Nighthawk Records SEND I A LION (Compilation)

Various Artists
Send I A Lion
Nighthawk & Omnivore Records

Re-Mixed and Re-modelled Cool Front Line Reggae.

When I were but a lad my love of Reggae and Ska came via spending a lot of pocket money buying ‘Reggae Chartbuster’ LP’s and then ‘Sampler Albums’ from Record Companies, most memorably the Trojan releases and then FRONT LINE from Virgin Records, which was a proverbial ‘Game Changer’. Introducing me to a type of music the likes of which I’d never heard before.
Which brings me to the latest release from Omnivore Records, SEND I A LION which showcases the Nighthawk Label whose recent re-releases have astounded me; and it appears you too!
The legendary Culture give us the perfect opener with Calling Rastafari; a typical ‘chant’ with a hypnotic melody that will not just have you swaying along but listening intently too.
Bongo Red from The Gladiators follows and I swear even sitting here on the sofa my hips and buttocks are dancing along with no help from my brain.
That, for me is the beauty of this style of Reggae (*other much harder rhythms are available elsewhere) white boys like me can dance along to The Mighty Diamonds’ 4000 Years (**) or Ronnie Davis & Idren’s Move On Oppressor; but plenty of Afro-Caribbean listeners will be listening intently to the messages contained therein ….. and the messages are very powerful indeed.
Hardcore Reggae fans will probably already own versions of many of these tracks; be it on the Nighthawk re-releases or the million versions these guys record as and when they need some cash over the years; but culled together in this format a whole new generation can savour the delights of Wailing Souls’ Harbor Shark or Justin Hinds’ timeless Travel With Love, and especially his Weeping Eyes too.
I could close my eyes and stick a pin into the track list to give you my Favourite Track; but I will try to be more professional (as if!).
Obviously Ethiopian and His Allstars’ Train to Skaville has to be a contender; but then again Junior Byles’ Thanks and Praise is a joy every time I hear it; but so too is Morwells’ Young Lover with it’s gorgeous Rocksteady undertones; which leaves me with Winston Jarrett and the Righteous Flames Bad Boy, which is as tough a Reggae song as we find here; and would surely have been a floor-filler in World HQ ‘back in the day’; so that is the official RMHQ Favourite Track on this fabulous album.
Seamlessly mixing the commercial end of the Reggae spectrum with the political and religious sides too; Nighthawk/Omnivore have compiled a really balanced album that will appeal to all kinds of music fans; but hopefully the younger generation.

** The album closes with the original demo of 4000 years, featuring Tabby from The Mighty Diamonds on a 4 string box-guitar and ‘Bunny Diamond providing rhythm played on the back of a phone book!’

Released 15th November 2019
http://omnivorerecordings.com/shop/send-i-a-lion/

Memoirs of a Ska Librarian (Magazine/biography)

