb. Clear and defined but not ignoring the necessary bass depth that all reggae music needs.   
                                
I Am Going Home is a perfect example of this melodic, mid-pace groove, with a gentle beat and Gregory Isaacs-style yearning vocals. Both Sweet Cocoa Tea and Come Back have bassy, roots-influenced beats and a very roots-style vocal. Wonderland Angel has a beautiful, deep, rumbling bass line and a romantic lyric that is almost "lovers rock". A lot of the material is based around traditional, love song lyrics, although, despite that, there are still several tracks on here that reflect a roots-style Rasta devoutness, such as on the deep Marley-esque roots of If Jah Is For UsGather My Sheep and Jah Bless The I. The link to the past roots era is still a strong one and even on the loved-up numbers, check out the totally delicious, deep, dubby bass line on I've Got To Love You. It mixes laid-back, summery, melodic rhythms with a rootsy, dubby bass sound. The same applies to the rumbling, meaningful There Must Be A Time

Rocking Dolly is also packed full of serious roots punch. Cocoa can also rap in that DJ-dancehall style, such as on Reggae Music but as with all the album, there is a lilting melody underpinning it and the vocals are light and anything but threatening. It also has another totally irresistible bassline. He can also do brassy pop and mix it with a thumping bass such as on the catchy Settle Down, with its South African-influenced brass parts. The rhythm on Everything I Do is simply sublime too. Try A Thing is a wonderfully lively, appealing number. There Is A Herb In My Garden is an odd but quirky reworking of Ben E. King's Spanish Harlem - no rose this time but the sacred "'erb"If you enjoy upbeat, effervescent nineties reggae with a strong but infectious bass line and a light, poppy vocal, you will enjoy this. While there is a carefree aspect to the sound, there is still a solid conscious feeling to it too, far, far more so than on the more commercial reggae of say, Chaka Demus & Pliers and Bitty MacLean from the same era.

Althea & Donna - Uptown Top Ranking (1977)

The first thing that needs to be pointed out about Althea and Donna's one and only album is that it is most certainly not a vehicle for the massive, unexpected number one hit single, Uptown Top Ranking. It is not full of sub-standard "filler", not by a long chalk. It is a vibrant, horn-drenched, rhythmic roots reggae album with musicians like Earl "Chinna" Smith and Tommy McCook involved.   
                      
Tracks like No More Fighting and Jah Rastafari are excellent, full of killer horn riffs, sublime percussion and rumbling bass. This is mid-pace roots reggae at its finest. Even the girls' notoriously monotone voices compliment the songs perfectly and make a refreshing change from the usual Rasta male voice. Make A Truce borrows its introductory bass line from The TemptationsBall Of Confusion, I am sure, but it soon merges with the crucial horns and intoxicating riddims. A lot of people had a problem with the girls' voices, but personally, I have always found them quite fetching, and very evocative of that 1978 reggae-punk crossover period. I remember spending an evening in a Manchester poolhall in early 1978 and they played Uptown Top Ranking several times during the evening. This album did not sell well, which was a surprise. I guess the girls suddenly for got that their single success was due to its poppy appeal. They now tried to turn themselves overnight into cultural artists, committed to the whole Jah Rastafari thing, with lyrics to match. 

Oh Dread, however, was poppy enough, I have to say, but why no more hits came along was a bit of a mystery. Roots reggae material was never hugely successful, however, and female roots artists even rarer. Female reggae artists were expected to do "lovers' rock", so the girls' experiment here was a brave one. A pity it didn't work. You can't help but admire their commitment on the pulsating, "message" song of The West. It sounds great and rocks in a credible, roots fashion. They sing of "repatriating" to "Africa, where there is no pestilence". Ok girls - after you.... All that that said, I still feel this album is a really good roots reggae offering, the sound quality is also excellent, some of the best I have heard from a reggae album of the period. Just check out Uptown Top Ranking again, it never fails to uplift, and the trombone on Jah Music too. Great stuff.

Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers - Conscious Party (1988)
                        
Bob Marley’s son, Ziggy, produced an album in 1988, his third album, that was not his father, of course, but sounded one hell of a lot like him. It was produced by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads fame, who merged some dance-style rhythms in with the rootsy reggae, particularly on the title track.
         
