26. April 2017 · 1 comment · Categories: Album Reviews · Tags:

a1074565984_16From Morristown, New Jersey, here comes Blindman (AKA Derek Gazal) with a new album entitled ‘See with Your Heart’. The album features Rica Newell (Stephen Marley, the Melody Makers, Dennis Brown, the Black Crowes) and Mike Adamo (Breakbeat Bible). The musical styles on the seven (plus two bonus) tracks herein are mightily varied, from the full-on roots reggae of ‘Irie Soul Uprising’ to a rock guitar sound bursting to get through on a track such as ‘Woman of My Dreams’. The slow deliberative bass of ‘Lonely Road’ (and for that matter ‘No Babylon’) will definitely give your speakers something to think about.

‘Feels Good’ features an authentic reggae sound with effective percussion mixed up-front and was released as a single last year. It is about the uplifting and powerful effect of love, and was inspired by the death of Blindman’s own grandfather. Profits from the track were earmarked for those who have experienced hardship following the death of a loved one. Blindman himself is the founding member of St Joseph’s Outreach, a charity aimed at building faith within local communities.

Blindman has been working on the album for two years, wrote all the tracks, and is executive producer overall. The result is a great contemporary reggae release and the sentiments behind the songs show that music can truly have heart as well as soul.

Blindman: See with Your Heart, released 14th April 2017, available via Bandcamp.

King Porter Stomp’s releases have been reviewed on these pages before, and now Brighton’s own are back with a new ten-track LP and third studio album entitled ‘Way Back’. The album embodies the band’s multiple influences, in particular roots reggae, hip-hop and soul/funk. Once again produced by Prince Fatty (Mike Pelanconi) the album displays the diversity of styles that define this band.

Vocals are courtesy of Arif Najak and Moses Yuchetel on several tracks while MC Jonezy makes his presence felt in an understated way. The album has been four years in the making and features some tracks that will already be familiar to followers of the band, including ‘Warning’, a heavyweight reggae sound (see reggaemusic.org.uk November 2014). ‘Way Back’ and ‘Pedestals’ are strong and lively reggae-hip-hop while ‘All Night’ has the kind of wah-wah rhythm intro that makes you expect Isaac Hayes to appear in the doorway. ‘Rise Up’ and ‘Put Down Your Weapons’ are fine reggae tracks, the latter having already been released as a single (see reggaemusic.org.uk December 2015)

King Porter Stomp has a few gigs lined up in the South of England during April, and they are also due to play Glastonbury this year. So there is the chance to hear them live in the near future – which is surely how this band should be heard.

King Porter Stomp ‘Way Back’ released 10th April 2017

image003Amelia Harmony is a dub/reggae artist from the UK East Midlands who has released this sweet and melodic track on her own record label called ‘Soulshine Musik’. The song is, in Amelia’s words “all about mothers and the struggles they go through sometimes and the fact that they still remain strong”.

Growing up in children’s homes she was influenced by many different cultures and turned these influences into singing and songwriting, working alongside various bands producing her own material. Moving to Brighton, she (literally) found her voice and made a mark on the UK Garage charts. Back in Derby, Amelia became part of a reggae band called ‘Origin’ which had a major influence on her future music, including major involvement in production and sound systems alongside fellow artists, subsequently working with producers in dub/roots/reggae including I-niverse, Murray Man Mellow Vibes, Mark Mostec, King Earthquake, Dougie Conscious, Masaai Warrior, Unrulee Records, Eastern Vibration and Earth Works.

The video for ‘Mamma’ was released, appropriately enough, on Mothers’ Day, for subsequent release as a single. It’s a simple sparkling reggae sound, Earl Sixteen vocals leading the way with an almost Marley feel and a dub production on the point of breaking through as the track progresses. It’s not fussing or fighting, nor cynical, simply reminding us that – as a great man once said – one good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.

Earl Sixteen featuring Amelia Harmony ‘Mamma’ released 2/5/17 on Soulshine Musik, 7” vinyl and digital download.

This 5-track 12” vinyl EP comes courtesy of Netherlands band Independent Intavenshan, based in Utrecht. This is the second release by the nine-piece band and is a fine reggae release in the vintage tradition of powerful roots music. Recorded in Utrecht, and pressed through a crowdfunding initiative, it brings us a brass-flavoured reggae sound along with some angry lyrics.

Opening with the title track, the defiant mood is set with a homage to reggae music itself, followed up with ‘Johnny Too Bad’ – not the familiar Slickers’ song, but another track entirely which seems critical of the idea of being ‘too bad’: ‘…sentenced as of birth, never got a chance’. The set closes with ‘Babylon’, gradually building to its ska-speed conclusion. Starting out as a ‘reggae studio project’, the band now has an established structure of nine members: the tight sound of a band playing together, rather than just a collection of individuals, comes over clearly on this EP.

The tone of this fine and timely release fits the political convulsions engulfing many parts of the world at the moment, not least in the UK, the US or in the Netherlands itself. Maybe music by itself can’t change all that but it can at least show where it stands – as Marley demonstrated all those years ago and bands like Independent Intavenshan confirm today.

Independent Intavenshan: Rub a Dub Emergency, released 2016

imagesHere is the new album from dub/reggae purveyors Dreadzone, with twelve tracks recorded at the Bunker Studios of Mick Jones with the lyrical involvement of Don Letts. Their 23-year history is reflected in the diverse wealth of the songs included here. This is the band’s 8th studio album and 3rd on their own Dubwiser label, going back to the roots, dub and reggae sound that initially inspired them. Alongside core members Greg Dread, who produced the album, together with Leo Williams, Chris Compton, reggae vocalist Earl 16 and MC Spee, ‘Dread Times’ introduces younger members with newest contributor Bazil bringing an edge to the music and Greg’s son Marlon expanding the musical range further, with Lena Cullen on vocals for one track and 1990s’ ragga duo Louchie Lou and Michie One guesting on another.

The album kicks off with ‘Rootsman’, with its powerful bass sound driving the sound along and an African feel to the percussive sound, before we get to ‘Mountain’, a slow and brooding track about personal redemption which, despite its tone, is optimistic in its message and is the album’s current single release.

Initially giving the impression that the band are steeped in the received tradition of dub/reggae, which on one level is true enough, as the album develops the sound becomes wider in its scope and influences. ‘Black Deus’ for instance employs a range of beats, a largely instrumental track apart from the soul refrain, essentially political in tone. ‘Area Code’ moves along forcefully and the album finishes strongly with ‘After the Storm’, beginning with electronic sounds and with multicultural influences that make it highly interesting musically.

An excellent album, worthy of wide attention, and through its various styles driven by the always-assertive bass sound. Dreadzone are touring the UK until the end of April so there’s still the chance to catch them live while all this is still fresh.

Dreadzone: ‘Dread Times’ released February 2017 on Dubwiser