Personally I’ve loved Ska music ever since ……… well, before I knew it was Ska music. What I now know to be Ska turned up every now and again on the radio in the late 1960’s and in the early 1970’s Desmond Dekker and Little Millie spring to mind and an LP called This is Ska (or Jamaican Ska?) bought in Woolworth’s was a staple at teenage parties alongside Tamla Motown LP’s too, of course.
Then; along came Madness, The Specials and The Beat!
It was these two bands that caught the attention of a young Kevin Flowerdew who would sit mesmerised alongside younger brother Sean every Thursday night watching Top of the Pops in the hope that their heroes would be on with their latest singles.
As Two-Tone etc. took over the UK the young Kevin went to weekly School Discos in his cherished red Harrington and skanked his young life away unaware how much this new music would take over his life.
Kevin came into my life about ten years ago with his fabulous Skazine Do The Dog, which points me towards tours and releases from across the world; and now about 40 years after sitting wide eyed watching TOTP he has pulled together his memories in a magazine format biography.
Much like my favourite ever biography, broadcaster Robert Elm’s look at his life via the clothes he wore at various times, Kevin chooses music.
The story begins with the records he bought, then the gigs he got to go to in London Town; and here he captures the thrills and excitement very articulately as the he feels like a young outsider from a dormitory town suddenly being thrown into a cauldron full of big inner-city skinheads!
It’s a fascinating and even ‘life changing’ time for many people; and I love the way Kevin tries to shoehorn in as many band names as possible; most who have come and gone without trace; but at the time were very nearly Pop Stars.
One such band is Flowedew’s very own Bakesy’s Midday Joggers (I wonder where that name came from!!) who still occasionally play and record now; but the memories of small-town gigs one day followed by huge festivals in Germany the next will resonate with musicians the world over.
Now with a Fanzine called Rude keeping him immersed in ‘the scene,’ like many aspiring musicians, the day job got in the way of world domination so the band disbanded in 1994,
Fanzines more or less started with Punk; so it was a natural progression for them to turn up within the Ska Scene; and the way Kev describes sending letters to bands and record labels for singles and albums to review, then waiting patiently for the post to sometimes deliver that request to his front door (sometimes not) and then typing everything on a typewriter, cutting and pasting onto A4 paper then photocopying into the wee small hours echoes my own experiences doing something similar with a football fanzine; and is a snapshot in time that will make many of my generation smile wistfully; but baffle anyone under 30.
Flowerdew’s story then jumps to the close of RUDE and the formation of Do The Dog, because he wanted to promote the new wave of British Ska bands …… but the immediate success in a news starved world meant it quickly became the World’s #1 Skazine (in my opinion at least).
Alongside Kevin’s 8 page Memoirs, are four copies of RUDE magazine with each detailing a year in the magazines’ history; and again the memories they bring up are often tear inducing but mostly it’s smiles all the way; and you will find yourself running backwards and forwards to your record collection to blow the dust off CD’s you ain’t played in years.
With each magazine coming in at 7 or 8 pages long, don’t think that this is a quick read at all…….. I’ve had to come back to bits n pieces three or four times to digest everything here; and I’m sure I’ve missed plenty of other bits out too; so it will be my reading on the train to London next week too.
My one criticism; and it’s a big one, is that the actual Memoirs of a Ska Librarian is far too short; and Kevin Flowerdew doesn’t give himself enough credit for his pivotal role in the UK Ska Scene over the last 30+ years; and he has only dipped his toes into his memory bank and a full 300 page biography would surely do him and the Ska justice they both deserve.

https://dothedogmusic.tumblr.com/skazine

https://dothedogmusic.tumblr.com/memoirs



Culture THE NIGHTHAWK RECORDINGS

Culture
The Nighthawk Recordings
Nighthawk/Omnivore

A Heavy, Heavy Reggae Snapshot in Time That’s Still Relevant Today.

Don’t for one minute think that Reggae starts and ends with Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits CD; as good as it is.
Back in the heady days Punk in 1977, no gig or disco was complete without a soundtrack of Heavy Reggae and none came heavier than Culture’s debut album, with its game changing title track.
Some of us ran with Reggae longer than we ever dallied with Punk; probably because there is so much more light and shade here; and pretty much something for everyone and it’s fair to say 99.99% of Reggae Music is timeless whereas 1977 Punk is now resigned to being a 2 cd gift for Fathers Day!
This intriguing and occasionally brilliant album is being released for Record Store Day 2019 and is made up of a handful of tracks Culture recorded in 1981 and 83; but sound as magical today as they must have done on the day of recording.
Opening track the hypnotic chant, Calling Rastafari was first released on Two 7s Clash but here, has been rearranged beyond recognition for release alongside Dem a Payaka for a Nighthawk compilation in 1982, when Reggae was the new Next Big Thing in the USA. I played it at 11 in the Rocking Magmobile last Sunday and that bass line nearly shook headlights out of their sockets!
Dem a Payaka which follows has a lot more chilled and bouncy beat to it; and in keeping with the genre the lyrics are virtually indecipherable as English, so I can’t tell you what the story is about…… but who cares? Like every other song here….. just let the groove take you on a trip to Jah…..Maaaan.
The final four tracks have never been released before and are what make this release so exciting; even if it’s a bit challenging for the casual music fan.
I’m staggered Can They Run in either if it’s two incarnations has lain gathering dust for 30+ years in a vault; but that’s got more to do with ever changing moods in America I guess than the quality of the music …… both are fabulous.
Mister Music is quite frivolous by Culture’s previously high standards; but the type of song that plays well today at Sunsplash and the Notting Hill Carnival; although I prefer the second ‘version’ with its copious use of reverb and echo …….. again it sound quite wonderful on a sunny afternoon blasting out of the open car windows scaring the natives of Northumberland!
We need to nip back to track #3 for the Official RMHQ Favourite Track; This Time. Apart from the obvious ‘completists’ this re-recording of Culture’s first ever 45 from 1976; of which my mate Tony actually owns a copy! A more powerful Reggae song I’m not sure I’ve heard in years. Originally written in response to problems in Kingston Jamaica that year, it is a sad indictment of our times that a 45 year old song can still be a politically astute soundtrack to the violent crisis we find in our major urban areas in 2019. Music this good never, ever ages.
If you want to ‘get into’ Reggae this isn’t going to be your starting point; but if you’ve already moved beyond Bob Marley this mini-album is a marvelous snapshot in time that still sounds relevant today.