The said title track, Conscious Party, is a thumping opener, full of “i-threes”-style female vocal backing (Rita Marley is on this album) and a bold brassy rhythm. Ziggy’s vocal inflections sound just like his father at times. It is almost as if this is how Bob would have sounded on his “comeback album” in 1989. Lee And Molly has an infectious gentle rhythm, dubby undertones and another Bob-like vocal. It also features Keith Richards on guitar, would you believe. The most well-known track is the catchy and melodious laid-back skank of Tomorrow People. Some lovely Wailer’s style guitar on this one too. New Love is an appealing mix of late 80s synth-dance rhythms and roots reggae, with a real summery feel. Tumblin' Down has a similar groove. Yes, there are contemporary electronic influences and whether Ziggy’s father would have wanted synth drums on his recordings we will never know. Ziggy had managed, with his producers, to merge roots reggae with current dance grooves and it is an attractive mix on a summer’s morning (which is what it is as I write this).

Rasta
 consciousness is never far away, and We A Guh Some Weh supplies it, with another Bob-like vocal and some typical i-threes backing vocals. 
A Who A Say is in exactly the same mode. If it were not for the polished late eighties production, you would think it was from Kaya or UprisingHave You Ever Been To Hell is an interesting song - some heavy rootsy rhythms, Rasta ranting against “blasphemers” and backing vocals but some weird electronic noises in amongst the skanking, courtesy of the producers, no doubt, and a mesmerising dance-ish beat. It is a good combination. One of the best tracks on the album. We Propose has some sweeping synth links and some militant African-consciousness lyrics, like the material on Bob’s Survival album. What's True is a vibrant, horn-driven rootsy but joyous song. The horns are very UB40-ish. Dreams Of Home merges Rasta-style drumming with South African township backing vocals sung (I think) in Xhosa or Zulu. A bit of Redemption Song acoustic guitar backing too. It is a fine, conscious, way to end an impressive, conscious album.

Misty In Roots - Roots Controller (2002)

Misty In Roots were a multi-member “collective” founded in London in 1979 and had a few albums released with a moderate amount of success. This is one of them. Unfortunately, these albums seem to be pretty impossible to get hold of these days. The band seemed to be more of a live band than a studio one for many years, preferring to just play their music live. This album was a “comeback album” from 2002 - twelve years after their previous outing.

True Rasta starts the album as it is to continue - rootsy rhythms, vibrant horns, swirling organ, toe-tapping drums and percussion and a light, harmonious lead vocal. The usual roots Rasta conceits are all here - grave warnings of Judgement Day and the like. Roots albums all carry the same message, to be honest, but it doesn’t really matter, it is just the groove that carries it along. Cover Up is an anti-racist number, referencing the murder of Stephen Lawrence. It has meaningful lyrics and a vaguely James Bond Theme-ish brass riff. The whole track has a hypnotic vibe of superb percussion, “riddim”, punchy horns and exceptionally tuneful vocals. Great stuff. It is like a throwback to the glory days of roots reggae of 1975-1976 but with a contemporary vitality and instrumental experimentation - electric guitar, saxophone and sound effects. Jah How Long is a regulation devotional song but, as with the whole album, it is lifted by an immaculate instrumental and vocal delivery. Almighty (The Way) follows the same holy path. This really is a very devout album.

Dance Hall Babylon has a cool, laid-back light, airy but rootsy groove with some nice horn riffs and an attractive vocal. It finishes with a wonderful bit of saxophone. Despite its chilled out rhythm, it is a condemnation of the posturing, macho dancehall culture. 

On The Road is another deliciously relaxing summery groove. Follow Fashion is a lengthy nonchalantly carefree number that just sort of washes over you. Perfect for a summer’s evening. Some sumptuous saxophone on here. Ireation is a shuffling, danceable (in a slow way) Rasta slow skank. Once again, mesmerising reggae drums abound. Great stereo separation on the mastering as well. New Day has an upbeat, punchy brass intro and some muffled, mournful vocals. The musicianship is magnificent. Who are they? They are so good, yet there is such a dearth of recorded material from them. The last few tracks are more of the same. The quality doesn’t let up, really. The last two tracks are impressive live cuts. This is a quite remarkable album considering it is pretty much the only release around. If you like melodic roots reggae you will love this.

