Double Tiger: Sharp and Ready

Here is Brooklyn boy Double Tiger (aka Jay Spaker) with his first solo album, a compilation of recordings from the past five years of writing. Just released on leading NY label Easy Star Records, ‘Sharp and Ready’ kicks off with the fast reggae rhythm of ‘Rocking Time’, a great start to this collection of twelve tracks. ‘Crème de Crème’ and ‘Babylon Expire’ follow up at a more sedate pace, but again firmly in the roots tradition. With strong vocals and relatively understated instrumental arrangements this is new music with the classic feel. ‘Live Life’ starts with some fine dub sounds before heading into a dancehall-influenced vocal, adding up to a particularly strong track. The title track, together with ‘Moonlight’, are instrumental workouts informed by dub, while ‘A Feelin’ borrows inspiration from the sound of soul. ‘Time Has Come’ echoes with the political demands for social justice, and the album closes with ‘Ram Dancehall’, a fine deejay-dancehall track. This is a happy release from an artist/producer steeped in the received message of reggae and with a track record of working with some of the reggae greats. It should propel Double Tiger to a deserved level of wider recognition.

Double Tiger: Sharp and Ready, released on Easy Star Records, 30th June 2017.

New Releases from Ramrock

Hot on the heels of our review of Ghetto Priest’s excellent new album (see reggaemusic.org.uk 11th July 2017) here are details of two more recent or forthcoming releases from Ramrock Records which reinforce its reputation for bringing us the best in new reggae sounds. First, there’s the dancehall rhythm track from Jazzy Kitt himself given the lyrical treatment by Taz in the form of ‘Up Deh’ and from Camar Flava who offers us ‘Get Back Up’. Available on 7” vinyl release and on digital download, this is dancehall but without the hard and aggressive feel of its 80s and 90s origins, giving us something more gentle for soothing the soul.

Secondly, there’s the Dissent’s ‘Trust in Me’ EP, something very different from the Jazzy Kitt release. The Dissent brings us slow-paced reggae in the title track, reminiscent of the Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’ era and similarly politically aware. What follows are a couple of dubs of Trust in Me, and then ‘Hypocrite’ – who on earth could they be thinking of? Proceedings close with ‘Je Ne Veux Pas Quitter’ which is what one might call unorthodox, opening with guitar, followed by spoken word French commentary, resolving into instrumental reggae. Unusual but great. Released digitally already, this one is scheduled for 12” vinyl release in September 2017. Congratulations to Jo at Ramrock on these vital sounds!

Yabby You: I’m Just a Dread

Here’s a new reissue 12” single of a track laid down many years ago by Jacob Miller and indeed by Yabby himself some considerable time ago. With the customary solid foundation of a rhythm section comprising Sly Dunbar on drums and Robbie Shakespeare on bass, this version consists of four tracks starting with the vocal take from the late Yabby You (aka Vivian Jackson) followed by a great dub in the classic style. The other two tracks – credited to the ‘Jah Fingers all Stars’ – keep the rhythm rocking along in suitable fashion. Mastered by Nick Manasseh, this is great reggae music for those who know the track already as well as those who are hearing this for the first time.

Yabby You: I’m Just a Dread, released 2017 on the Jah Fingers label

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.