Released April 12th 2019
http://www.culturereggaeband.com/

https://omnivorerecordings.com/shop/nighthawk-recordings/



Bob Marley KAYA (40th Anniversary Remix)

bob marley KAYA

Bob Marley
KAYA (40th Anniversary Remix)
Tuff Gong/Island Records/UMC

A Marvellous and Contemporary Celebration of an Inspirational Album.

To celebrate the original album KAYA’s 40th Birthday it is being re-released in a shiny package alongside a remix/re-imagining of all ten tracks by Marley’s son Stephen ‘Ragga’ Marley and will be available as a 2 LP on 180 gram(Green!) Vinyl and a 2 CD package too; with Stephen’s re-mixes available as a stand-alone Download too.
I’ve been putting off listening to this for absolutely ages…..simply because I loved KAYA when it first came out and have great memories of listening to it late on many a Friday night after a heavy session on the beer; and I didn’t really want anything to diminish those lovely memories!
First of all, I’m not altogether sure time has been kind to Bob Marley’s albums, as they could be a tad more adventurous than his brilliantly edited singles and were probably ‘of their time’ and what a time we all had listening to them.
As I haven’t played KAYA for years; I’m just going to review Stephen’s Re-Mixes and re-imaginings as if it was a new all of it’s own rather than a compare and contrast……is that fair?
Easy Skanking gets the party started in low key manner with Bob sounding happy and relaxed as the I Threes provide some truly luscious harmonies in the background, while a guitarist and sax player take the song into something of a Miami Vice direction; which isn’t as bad as you might think it could be.
The title track KAYA follows and we are whisked away to a mystical Caribbean island as the singer wallows and dances in the ‘falling rain’ as he prays for a ‘higher love.’ Remember Reggae songs aren’t always to be taken literally; and especially in the case of Bob Marley they can have an exquisite poetic quality to them.
So far; so ‘middle of the road’ but the classic Is This Love which still comes in at #3 has had a delightfully subtle makeover that may…….I did say ‘may,’ actually be an improvement on the original! That may be sacrilegious to many; but honestly there’s a new found clarity to the chorus that will make it perfect for radio or party around your house.
Even when Stephen has tried to make ‘Dub versions’ of songs; with Sun Is Shining and Crisis being good examples; the added bass owes more to Mark King and Level 42 than it does King Tubby or Joe Gibbs! But that’s the cool thing about this album; it’s been made ‘commercial’ and arranged for a whole new and, dare I say it……a younger audience than those of us who grew up with the original.
Obviously after all those passing years my memory isn’t what it should be; so both Time Will Tell and especially Misty Morning have been wonderful surprises with the latter now sounding like it could and should have been a hit single; or at least Stephen’s version still could be!
Then of course there is Satisfy My Soul which is as good a song as Bob Marley ever recorded and this marvelous version is easily my Favourite Track here, with barely a cigarette paper’s width separating this from the original.
As I said earlier purists will hate this album; simply because it exists; but for a whole new generation (and even an older generation with simpler tastes) this is a marvelous gateway into Bob Marley’s majestic and inspirational canon of work other than his Greatest Hits.

Released 25th August 2018
http://www.bobmarley.com/

 

 

Winston Jarrett & The Righteous Flames JONESTOWN

winston jarrett cx

Winston Jarrett & The Righteous Flames
JONESTOWN
Nighthawk/Omnivore Records

Fresh Sounding and Still Danceable 1980’s Reggae For a Red Hot Summer.

