Ghetto Priest: Every Man for Every Man

Here comes Asian Dub Foundation frontman and sometime vocalist Ghetto Priest with his forthcoming solo album, produced by Adrian Sherwood. The lyrical concerns of this release are religious and spiritual in a broad sense, the title track making a plea for neighbourliness and community, with the other songs on the album lamenting the threat to the environment, the achievements of black women and the fall of Babylon. This includes a cover of Peter Tosh’s ‘Babylon Queendom’ and Judy Mowatt’s ‘Black Woman’. Perhaps most intriguing is an interpretation of Robbie Burns’ poem ‘I Murder Hate’, an unexpected but welcome contribution. Musically, the title track itself is optimistic melodic reggae, with a strong but gentle vocal sound and fine instrumentation, a great little reggae song. Its message is in the title; every man for every man, not every man for himself, a sentiment that remains unattractive to some of those with political power unfortunately.

From a troubled personal history, Ghetto Priest turned to Rastafarian belief and was steeped in the sound system culture of the 1980s before emerging as a roots performer in his own right. In 2011, he partnered Lucid Mover in the ‘Screaming Soul’ project, resulting in the ‘Ghost Inna Shell’ album and, a year later, its remixed counterpart, ‘Ghost Inna Dub’. In 2016, he released the single ‘Life Ain’t Easy’ based on Dennis Brown’s ‘Easy, Take It Easy’. This latest album is a fresh and uncompromising release, worth hearing for its take on the world around us.

Ghetto Priest: ‘Every Man For Every Man’: released 8th September 2017, Ramrock Records

Bison Theory: The Long Ting EP

Here is some fine Bristol hip-hop from Bison Theory, fronted by Jonny Steele from the Scribes (see reggaemusic.org.uk 22 October 2012, 3 February 2015 and 14 December 2015). The Long Ting EP features three tracks, kicking off with ‘Golden’, a smooth bit of hip-hoppery with a regular rhythm keeping it moving along nicely enough. ‘OK’ opens with up-front bass and a vocal refrain before another venture into rap, with a clean and clear guitar riff repeating all the way through. ‘Power’ is guitar-driven and angrier in the way it feels with a political theme pervading the music, bass and drums more upfront as it gets closer to the end. In summary, it’s British hip-hop informed by soul.

Bison Theory is a six-piece band, with Charlotte Coupland and Nikki Quinnen on vocals, Jack Dennis on guitar, Stevie Mac on bass and Dave Preece on drums alongside Jonny Steele. They have built up a formidable live energy, reinforcing the creative reputation of Bristol-based music. It’s no criticism to say the hip-hop sound herein is old-school and this release will encourage all who hear it to seek out more.

Bison Theory: Long-Ting EP, digital release June 2017.

GT Moore: The Outsider Meets the High-Tech Roots Dynamics

English reggae man GT (Gerald) Moore released a couple of albums in the 1970s (and to the person who borrowed my copy of ‘GT Moore and the Reggae Guitars’ back then it would have been nice to see it again). It was in many ways a very English form of reggae, light and airy without the heavy sounds of dub or of studio trickery, and the track ‘Move it on Up’ was moderately well-known. Instrumentally of its time, it nonetheless had a certain authenticity to its feel.

Now GT Moore comes along with a re-release of an album originally let loose on the world in 1993. This album – ‘The Outsider Meets The High-Tech-Roots-Dynamics (at Channel One UK)’ – was the first album released by G.T. in conjunction with Rej Forte (aka Jah Works) and Martin Campbell, with the help of other musicians including Steve Swann from ‘The Revolutionary Dub Warriors’ on bass. First released in limited quantities on vinyl and CD, this new release of the album is in digital format and it makes the music widely available for the first time. GT Moore himself is the eponymous Outsider, basing his pseudonym on his time as a musician in Jamaica in the 1980s.

Musically the album is reminiscent of Augustus Pablo, consisting for the most part of instrumental melodica tracks. GT Moore comments that ‘most of the tunes are improvisations of rhythm tracks that I heard for the first time in the studio.’ Opening with ‘Alfa’, the mood of the twelve tracks is relaxed. For the most part the instrumental tracks are at a slow tempo, with ‘Warm Love’ summing up the sound of the album as a whole. Matters come to a conclusion with ‘Jerusalem Dub’, a fine laid-back dub sound that’ll be appreciated for its vintage reggae feel.

GT Moore: The Outsider Meets the High-Tech Roots Dynamics, digital release May 2017

Morgan Heritage: Avrakedabra

Here’s a brand new album from family and spiritually-oriented American band Morgan Heritage who are currently coming to the end of their UK and European tour. There have been a number of single releases from the album already, including the most recent single ‘We Are’ and ‘Ready for Love’. Recorded in different studios around the globe, it’s an eclectic and optimistic album firmly inspired by the roots reggae tradition but with influences from further afield. There are fourteen tracks herein, kicking off with ‘Want Some More’ (featuring Mr Talkbox), its solid reggae rhythm proceeding at a pace reminiscent perhaps of Steel Pulse at their peak. ‘One Family’ which features Ziggy Marley and Stephen Marley is interesting melodically, with a vintage reggae feel to the bass line – a great little track with a happy contagious mood.

On some tracks – particularly ‘Golden’ and to some extent the recent single ‘Ready for Love’  – there’s a soul/R and B feel and it becomes possible to imagine Lauryn Hill covering these enthusiastically. Elsewhere the musical balance is a little different: ‘Reggae Night’ and ‘Dream Girl’ are pop/reggae that it’s impossible to dislike. The album as a whole is laid-back in its overall tone with occasional flashes of an angrier feel as on ‘We Are’. All the tracks were written by the band and their vocal collaborators on different songs, with the exception of the final track ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’.

All in all, a great album of authentic contemporary roots reggae.

See previous feature on Morgan Heritage, reggaemusic.org.uk 1st May 2015

Morgan Heritage: ‘Avrakedabra’, release 19th May 2017 on the CTBC Music Label, CD/vinyl/digital formats

Liverpool Festival of Reggae 2017

The second Positive Vibration – Festival of Reggae 2017 – is scheduled for 9th and 10th June across three venues in the Baltic Triangle area of Liverpool. The Friday session features Jah Shaka’s London-based roots reggae sound system while Saturday headliners are none other than the Selecter. There are soundsystems from Trojan and Soul Jazz labels, along with Saxon Sound System, Don Letts and Aba Shanti-I. Positive Vibration is a cultural as well as purely musical event, and there will be an art exhibition entitled, not unreasonably, the Art of Reggae. The festival is also due to feature panel debate with the Selecter’s Pauline Black, along with Mykaell Riley and guitarist Dennis Bovell.

Tickets from Skiddle.com. What a great way to work off the post-election blues.

Blindman: See with Your Heart

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: Way Back

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

Earl Sixteen featuring Amelia Harmony: Mamma

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.

Independent Intavenshan: Rub a Dub Emergency

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