Burning Spear - Marcus Garvey/Garvey's Ghost (1975)

Burning Spear (Winston Rodney) gave the world one of the great roots reggae albums here. It is the only one of his releases I have covered, but it is, I believe, a good choice. Burning Spear’s Marcus Garvey was released at the end of 1975 and was at the forefront of the black consciousness movement within reggae. It was a veritable foundation stone of the whole roots reggae movement. 

It was tied in, of course, with Rastafarianism, and Jamaican Rasta hero prophet Marcus Garvey gives his name to the album’s title and, indeed its powerful, horn-driven title track that opens the album. This is very much a militant, issue-led album, with a dual attack of religious devotion and cultural awareness, as was so often the case with roots albums. As with the others, too, this does not detract from the appealing, tuneful sound of the album, however. This pretty much applies to all the roots reggae albums of the period. The mid to late seventies were fertile years for authentic roots reggae.
                             
Slavery Days is an iconic song with clear references - “Do you remember the days of slavery?”. It was also successfully covered by Third World in the following year. The rhythmic, grinding insistence of “The Invasion” calls out “Where is your love, Jamaica?” in another plea for political and social unity and equality. A beautiful bass and and brass intro, with some nice flute passages also, leads us melodically into Live Good which sees vocalist and band leader Winston Rodney’s voice at its most mournful and yearning. It is also a bit of a misconception that reggae from this period was primitively recorded in a shack in a tenement yard in Kingston. The sound on this album, and on albums by The GladiatorsBig Youth and Aswad is superb. The bass is nice and warm and not incredibly “thumpy”, the horns (used throughout this album) and percussion are crystal clear and sharp.

Give Me
 is another brassy groove, while Old Marcus Garvey is a catchy lament for Garvey in his old age. All these albums are so, to coin a phrase, crucial, in summoning up the spirit of roots reggae in those vibrant, vital “punk crossover” years of 1976-1979, particularly in London. It went hand in hand with bands like The Clash and DJs like Don Letts, who promoted that whole “rocker and the ras” thing. Tradition has an exhilarating, punchy horn backing and a trilling “duh-rrrooop-doo” backing vocal refrain. Great pounding drum sound on this track. 
The album comes to its close with three devotional tracks. Jordan River is just magnificent - great lilting guitar, sumptuous horns and Rodney garbling away in his “non-singing” voice about Jah people and the Jordan River

Red, Gold And Green
 introduces the iconic Rasta colours to an audience who may not have been familiar with them at the time. Again, there is such an intoxicating bass line on this, and all the songs. 
As with so many roots albums, it ends with a Rasta-drum sound influenced pounding groove and a devotional, chant-like vocal. Apparently, an original, far more raw, rootsier version was the one originally recorded, but the label, Mango, wanted the sound diluted to win over the American market. I am not sure mid-70s Americans were ever won over by Rastafarian-inspired music, not in the way UK music fans were. Punks lapped it up. The eventual album is still, for me, rootsy enough anyway. Its message and sound is still a potent and powerful one. A little of that rootsier sound can be fond however, in the ten “dub” versions of the album, that are included in the double header Marcus Garvey/Garvey’s Ghost. These are some copper-bottomed, seriously good slices of dub. Check out the bass on I And I Survive, the dub version of Days Of Slavery. High quality dub. This was integral roots sound, roots voice and roots message.

Last War: The Best Of Zap Pow
   
Zap Pow were one of the most critically-respected but comparatively least successful roots-ish reggae bands of the mid seventies. They were a bit different from your standard roots group - merging jazz sounds, funky styling and a lot of their material was either instrumental or minimally vocal. They reminded me a bit of UK-based funk-soul-reggae group Cymande in that they didn't follow the traditional musical path, like Third World as well. They were willing to incorporate rock, funk, jazz and soul traits into their roots musical foundations.
                         
This Is Reggae Music is a wonderful track - full of funky guitar, killer horn riffs, organ and violin sweeps. It is a remarkably atmospheric piece of reggae. It has a soulful, rasping, evocative vocal too. It is different from your average roots reggae offering. It almost had hints of psychedelic soul in places and urban funk, yet it was a flag bearer for reggae. Last War (Jah Jah Children Arise) is more conventionally rootsy, but it also has a soul style vocal and some excellent brass backing. There is rock guitar and a hell of a chorus hook as well. Vocals were taken by saxophonist Glen DaCosta and bassist Mike Williams until the arrival of Beres Hammond, who eventually went on to become extremely successful in his own right.

