Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry: Heavy Rain

Seemingly immortal, reggae icon Lee Perry is back with a new album. In a reggae career covering several decades, he’s well-known for working with acts including the Wailers, the Congos and Junior Murvin but it is in his development of the dub style of the 70s that his contribution has been most distinctive. His dubs are instantly recognisable with a shifting underwater feel to the rhythm which succeeded in transforming some familiar cross-over hits into reggae classics, such as Susan Cadogan’s hit ‘Hurt So Good’ extending to an excellent dub courtesy of Perry’s production skills and his house band the Upsetters. The numerous contrasting dubs he generated of, say, Max Romeo’s ‘War in a Babylon’ or Junior Murvin’s ‘Police and Thieves’ still inspire reggae producers and listeners today.     

The new album ‘Heavy Rain’ follows on as a ‘dub companion’ to Perry’s ‘Rainford’ album, created in conjunction with British producer Adrian Sherwood and released earlier in 2019. In addition to offering dub versions of the songs on ‘Rainford’ the new album provides some new tracks too. A couple of tracks feature the leading reggae figure Vin Gordon, trombonist with the Skatalites and the Upsetters who also played trombone on some of the Wailers’ albums. More surprising, Perry’s new album also features a collaboration with Brian Eno, long-time producer in his own right and former musical partner of Robert Fripp amongst many others. Their collaborative track is entitled ‘Here Come the Warm Dreads’, neatly referencing Eno’s ‘Here Come the Warm Jets’ from many moons ago. All in all, ‘Heavy Rain’ maintains Lee Perry’s record as an idiosyncratic but always intriguing reggae legend.

Lee Perry: ‘Heavy Rain’, release December 2019   

Prince Fatty: In the Viper’s Shadow

British producer Prince Fatty (Mike Pelanconi), known for his work with Hollie Cook and many others (see reggaemusic.org.uk April 12th 2019 ) is back with a new album entitled ‘In the Viper’s Shadow’ and new single, a version of the Ethiopians’ ‘Everything Crash’. As before he demonstrates his craft with leading-edge production work informed by an evident love for classic reggae, and especially dub, music.

This album is his second solo album. The first single from the album, ‘Get Ready’, was released in June and ‘Everything Crash’ is released this month. As usual, Fatty has secured the involvement of some of reggae’s leading names including Big Youth, Cornell Campbell, Marcia Griffiths and his established collaborator Horseman.

The ten tracks on this album include some rhythms you’ll find familiar, such as ‘Cassandra’ (featuring Earl 16) and its Al Green derived backdrop. The album kicks off with ‘Two Timer’ (featuring Cornell Campbell and Tippa Irie) with a great dub treatment, while ‘Get Ready’ (Featuring Big Youth and George Dekker) is a fine version of the old Smokey Robinson song, again given a strong, and characteristically Fatty, dub production. The album closes with ‘Trouble’ (featuring Shniece McMenamin and Horseman).

This album, as always with Fatty’s productions, is inspired by the best of vintage-era dub reggae together with state-of-the-art production, adding up to a great and compelling sound.

Here’s a taste of the original version of ‘Everything Crash’ from the Ethiopians; you won’t be disappointed by the Fatty makeover.

Prince Fatty: ‘Everything Crash’ single release September 2019; ‘In the Viper’s Shadow’ album release October 2019 on Evergreen Recordings

Laid Blak: About Time

On initial hearing this new album gives the impression of likeable pop-reggae but another listen convinces that there’s a lot more to it. The album draws from a range of genres to produce something that is certainly worthy of your attention. It appears that Ed Sheeran is a big fan but don’t let that put you off. It’s thoughtful soul-influenced reggae – quite original in the UK context.