Last year we were introduced to some marvelous reggae re-releases from an American label called Nighthawk via our friends at Omnivore Records; at first this was by drip-feed but as 2018 progresses and the demand from fans appears unabated the releases are coming at us like a musical hailstorm!
Today I’m going for an artiste that I’d not heard of before, Winston Jarrett (& The Righteous Flames) as Jonestown is a standard bearer for this particular era….the mid 1980’s.
Just as everyone other Jamaican singer/musician before him and as part of Alton and the Flames he had cut numerous tracks for all of the island’s producers (Prince Buster, Joe Gibbs, Duke Reid and Sir Coxsone Dodd to name but 4) before being introduced to Leroy Pierson from Nighthawk in 1983 and the threads of this album were put in place.
Opening track Bad Boy is a wonderful introduction to Jarrett’s distinctive breathless vocals and the band’s hypnotic electro backing beat.
That ‘electro-beat’ carries on throughout, and while it may not appeal to traditionalists; second song Hold On To This Feeling as well as Spanish Town Road and the slightly political Babylon Broke Dung Me House are all as sharp as a razor and have stood the test of time as well as anything else I can think of from this era.
Speaking of which; even though these albums are re-releases they are all brand new to me (and probably you) and all sound fresh, vibrant and the perfect soundtrack for this red hot Summer in 2018.
It’s not a criticism, but there are no surprises here as this is just cool commercial Reggae that was destined for nightclubs and student radio across America rather than the West Indies.
As expected there are a couple of love songs included with Lovers Making Love sounding like something the Cool Ruler Gregory Isaacs may have covered at this time and Holding Onto This Feeling being something that would have been perfect for student radio.
If it hadn’t been for the over indulgent electro-drums Unity would probably have been my Favourite track here as it’s a magnificent Reggae song; so the title actually goes to the title track Jonestown which is a love song to the area of Kingston that Jarrett comes from and is not just danceable but thought provoking too; which was also how Bob Marley won our hearts all those years ago.
With so much else to listen to and review these days I only have time to cherry pick a couple of these amazing Nighthawk/Omnivore albums for you; but if you see any of them in a shop or online you can pretty much select anything quite randomly and be sure it’s quality Reggae.
#RMHQrecommends

Released August 3rd 2018
http://omnivorerecordings.com/product-category/reggae/

The Gladiators SYMBOL OF REALITY (1982) & SERIOUS THING (1984)

gladiators x 2

The Gladiators
SYMBOL OF REALITY (1982) & SERIOUS THING (1984)
Omnivore Records

Timeless Reggae For Connoisseurs and Dance Fans Alike.

Late last year Omnivore Records re-released the wonderful FULL TIME album that the Gladiators had recorded for the American Nighthawk label and now they’ve found another two from 1982 and 84 in the vault which show how they and Reggae had matured in the intervening years and….are even better……in my humble opinion.

SYMBOL OF REALITY (1982)

The years have been kind to opening track Symbol of Reality and all that follows, simply because they all sound a bit like Bob Marley and the Wailers who had changed Reggae music for good when Albert Griffiths and the Gladiators entered the Nighthawk Studios, and his trademark sound is all over this song and the record itself.
There’s even a reverential reworking of two Marley songs Small Axe has a gorgeous brass section giving a nod to the bands Rocksteady roots but Stand Alone is bang on the money for what we were listening to in the early 80’s.
Another couple of songs are updated adaptations of earlier Gladiators tracks with Streets of Gold (aka Dreadlocks The Time Is Now) here in two ‘versions’ with the second having a dark almost Dub like remix which I kinda like; and Cheater (aka Big Boo Boo Deh) which for a Reggae track in 1982 has a cool dance beat to it.
It’s easy for me to like this album because it’s all new and fresh; even the two Dub instrumentals tagged on at the end, but if the pseudo-political Not Afraid to Fight had been around in Newcastle at this time Tommy Caulker and Phil Mitchell would certainly have pumped up the volume to fill the dancefloor every Friday and Saturday night. Hence it being my Favourite Track on this album.

SERIOUS THING (1984)

The Gladiators sound and songwriting style had toughened up for this release, with songs like the title track Serious Thing which opens the record owing a debt to the Rudeboy stories from the 60’s but given a harder edge in keeping with the times.
Mid-Range has a danceable tune, but the lyrics are hard edged and something of a call to arms in the chorus “Wake up everyone now/open your eyes and look within” which again; was very appropriate for not just Jamaican youth in the mid 80’s but the American teens who had adopted Reggae as their own personal soundtrack.
The political thread here is often masked by a some very melodic tunes, especially Good Foundation ( “A hungry man is an angry man/but a righteous man/is a righteous man”) and Freedom Train (“Old men get dreams/young men see visions”) which is another song that I wish I could have heard when it was fresh off the press.
Just like the previous album the Gladiators re-work a couple of their earlier Jamaican hits here too, with Fling It Gimme being a red hot slice of Rocksteady Bump and Grind with a new Reggaeliscious backbeat and Rearrange sounding uncannily like the type of British Reggae that Aswad were taking up the Pop Charts.
The nice people at Omnivore have added some fabulous Dub and ‘Versions’ to the original 10 tracks; but I’m going for something quite outrageous for my ‘Favourite Track’; After You is Reggae-Ska hybrid, the likes of which I’ve never heard before. The lyrics are an ode to Jah, which isn’t/wasn’t unusual at all but the mix is amazing with a brass section that could easily be from the Alpha Boys School which makes this swing like a Swiss timepiece.

