This is the third album from the dub-based Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno project, ‘1000 Watts’. This release finds Will ‘Quantic’ Holland venturing from electronica into pure reggae-roots territory, bringing together some classic-style reggae-rhythms supported by an impressive inventory of reggae guests including the late Ikey Owens on keyboard, drummer Santa Davis and singers Hollie Cook and Christopher Ellis . Also onboard are Alice Russell and no less than Deejay maestro U-Roy who both feature on the splendid single release ‘A Life Worth Living’ which manages to propel the listener back into the past and firmly into the future at the same time.
Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno ‘1000 Watts’, vinyl/CD, release 17th June 2016
This is the fifth album from Senegal’s Puppa Lek Sen, a serious roots album documenting Africa’s struggles and spreading the Rasta message and culture. The album features Coco Roots (Beatmaker), Christophe Laxenaire (keyboard), Laurent Pena Vieira (drums), Vi-Avelino (guitar), Skunky Skanky (guitar), Valess (bass), Makéda (chorus), Ilements and, notably on the track ‘Pirates’, the legendary voice of Cédric Myton from venerable reggae band the Congos. Drawing inspiration overall from hip-hop and blues as well as from reggae the album is a powerful release in the spirit of a committed performer. The track featured here, ‘Dem a Murderer’, is testament to the destructive effects of war on central Africa.
Here comes the warm sound of roots in the classic style, with fourteen tracks from reggae’s best. Produced by Tapper Zukie, this compilation features a range of tracks from the Stars label he set up in the 70s. Instrumental support is provided here from musicians including Tony Chin, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Vin Gordon and Ansell Collins, amongst others. On Side One, things get off to a bright start with ‘Liberty’ from Junior Ross and the Spears, followed by tracks from Prince Alla and Linford Nugent, the latter offering a melodic and upbeat ‘Black Princess’. Next up is a rota of reggae royalty in the form of Cornell Campbell, Dennis Brown, Horace Andy and the Mighty Diamonds. Of these, Dennis Brown’s ‘Death Before Dishonour’ reveals its relatively late (1988) origins in the form of the distinctive percussive sound and the relatively minimal instrumentation, while the Mighty Diamonds contribute ‘Morgan the Pirate’, a great little track in slow deliberate roots style.
Side Two begins with Rockey Dread, Ronnie Davis and Freddy McKay; of these, Ronnie Davis’s ‘No Weak Heart’ is a great early (1976) reggae song, powered along by the vintage rhythm section (featuring Vin Gordon) and the echoing drum sound. Next comes no less than the venerable Alton Eliis with a surprisingly contemporary-sounding ‘We A Feel It’, and the album concludes with the Mighty Diamonds, Cornell Campbell and Horace Andy. Of these, Cornell Campbell comes close to a dub sound as the track closes (and some dubs of these songs would indeed be good to hear). The Mighty Diamonds add their typically sweet vocal sound. All in all, a fine compilation of roots reggae music and a joy to hear.
Tapper Zukie: Stars Ah Shine: Stars Records 1976-1988; release (vinyl) March 2016; Kingston Sounds label
This new release from Koen Duncan, his first in five years, carries the same strong religious roots message evident on previous albums. Winning the DJ Performance of the Year in 2010 at the Marlin Awards in Bahamas for the song ‘Mountain Mover’, this was a track taken from his 2009 album ‘Shine High’ – a powerful collection ranging from the dramatic hip-hop/dancehall title track, through more soulful reggae songs, to the final explicitly devotional tracks. The 2011 album ‘Trinity’ added to his impressive output with its message of hope in songs such as ‘Don’t Be Afraid’.
The new album, ‘Rebel of a Different Nature’, reinforces an already strong reputation. One of the singles released from the album – ‘Down to the Wire’ – is a rapid-fire hip-hop dancehall track with an underlying melody and an underlying message. ‘Lift Him Higher’, another single release, is a similarly fast-paced dancehall-influenced dance track with an explicitly spiritual message. The overall sound of the album is both gentle and committed: worthy of attention.
Koen Duncan ‘Rebel of a Different Nature’, release 25th March 2016, Fox Fuse/JahLight Records
This seminal UK band is back with a new 11-track album, with – as always – a strong political message at its core. With their origins in the Saint Paul’s area of Bristol, Black Roots began in 1979 and built up a formidable reputation for writing and performing firmly in the roots reggae genre until their peak in the 1980s. With their music steeped in the urban political fragmentation of the UK of the time, they played roots music in an uncompromising but melodic way and were a key reggae band of that era. Their last album – in their initial incarnation – was released in 1990. Various re-releases and dub makeovers were released subsequently but the band was not an active performing and recording outfit until they bounced back in 2012 with On the Ground (featuring most of the original members). Its dub counterpart was released in the following year. The French label, Soulbeats Records, released Ghetto Feel in 2014, and now the band is back with a brand new album, Son of Man.
Although the band no longer tour extensively they have played a series of selected live shows since they reformed, both in the UK and elsewhere in Europe including I’ll Be Your Mirror curated by Portishead at Alexandra Palace London UK, Glastonbury , the Lambeth Country Show , Garance Reggae Festival in France, Dour Festival in Belgium, the Polish Ostroda Reggae Festival and Reggae Sun Ska in France. So it is possible, if not easy, to catch them live: meantime, the title track from the new album (see above) is a good solid roots track in the fine Black Roots tradition.
Black Roots: Son of Man, release on Soulbeats Records, 22nd January 2016