This is the second album from Bristol-based Laid Blak where founder member MC Joe Peng and other contributors were gathered together by DJ Bunjy. The opening track, ‘Cool Dude’, is uptempo reggae in a familiar style, but things get more interesting with ‘It’s a Pity’ (featuring Tanya Lacey) – the initial single release from the album – with a melodica-sounding backing and solid rhythm. ‘Hold On’ (again featuring Tanya Lacey) amounts to a funk/soul outing and it’s fair to say that the album gets better as it goes on. ‘Serious’ (featuring Tanya Lacey and MC Dee) is a strong track with a dubstep-ish bass line and an authentic feel. ‘War’ sounds like a classic track, with a slow brooding introduction before it gets into its reggae stride and indeed a rock guitar solo. It would be possible to imagine Bob Marley singing this – which is quite a compliment to Laid Blak with this powerful and affecting album.

Laid Blak ‘About Time’ released on limited-edition clear vinyl, August 2019, via Sugar Shack Records

Morgan Heritage: Loyalty

US family band Morgan Heritage are back with a fine album of reggae songs, more consistent and stronger than previously and definitely worth hearing. The band – Gramps, Peetah and Mr Mojo – completed this album from their various locations around the world and the global influences are evident in this selection of tracks. This album is the band’s 12th studio release and the upbeat summery single ‘Beach and Country’ is taken from the album.

The album displays the range of styles and influences we have become accustomed to in hearing Morgan Heritage (see previous reviews on reggaemusic.org.uk. 1st May 2015 and 15th May 2017). The 16 tracks feature a number of collaborators including Diamond Platnumz, Stonebwoy and Patoranking, Reggae Rock stars Pepper and Iration, Dancehall artist Popcaan, and the voice of journalist and broadcaster Jeff Koinange on the album intro.  

As on earlier releases there is a pronounced soul influence on some of the songs here, including the title track which develops into a strong reggae song in the classic tradition. ‘All for You’ is a thoughtful and melodic track with a slightly melancholic feel while ‘Slave and Slave Master’ is a further powerful contribution, again in a classic style. The album as a whole is strong on melody and on production. The acoustic ‘Home’ is a sweet tuneful song that sticks in the mind and could be covered far beyond the reggae community.  

The single ‘Beach And Country’ was produced by Jugglerz, Haegi and Morgan Heritage, and the video for the song was filmed on location in Sao Vicente, Cape Verde and directed by Mojo Morgan and Adilson Ramos. The group says: “’Beach And Country’ is a song to take away musically any time of the year to a tropical oasis. Music has a way to contribute to our emotions and we hope our new single takes everyone on a journey down memory lane for those that don’t live in a tropical destination.” 

Currently performing live at festivals across Europe, Morgan Heritage are due to tour the UK in Autumn 2019.

 Morgan Heritage ‘Loyalty’, release August 2019 on their CTBC (Cool To Be Conscious) Music Group label in partnership with Membran.

Marcus Upbeat: She’s So Sweet

Here’s a melodic pop-reggae sound with a feel that’s reminiscent of the old reggae classics like Pressure Drop. Released on the rejuvenated Blue Beat label it’s an infectious reggae tune delivered in an authentic style, informed by an obvious love of 60s and 70s vintage reggae. Marcus has previously supported many artists and achieved a measure of success with his former band No 1 Station with whom he released three albums. Along with Siggy Jackson, previous owner of Blue Beat, the label was relaunched by Marcus in 2004 who comments: “I wanted to return to the roots of the music and release records in the more traditional styles of classic Jamaican ska, rocksteady, and early reggae, and to revive the name ‘Blue Beat’ as the generic umbrella term to describe my new music“. 

This is a summer reggae anthem and reminds us why we like this music so much in the first place!

Marcus Upbeat: She’s So Sweet, release on Blue Beat Records, July 2019

Tallowah: Round 3

From Leigh on Sea here is the sound of Tallowah, heralding their new album ‘Round 3’ which is available in CD and vinyl format. A four-piece reggae and dub outfit, Tallowah generate a really authentic roots feeling evident in the track ‘Tyrant’ with its classic-style melodica sound and dub conclusion. This puts Southend firmly in the reggae spotlight!

