Mungo’s Hi Fi meets Kenny Knots: Brand New Bangarang

Mungo’s Hi Fi, the Glasgow sound system pioneers, have established a formidable reputation for their live sound and for their ability to reproduce the feel of a live performance on some vital releases for their Scotch Bonnet label (see earlier review at 2nd November 2011).

This new album gives us another instalment of their unique take on reggae and dancehall, filtered once more through their characteristic full-on sound-system approach. This time partnered with Kenny Knots, the results are striking. Some of the tracks are very much in the dancehall tradition, notably Brand New Bangarang itself, and along the way One Life to Live and Rock Inna Dancehall. But there are several other things happening here too. She Got Love for Me is melodic reggae with some dubstep twiddlings going on under the surface, while Sweet Meditation and Gimme Gimme are, at heart, old-school reggae tunes given the Mungo makeover of deepest electronic bass and tightest rhythm. Word Sound and Power (featuring Mikey Murka) is a slower reggae song in a deejay style. The album closes on an unusual and powerful note, So Me Stay held together by a sparse and anthemic electronic sound that will be widely and loudly heard.

For those familiar with Mungo’s Hi Fi, two things are surprising in this release: the masterful vocal contribution of Kenny Knots and the strength and power of the songs themselves. It takes the sound system beyond its previous boundaries and, more important, it manages to expand the scope of contemporary reggae. And for those unfamiliar with Mungo’s Hi Fi – well, start here.

Formats: CD (with two bonus tracks), vinyl and DDL, released May 2013 on Scotch Bonnet Records.

Bob Marley and the Wailers: Kaya (Deluxe Edition)

kayaThere was good reason to release a double-CD ‘deluxe edition’ of the Wailers’ Catch a Fire back in 2001. One disc was the cross-over album which in the 70s brought reggae to mainstream rock audiences (and mainstream sales figures) thanks to the efforts of Chris Blackwell, some fine additional instrumentation provided by session musicians (notably the rock guitar solo from Wayne Perkins added to Concrete Jungle – see link below), and some very astute marketing. The other disc comprised the original album before Chris Blackwell got his hands on it. Together, these discs made sense, and sounded great.

It is hard to apply any similar logic to the new ‘deluxe edition’ of Kaya. One disc is the studio album as re-released/remastered in 2001, including – as before – the ‘bonus track’ Smile Jamaica. The album Kaya is, of course, great: a classic of its time where some of the old Marley tracks are being visibly re-cast for new times, as in the rough-cut skanking Don’t Rock My Boat becoming the late-night soulful Satisfy My Soul. The other disc this time round is an OK live album. It has no particular relationship with Kaya other than being recorded in 1978. Not that there is anything especially wrong with that. But if you want a live Wailers’ release there is already Babylon by Bus or the unsurpassed Live (at the Lyceum). Indeed, the latter pretty much makes any further live releases redundant, especially ones which retail over the odds at full price like this.

The repackaging of Marley continues unabated but, in this case, to little purpose…‘think it funny – turning rebellion into money?’ Well, not really. Sometimes it’s just a bit depressing.

Bob Marley and the Wailers: Kaya Deluxe Edition CD/download, release April 2013.