Reggae comes in all shapes and sizes, and appeals to many different music fans so thanks to Omnivore Records The Gladiators and in particular singer-guitarist Albert Griffiths are having a welcome renaissance in 2018.

Released April 20th 2018
https://www.facebook.com/pg/Thegladiatorsband/about/?ref=page_internal
http://omnivorerecordings.com/

Justin Hinds – TRAVEL WITH LOVE and KNOW JAH BETTER

justin hinds x 2

Justin Hinds
TRAVEL WITH LOVE and KNOW JAH BETTER
Nighthawk Records/Omnivore

One of Reggae’s Most Innovative Pioneers Legacy Lives On.

Those cool kids at Omnivore Records have done it again; this time as part of their amazing Nighthawk Records collection they have re-discovered, re-produced and repackaged two fabulous albums by Reggae pioneer Justin Hinds and even adding some bonus tracks from those original recording sessions.

TRAVEL WITH LOVE

Originally released in 1984, this album finds Hinds reworking some of his earlier singles from the Treasure Island label this opens with Get Ready, Rock Steady a staple of compilation albums from that era and was perfect for the last half hour of Youth Club Discos; but now with a heavier bass line than I remember (but I am getting old!).
The only other song I remember is Sweet Loraine and forty years later I still found myself shuffling around the kitchen as I made a cup of tea as it slinked out of the office stereo.
But the songs I don’t recognise sound like I should; especially the wailingly beautiful Weeping Eyes and Travel With Love; which feature some of Jamaica’s finest and emerging musicians in the background; but first and foremost the star here is Justin Hind’s amazing voice.
Fans will be astounded and thankful that there are an extra 10 BONUS TRACKS; mostly made up of ‘bass heavy versions’ of the original 8; with three brand new songs from the vault, Meditation, Valley of Reality and my pick for ‘Favourite Track’ Wolf and Sheep showing what a class act Justin Hinds was back in 1984, if these three fabulous songs could originally miss the cut.

KNOW JAH BETTER

More than any other musical sector Reggae musicians have always been more innovative than any other and never sat around ‘counting the cash’ from their hits (as invariably there wasn’t much cash) and they would evolve and innovate to suit market trends; which is what has happened between the last album in 1984 and the release of this much heavier sound in 1992.
Out goes the danceable Rock Steady sound and in comes Dancehall and why this album wasn’t a hit in the style of Gregory Isaacs or Barrington Levy around the same time, I will never know.
Perhaps the title of opening track War Time may have put people off; but it shouldn’t as it’s only slightly political but very, very danceable; and is immediately followed by a Dub version; which I strangely prefer.
A couple of tracks really stand the test of time, with Almond Tree conjuring up images of sitting on the beach with the one your love watching the sun go down and both Deep In The Heart and Love In The Morning with their sharper beats and funkier bass are exactly what I was listening to in the cooler clubs around town at that very time; which really does beggar the question as to why this never made the shelves of record stores in Newcastle….or did it?
Then there is No Place Like Home, which should surely have been a hit record; but appears to have just languished in a record company vault for a quarter of a century; but is now (alongside the album itself) is destined to be a crucial part of the RMHQ Soundtrack to Summer 2018.

There’s not a lot else to say as both albums are a lovely snapshot in time; but still sound as fresh today as they would have when they were recorded; and it’s a huge shame that Justin Hinds didn’t live to see and hear his legacy in the Reggae music that is being recorded today.

Released February 23rd 2018
http://omnivorerecordings.com/justin-hinds/

Gladiators – FULL TIME

gladiators

Gladiators
FULL TIME
Omnivore Recordings.

Get Down and Get With It On a Great Lost Reggae Album.