Tallowah, ‘Round 3’, CD/vinyl released June 2019 on Khandha Records

Little Criminals: Running

You probably know that Little Criminals is a fine satirical song and album by Randy Newman from the 1970s but you may not be aware that Little Criminals are also an established Whitby based trio comprising Pete Gilgan (singer/guitarist), Chris Hogan (bass) and Colin Carlton (drums). They have been writing and playing rock and reggae since the early 90s and here they are with a great single entitled ‘Running (Mike TV dub mix)’. It takes the band’s basic track and at the production stage adds some studio effects and a U Roy sample. It features effective guitar over a driving rhythm and has a strong dub feel. Due for release in July, it promises well for the prospects of catching the band live.

Little Criminals: Running (Mike TV dub mix), release July 26th 2019 on Tune Core.

Mungo’s Hi Fi and Eva Lazarus: More Fyah

Glasgow’s heavyweight sound system, Mungo’s Hi Fi, are back with their new release ‘More Fyah’ alongside vocalist Eva Lazarus – her first album. ‘More Fyah’ was originally commissioned as part of the live theatre production, KID_X, created by the skills of Bassline Circus, MHz and Feral. Mungo’s Hi Fi wrote the music for the show while Eva Lazarus wrote the lyrics as well as taking a lead role in the performance itself. KID_X will be performed in Glasgow on the 31st May and 1st June and thereafter at the Edinburgh Fringe as part of the Made In Scotland Programme.

The album opens with the an upbeat and uplifting version of ‘Dub Be Good 2 Me’ taking a little while to get to the vocals, and goes on to feature, as well as the highly effective vocals of Eva, the sound of Kiko Bun on the great reggae track ‘Light as a Feather’ and a sample of no less than Max Romeo on ‘Babylon Raid’ – Three Blind Mice indeed. The title track is an assertive mixture of dancehall and dubstep, powering along a strong bass sound. The strength of Mungo’s sound is undoubtedly in their knowledge of the reggae and dub tradition alongside a readiness to cross the boundaries of dancehall, drum & bass and hip-hop. It creates their own unique and all-enveloping sound.

Describing Mungo’s work with Eva Lazarus, Craig Macleod from the sound system outfit says: “We were blown away by her energy, presence and vocal versatility on stage when we played the same night in Bristol some time back and instantly knew that we were on a similar musical path.”

Mungo’s Hi-Fi/Eva Lazarus ‘‘More Fyah’, released 19th July 2019 on Scotch Bonnet Records, vinyl, CD and digital formats

Dactah Chando and Umberto Echo: Guardians of Dub

Here comes the welcome sound of some heavyweight dub from Dactah Chando and the German producer who goes by the delightful name of Umberto Echo. This is the seventh album by Dactah, but the first in a dub style. The album comprises tracks from Dactah’s back catalogue over the past eight years or so, remixed here for a dub treatment with a very solid bass foundation.  Touring in Germany from now until August there is some opportunity for European audiences to hear this in a live setting. Otherwise just sit back and enjoy with the bass turned up.

Dactah Chando Meets Umberto Echo: Guardians of Dub, release May 2019 in digital and vinyl formats on Achinech Productions

Prince Fatty featuring Earl 16: Be Thankful for What You’ve Got

Here comes Prince Fatty, Brighton’s answer to Kingston Jamaica, with another great production in the form of Earl 16’s ‘Be Thankful for What You’ve Got’. Prince Fatty is already well-known for his production work with Hollie Cook and many others, and his adherence to the authentic reggae sound is evident once more on this new release. ‘Be Thankful for What You’ve Got’ was originally a soul song from the early 70s by William De Vaughn and the soul-tinged vocals are evident in the Prince Fatty treatment too, hinting at Marvin Gaye. But the rhythm is true reggae style and handled perfectly as always by Prince Fatty.

This is a 7” vinyl release to coincide with Record Store Day. The B side is a great dub version of the same song, designed for maximum bass and volume if it is to be fully appreciated.  

Prince Fatty feat. Earl 16: Be Thankful for What You’ve Got, release 13th April 2019 on Evergreen Recordings