Jungle Beat
 is a very Cymande-style rhythmic, funky number, while Bubblin' sounds a lot like Third World, particularly vocally. The bass and drum beat on this is huge. Let's Live Together has another almost dubby bass groove to it but despite its "under heavy manners" dubby backing, it has a lightness in the vocals in places that provides the key to why Zap Pow were quite a unique band. Rock Your Bones is also soul-influenced with more punchy horn backing.

Excuse Me has a great, throaty vocal in between some sumptuous trumpet passages. The rhythm on this one is more conventionally upbeat reggae. Sun Shine People gets lightly soulful once more. I think you have got the picture by now of what Zap Pow were about - reggae with a soulful, funky touch and band members who could seriously play. Worth checking out.

Linton Kwesi Johnson - Forces Of Victry (1979)

The voice of Linton Kwesi Johnson reciting his militant lyrics over a deep dubby riddim is as much the sound of 1979-81's punk-reggae fusion as anything. Here are a couple of his most culturally-relevant recordings. This was a crucial, contemporaneously relevant reggae release that featured "dread beat poet" Linton Kwesi Johnson reciting his lyrics concerning life in late seventies London as a West Indian over a superb roots reggae beat. The music, played by Dennis Bovell and Rico Rodriguez, amongst others is just excellent, providing a top notch quality backing for Johnson's hard-hitting, often moving urban tales. Johnson largely speaks his lyrics, occasionally slightly breaking into an appealing half-singing. He delivers his verses in Jamaican patois, but it is generally comprehensible. If not, you get the meaning pretty easily. Johnson's semi-spoken delivery is not really different to that of the DJ/"toasters" like Prince Far IBig YouthU-RoyI-Roy or King Stitt, all of whom did not break into song.
                                
Want Fi Goh Rave is a lilting, semi-spoken recitation over a delicious bassy, rootsy beat enhanced with horns and skanking electric guitar. It has a great dubby bit at the end too. It Noh Funny has a pounding, bassy riddim, with some Rastafarian-style bongo drum backing. Linton almost starts singing at some points. The saddest tale is Sonny's Lettah (Anti-Sus Poem) which takes the form of a letter from a young man from prison to his mother telling of his ill-treatment at the hands of the Metropolitan Police, who, at the time, were nowhere near as accountable as they are today. Independent Intavenshan despairs at the British politics of the time. Trombonist Rico Rodriguez delivers a great solo on here. Some infectious, rhythmic backing introduces the militant Fite Dem Back, which has Johnson uncompromisingly advocating fighting back against fascists by "smashing their brains in, 'cos they ain't got nothin' in 'em...". Menacing stuff, but life was pretty awful in inner city London in the late seventies as a West Indian or Asian immigrant. Until you have walked a mile in his shoes it is an apt quote, I believe.

Reality Poem
 talks about the age of science and technology we are in and bemoans that we still have no light, no clarity, no visions of how to live. The backing is once again excellent too. 
Forces Of Victry is a huge thumper of a "conscious" track, as relevant as any authentic Jamaican Max RomeoJunior Murvin or Lee "Scratch" Perry track. Yes, Johnson was of Jamaican origin, of course, but this was not reggae from "the yard" in Trenchtown, it was London-inspired reggae. The track features more impressive trombone. Time Come is an intoxicating warning from Johnson, chock full of rhythm and atmosphere. There is a definite argument for this album having a place in the upper reaches of reggae's "best ever" albums lists. Without question. Not only are the lyrics culturally vital, but the music is irresistible too. Highly recommended.

Linton Kwesi Johnson - Bass Culture (1980)

From 1980, this was Linton Kwesi Johnson's second album of dub poetry and it was as bitingly effective as its predecessor.

Bass Culture is beautifully deep and bassy, rumbling away captivatingly, backed by those typical brass bits and a dubby, "flying cymbal" beat as LKJ growls his lyrics, castigating violence and corruption. There is such an atmosphere to this, bringing to mind 1979-81 immediately. Oh and grab a load of the dubby bit near the end - crucial, as they say, as indeed is the guitar, from John Kapiaye. 


