Protoje: A Matter of Time

Protoje (Oje Ken Ollivierre) is from Jamaican reggae aristocracy, his mother being none other than Lorna Bennett (‘Breakfast in Bed’) and his father ‘Calypso king’ and recognised sports coach Michael Ollivierre aka Lord Have Mercy. Quite a pedigree. After the weird orchestral beginning, the ten tracks on Protoje’s fourth album ‘A Matter of Time’ are varied in pace and style. Some, like ‘Lessons’, are melodic and thoughtful, while the two tracks featuring Chronixx are faster and sharper, with guitar and the influence of both dancehall and hip-hop very evident. On ‘Blood Money’, which has been around for a while, the political critique is more explicit and other tracks, such as ‘Mind of a King’ are good old-school reggae, tuneful and, toward the end, getting a little dubby. Following through his recorded success, Protoje has broken into the festival circuit and this album will cement his reputation and leave his followers wanting more.

Protoje: A Matter of Time, released 29th June 2018 (CD and digital), 3rd August (vinyl) on Mr Bongo records

Linval Thompson: Fussing and Fighting; Robert Dallas: Bearer of Bad News

From Med Tone Records here come two new 45s, one with Robert Dallas as the Bearer of Bad News, the other featuring the great Linval Thompson with Fussing and Fighting. The Robert Dallas track is a slow-paced roots song in a classic style, backed up with a fine dub version courtesy of the Med Tone All Stars. It’s particularly good to hear Linval Thompson in great voice with another classic-style release, recorded in Kingston Jamaica, again with an old-style heavyweight dub on the flip side. Don’t cut off those dreadlocks!

Linval Thompson and Robert Dallas, singles released on Med Tone records 21st May 2018

Mellow Mood: Large

From Italy we find Mellow Mood with a new collection of twelve roots reggae songs. This is their fifth studio album and is politically informed and socially aware throughout. The band has sought to reinvent itself and maintain a fresh approach with each successive album in order to capture something of the strength of their live performances on their recorded output. During April they played a number of dates in England, before heading out across France, Spain and Italy, with a final date due in the next few days in Amsterdam. As for the music, it largely remains true to the band’s name: heartfelt and quietly angry at the state of the world but fundamentally gentle in nature. The album opens with the brief and wistful ‘Call Back the Love’ which sets the scene for a series of fine roots songs underpinned by a powerful bass sound. There is a strong dub feel to some of the songs, as in the fadeout of ‘Another Day’ and a melancholy tone to the album as a whole. The production is strong throughout. Sweet reggae music for soothing the soul.

Mellow Mood ‘Large’, DDL/CD/vinyl release on La Tempesta Dub/Believe Distribution, April 2018

Elijah Salomon: You Never Know

Here is a new single from Elijah Salomon in conjunction with Gambian artists King Kora and Sambou Suso who are both Griots, that is, West African troubadours and cultural historians. The sound is fresh and vital – and also unusual in its highly effective combination of reggae rhythm and African vocals alongside ascending and descending Gambian instrumentation. Based in Switzerland, Elijah has been releasing his distinctive brand of reggae for over ten years and the fusion achieved on this release is worthy of your attention. The single is accompanied by a dub version courtesy of Joe Ariwa which proceeds with a fine pace and great clarity: take a listen!

Elijah Salomon: You Never Know, release February 2018 on One Camp Records

Georgetown Orbits: Keep Your Chin Up

There must be something about the atmosphere or the water in Seattle, given its musical impact upon the late Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, and latterly upon Peter Buck. Here from the same city we have a new release from the Georgetown Orbits who are inspired directly by the sound and the feel of Jamaican ska. Since the band’s conception in late 2004 the Georgetown Orbits have shared the stage with leading names including the Skatalites, Clinton Fearon, The Gladiators, Israel Vibration, The Roots Radics, the (English) Beat and Pato Banton, and toured the US west coast with New York’s ska band the Slackers.

