Various Artists: Life Crisis

This new compilation is put together and released digitally on Thompson Sound. It features classic artists including Linval Thompson, Lone Ranger and Horace Martin in a collection of sounds that echo the vintage reggae era. The selection kicks off with Linval Thompson’s title track (featuring Jah Mickey and Lone Ranger) and takes us through twelve tracks of this vital reggae music. Each vocal track is followed by its dub version, credited to Thompson Sound, and if you like reggae music to any degree you’ll need to hear this very welcome release.

Various Artists: Life Crisis, digital release (iTunes, Apple Music, Deezer, Spotify) April 2021    

Lee Small: Chameleon

This new release from Lee Small is a great reggae album in the classic tradition. Originating from the English midlands area, Lee has developed his career over the past ten years in London, with a style that displays his rock and soul influences. The new album ‘Chameleon’ is a full-on exercise in reggae music with high production values and strong vocals throughout. The impact of listening to the reggae masters at an early age is evident, and the album is all the better for that.

The title track is a fine echoing dub-influenced reggae song with vocals hinting at Lee’s soulful history. ‘Back to Babylon’ has a faster lilting reggae rhythm, while ‘Life is a Landslide’ hints at the direct impact of the reggae greats: it is no exaggeration to say that you can picture Marley singing this at his peak. ‘Positivity’ is another dub-based soulful track, while ‘London Town’ is once more a strong reggae song with a classic feel. The album closes with ‘Big Love Lil’ People’, a happy and uncomplicated song which sums up the feel of the album as a whole: love and happiness. And we need that right now.

Lee Small: Chameleon, release in various formats, 9th April 2021.    

Peter Dyer: Ghost Train

Here’s Scottish reggae man Peter Dyer with his debut single ‘Ghost Train’. The track is produced by the Subatomic Sound System and is released on 25th July. One important aim of the release is to raise money for three Scottish charities with the first three months’ proceeds from the track. These charities include FDAMH who provide counselling and support to people with mental health issues, NHS Forth Valley and long-established music therapy specialists Nordoff Robbins Scotland. The track echoes Peter’s own experience with anxiety and depression. “I wanted to capture the atmosphere of these mental health disorders in music and found dub to be the perfect medium to bring out the darkness and paranoia”. Musically it’s straight-ahead reggae music with a dub influence generating a melancholy but ultimately uplifting feel.

Peter Dyer: Ghost Train, release 25th July 2020.

The Skints: The Island

The Skints have featured on these pages many times. It’s hard to believe that this punky reggae outfit from London have been active for more than a dozen years but here they are again with a fresh political edge on their single ‘The Island’. The title denotes the UK in a post-Brexit world, alone and dreaming in vain of glories in a world of Conservative fantasies.

The band says: “Well here we are. I feel there’s so much that’s been said already, and we’re all sick of it. There’s a million reasons to hate Brexit but to touch a personal note regarding The Skints; as working class musicians who until recently had the freedom to travel, live and work in the European Union as much as we liked, that right has been stripped from us against our will. It feels violating and isolating, so we wrote a song about it. Solidarity to all those whose lives are being negatively impacted much more than ours by this nightmare.”


The Skints’ debut album ‘Live, Breathe, Build, Believe’, released in 2009, was championed by BBC Radio 1’s Punk Show, whilst 2012’s ‘Part & Parcel’, the second full-length album by the band, further built their fan base and opened doors to extensive touring, festivals and markets outside of the UK and across Europe. The follow-up album, ‘FM’, released in 2015, reached number 5 on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart and number 7 on the Independent Albums Chart in the UK, seeing The Skints tour relentlessly across the USA, Canada and Japan. You can check out earlier review of the band on these pages.

The band has a strong live reputation and has featured at some of the world’s biggest festivals, also receiving recognition in the form of the BBC 6 Music ‘Album of the Day’ and the playlist for earlier single ‘Armageddon’, a Billboard Reggae Charts #1 for the LP and the Independent Albums Breakers Chart. Their music has latterly gained even more in confidence, drawing from reggae, soul, dub, punk, hardcore and rap, bound together by their political and personal commitments to us all.

Musically this new single (from their 2109 album ‘Swimming Lessons’) is a punky rocky thrash with a hint that the band’s background is in reggae and certainly in live performance. Touring in the UK in 2020, they just go from strength to strength.

The Skints: The Island, release 2020 on Mr Bongo/Easy Star records.

Avery Carballo: Closer

Here comes Avery Carballo (aka 77 beatz) with a fine reggae song ‘Closer’. As a producer based in San Antonio, Texas, he knows how to get the best out of a song and this new single has the crisp clear sound of the digital age underlying a strong melody and effective vocals. With a little dub around the edges of the backing rhythm this adds up to a strong release.   

Originally from Houston, 77 has clearly been influenced by his love of the reggae classics and has spent his young life generating music and beats through release on Spotify (from where this single can be heard) and working with other like-minded reggae enthusiasts including Reign Lowell, Donnie Canvas and Joey Calderaio. This single will add to his growing reputation.

Avery Carballo: Closer

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 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 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