Street 66 starts with a brooding harmonica break that is almost bluesy and the obligatory throbbing, menacing bassline before LKJ arrives to describe a police raid on a party and the community's reaction to it -  "any policeman that come 'ere will get some righteous raas claat licks...". Quite right too. "the mighty poet, I-Roy, was on the wire" too - it must have been quite a party before it all went sour. Reggae Fi Peach was a lament for the murder of white New Zealand teacher and activist Blair Peach at an Anti-Nazi League protest by the police's Special Patrol Group. A slightly different stance regarding race issues is taken on Black Petty Booshwah (meaning petit bourgeoisie) as LKJ lays into middle class blacks whom he sees as siding with the "Babylon" when the going gets tough. The song is played out over a melodious, almost South African-sounding backing in places, particularly on the guitar sound.


The album's cornerstone is the magnificent Inglan Is A Bitch, where LKJ narrates from the experience of a West Indian immigrant. It could have been Johnson himself, it could have been one of thousands of people who feel that "Inglan is a bitch, there's no escaping it...". It is a depressing indictment of so many immigrants' experiences in what could be, at times, a miserable, unwelcoming country. Middle class, educated white men like me carry the burden of shame and have done all our lives. Once again, the backing is deceptively melodic and breezy, featuring a lovely bass line. The Beat took a lot of inspiration for this on Stand Down Margaret, I think.

Surprisingly, LKJ then comes up with a love song in the laid-back, evocative Loraine which shows that the old firebrand had a tender side to him. Reggae Sounds, however, finds dubby roots return and the album ends on a slightly unusual note on Two Sounds Of Silence, as LKJ narrates his poetry over what sounds like a freeform jazz beat, dominated by some atonally swirling saxophone. This final track broke the bassy, roots mood, but overall it is a perfect serving of punky reggae party consciousness.


Steel Pulse - Handsworth Revolution (1978)

Possibly British roots reggae’s finest ever. This stunning 1978 debut album from Steel Pulse is remastered here to an exceptionally high quality. Bass heavy but not Sound System booming, it sounds just perfect.


You get the original album - the magnificent Ku Klux Klan, the always evocative Prodigal SonHandsworth RevolutionSound CheckPrediction, they are all there. Like most "roots" reggae bands from the mid to late seventies, their message was one of social justice, cultural awareness and Rastafarian religious fervour. As a UK based band, many of their songs were written in direct response to the social milieu of Britain in 1977. Handsworth, of course, is an area of inner Birmingham, not Kingston, Jamaica, so that leant a slightly different perspective to their music.
                              
By late 1978, the band had supported Bob Marley & The Wailers on a worldwide tour and were playing large outdoor gigs like "Rock Against Racism", as well as the small to medium size UK venue circuit. The band were at the forefront of the punk/roots reggae crossover that so dominated the UK music scene in the late 70s. Pretty much every punk gig would have roots reggae being played over the sound system before the band came on. Many punk compilations since have contained either Ku Klux Klan or Prodigal Son. They are so much sonic reminders of that time. They had a unique sound - rootsy but with catchy hooks and a melodic tone to the vocal delivery, and a rhythmic musicality as opposed to speaker-pounding heavy backing. Yes, there is a full bass sound, of course, but there is more to Steel Pulse than just that.

Also included on the "Deluxe Edition" re-issue of the album are 12” versions of many of the tracks and dub versions, all of which are excellent. Then there are some impressive 
BBC session cuts, which show how good a live band they were. Just check out the wonderful sound and performance on Prediction. I was lucky enough to see them live in 1978. Great memories.


Singer David Hinds, speaking retrospectively about supporting Bob Marley, had this to say-

"....We learned a lot of discipline on that tour that rubbed off - rehearsal, execution on stage, how to tour, stability [...] that's when the doors really started to open for us. It has always been one of the most memorable moments of my career. To play as part of that package exposed Steel Pulse to audiences that literally were in awe of our message. Of course, being formally introduced through Bob Marley helped us tremendously. Playing for audiences, especially those in Paris who saw the force of Steel Pulse and the force of Bob Marley play on the same bill, enabled us to sell out shows every time since then...".


Steel Pulse - Tribute To The Martyrs (1979)


Following up on their excellent debut album, Steel Pulse returned with another collection of attractive but lyrically militant stepping rockers. They really were at the forefront of UK reggae, being by far the best to emerge from that scene. There was something instantly recognisable and quite unique about their sound. The album takes the theme of acknowledging the contributions of various black consciousness leaders.