The fourth album by the Orbits is due for release in May 2018. In the meantime we have this single, ‘Keep Your Chin Up’, to consider. Released by Portland ska label, Simmerdown Productions, it also features the classic reggae song ‘Picture on the Wall’ as the B-side. It seems that the Pacific Northwest is the place to be if you’re serious about contemporary US reggae.

Georgetown Orbits: Keep Your Chin Up, single release 2018

New Town Kings: Borderline

British reggae band New Town Kings are back with an uncompromising new track entitled ‘Borderline’, focussing on migration and upon politically-motivated hostility towards difference and towards those who seek to escape persecution.

The New Town Kings have featured on these pages before (see 14th December 2014). The eight-strong ska/reggae band seek to merge old-school Jamaican rhythms with a novel take on UK-inspired ska and they have already built up a strong live reputation. In April and May 2018 the New Town Kings will be touring in England where you can have the chance to hear their forthcoming album ‘Reach Out’ live in a relatively small-scale venue setting.

New Town Kings: ‘Borderline’, single release 9th March 2018

Ryon: Zephyr

Here’s the second album from five-piece French band Ryon, comprising thirteen tracks of reggae music in the mainstream roots tradition. The title track rocks along at a leisurely pace, while ‘Gaia’ kicks off in a dubby style before taking us into another moderately paced thoughtful track, melodic and instrumentally interesting. With live dates in France from April there is an early chance to hear this positive reggae music in a live setting.

Ryon: Zephyr, release on CD, digital and vinyl, 16th March 2018

Alam: Sounds of Freedom

From Bordeaux here comes the forthcoming third album from Alam, featuring Glaswegian Soom T (see February 17th, 2013) along with personnel from French reggae band Danakil who also help out with the production. With the female vocals of Marie and Soom T set atop the tight reggae rhythms of the band it’s mainstream reggae at its best with hints of hip-hop from time to time amidst strong instrumentation.

Amongst the tracks included here, the single ‘Someday’ is a faster-paced politically informed song. Dealing with a range of contemporary world issues the album is nonetheless feel-good and optimistic, and the pace of the music makes seeing the band live an inviting prospect.

Alam: Sounds of Freedom; release 2nd March 2018

King Kong: Gwaan

The new album by King Kong entitled ‘Repatriation’ is due at the beginning of March and will feature top rated reggae musicians including Roots Radics, Sly & Robbie, Naram & Art, Russ D, Bongo Herman, Leroy Mafia, Dwight Pinkney. It also includes Burro Banton and none other than Eek a Mouse so should be well worth hearing. In the meantime we have the first single release from the album in the shape of ‘Gwaan’, an easy-going dancehall-influenced reggae track. Back to the 80s!

King Kong is scheduled to tour in mainland Europe from January to May, backed by Irie Ites with what is billed as “a brand new live concept” called Irie Ites Live Mix comprising a trombonist and the in-house producer who will play and dub the rhythm tracks. Different!

King Kong: Repatriation, release due 2nd March 2018 by Irie Ites Records in CD, vinyl and digital formats

Peter Lloyd: Woman

Long-established Jamaican singer and actor Peter Lloyd has released his cover of John Lennon’s ‘Woman’ in a soft melodic reggae-lite style. Described as the ‘Love Messenger’, Peter Lloyd believes that love is the ‘greatest revolution’ that creates unity. His personal Rastafarian philosophy has influenced his music and he states that the purpose of his music is to ‘heal the world’. He also tries to give back to society as much as he can through a programme of philanthropy, delivering his message through a programme called Yutes Rise, where he seeks to inspire participants through a reggae/motivational workshop and live performances. On this single, Peter Lloyd teams up with legendary Jamaican producer and saxophonist Dean Fraser who has worked with the likes of Dennis Brown, Sly and Robbie, and Joe Gibbs. Widely known on the international reggae festival circuit, he has come up with a track that is leagues away from angry powerful drum-and-bass or dancehall sounds. Not the first time this song has been treated to a reggae makeover, this track stands as a thoughtful and gentle reggae version of Lennon’s sweet song which somehow seems right in the run-up to Christmas as we remember John Lennon’s murder in December 1980.