Unseen Guest is more of the Handsworth Revolution vibe, with those gentle riddims backing a catchily harmonious Rasta devotional vocal. Sound System is classic, immediately accessible Steel Pulse and is the album's best known track with its "Dig the music Mr. DJ" first line. Their sound is actually quite difficult to describe, but there is something about the easy riddims and characterful vocals that I have always liked. They knew how to merge a rock electric guitar into their tunes too, and they do so most effectively here. It features a sumptuous dubby bit as well. Jah Pickney - R.A.R. is a rootsy, Marley-esque condemnation of the National Front - neo-fascists who were depressingly popular in the Uk in the late seventies. Steel Pulse let them know exactly what they think of them. Tribute To The Martyrs is a mid-pace rootsy skank and  it morphs into a beautifully bassy, dubby tribute to Steve Biko, murdered in 1977 by South African police.


Babylon Makes The Rules-Devil's Disciples is seen minutes-plus of Steel Pulse faster than usual groove, backed by some fine brass. The final three minutes is just so deliciously dubby but melodious it hurts. Check out those bongos. Sublime. Uncle George is a punchy tribute to African-American civil rights civil rights leader George Jackson and Steve Biko is back for the appealing skank of Biko's Kindred Lament. This fine album ends with the insistent, brooding roots of Blasphemy. These first two Steel Pulse albums are their best and, if this is all you get to hear from them, it will more than suffice. They were a great band. Guidance!

Cymande - The Best Of Cymande

Formed in the early 1970s (around 1971-72) by Patrick Paterson and Steve Scipio in London, this multi-member band never got the success their absolutely unique brand of soully funky reggae tinged music deserved. Even now there is nothing really that sounds like Cymande. They were-are totally impossible to categorise. The sound quality and playing on this, a compilation of all three of the band's seventies albums - CymandeSecond Time Around and Promised Heights - is top notch. Personal highlights are the infectious grooves of RickshawDoveBraPon De Dungle and the marvellous Brothers On The Slide. Just listen the wonderful bass and percussion blend on One More. Apparently much of their music has been "sampled". I wouldn't know. Their music stands up well enough to be listened to in its own right. As I said, I find it impossible to quite describe Cymande's music. I would suggest listening to it online, realising how good it is, then buying it. No messing around.


Weapon Of Peace - Weapon Of Peace (1981)                

Weapon Of Peace were a reggae group from Wolverhampton, West Midlands. They were heavily influenced by UB40, particularly in their use of the saxophone to drive many of the melodies. There is a laid-back feel to much of their material, with influences from Third WorldSteel Pulse and Aswad too. They deserved more success than they had, releasing only two albums. I saw them live at Friars Club, Aylesbury, supporting Stiff Little Fingers in July 1980. The sound quality in this release is excellent as well. Back to the group, there was something different and appealing about the UK-based reggae bands. While they had considerable reggae authenticity, there was always something slightly different about their sound the made them unique. 

                            

Know Yourself has a UB40-influenced groove, complete with saxophone and also a very Steel Pulse feel to it, particularly in the vocals. Don't Sit Around has an almost rock beat at times and some new-wave white reggae vibes too, plus a nice dub/saxophone interplay. West Park is a very Third World-influenced, breezy, relaxing skank, with some smooth jazzy saxophone and another nice dubby bass bit at the end. 

Suspicion
 is so Steel Pulse it could almost be them, both the rhythm and the vocal are exactly like them. It is still a good track though. Once again it ends with an extended dub passage. No Time To Scream is very similar to UB40's Don't Let It Pass You By in many ways. The saxophone is Brian Travers-esque too. They also incorporate The Last Post into the rhythm at the end. Come Walk With Me is a summery, romantic groove of an instrumental.

Jah Love sounds as if it may be a slice of deep, pious roots but it is actually a lively, catchy and poppy number, probably the most so on the album. 
Feelin' Time is back to the UB40 meets Third World thing. I think we know what we are getting by now. Baby When I'm Gone has an upbeat, harmonious skank to it. Love ends this album on a sweet soul note, almost a soul song as opposed to a reggae one. Yes, Weapon Of Peace were pretty derivative, but they were still very good despite their obvious influences. Highly recommended if you can get hold of this. Downloading is probably the easiest-cheapest way.

Michael Prophet - Righteous Are The Conqueror (1980)

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.

Michael Prophet - Michael Prophet (1981)
    
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. He is backed by one of the best studio bands of all time - the mighty Roots Radics - and mixed by the young dubmaster Scientist at the legendary King Tubby's studio.

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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