My love of Reggae music came via the British Ska movement in the late 70’s and early 80’s (Madness, Specials etc.), the Punky-Reggae Party led by the Clash and a steady diet of Bob Marley on national radio; but sadly I don’t get the time to listen to very much Reggae music these days; so jumped at the chance to hear this new/re-release by The Gladiators.
Although formed in 1968 and subsequently releasing 8 albums; I hadn’t heard of The Gladiators, presumably because they focussed on the burgeoning American market with 3 albums on the Nighthawk Label, where this disc comes from.
Their collective pedigree shines through on opening track Bongo Red; an atmospheric piece that sets the mood perfectly for a laid back hour of cool rhythms.
Unlike most Americana and Roots albums the actual songs here are secondary to the overall music and ‘vibe;’ as Reggae songs can be repetitive, hypnotic and poetic in equal measures ……in my humble opinion.
Certainly ‘of its time’ but timeless none the less, tracks like Full Time, Fussing and Fighting and Rocking Vibration are primarily based around that trademark teeth rattling Reggae bass and the judicious use of keyboards and harmonies so luscious and deep you can drown in them if you’re not careful.
Singer Albert Griffiths has a sweet voice; not unlike the young Bob Marley adding a Rocksteady swing to a couple of songs; Ship Without a Captain and You Little Rat spring to mind; but in fairness you can sway and dance to everything here.
Originally recorded in 1983 at Harry J’s studio this album fits in perfectly between the Commercial end of Reggae that UB40 and Aswad released around that time and the harder edged stuff I was listening to from Culture and Misty in Roots around that time.
Favourite track? The final two songs Full Time and One Love blend into one another perfectly and tie for the title; but as soon as the latter fades to a close I have to press ‘repeat’ immediately and start the whole groove all over again.

https://omnivorerecordings.com/shop/gladiators-full-time/

Released December 15th 2017

UB40 (featuring Ali, Astro & Mickey) -Unplugged

ub40-n

UB40 (featuring Ali, Astro & Mickey)
Unplugged
UMC

British Reggae Hits Stripped Back and Brought Up To Date.

UB40’s debut 1980 album Signing Off changed my life, literally. OK, I was aware of Reggae, well Pop-Reggae but the first time I heard Food For Thought, on the radio (John Peel Show, I presume) my head spun 360 degrees like the girl in the Exorcist. What was this strange magical music? The following day I was waiting outside Woolworths as it opened and bought the 45 RPM single, then wearing the grooves out over the next few weeks. Leap forward to the release of the ‘game changing’ debut album, and its iconic UB40 cover (a homage to the legendary slip the dole gave you when you finally found a job) and the roots of my love for all things Reggae were sown (the DUB album that came with the original release was another ‘head-spinner’).
UB40 have recorded a lot of music in the intervening 37 years, some good, some brilliant and some downright average……but when they are on form UB40 are as good as any band (Reggae or otherwise) in the world, as the accompanying Greatest Hits album will testify.
Does the world need another Best of UB40? Probably not; my local ASDA has three versions for sale; but this disc serves them very well reminding us how cool King, Cherry Oh Baby, Red Red Wine and Kingston Town were/are and King, the B-Side to that original single hasn’t aged a day and still makes your brain spin with its lyrical brilliance.
But, that is the past; UNPLUGGED is the present. UB40 have had their internal differences over the years and are now two completely separate entities, with original lead singer Ali Campbell alongside founder members (and the heartbeat) of the band Astro and Mickey Virtue forming their own band and releasing an album of new/original material in 2015; and during the promo at radio stations around the country the trio performed acoustic versions of the Hits and the format for this remarkable album took shape.
The album opens with the deconstructed Kingston Town and, while taking nothing away from the original now sounds as fresh as a daisy; which is true of all 16 tracks to be fair.
Still with a funky bassline, Red Red Wine follows and the harmonies are so deep you can wallow in them for hours, not just the 6 minutes here.
Over the last few days I’ve done a ‘compare and contrast’ with both albums (as you do) and before hand I’d never have thought UB40 would sounds dated; but a few original songs include a lot more synthesizer than I’d remembered; so hearing Many Rivers to Cross and (I Can’t Help) Falling in Love With You, among others more or less acoustic really brings out the lyrics and showcases Ali Campbell’s wonderful singing style.
There are a couple of inclusions that have left me shrugging my shoulders, Baby Come Back, featuring their friend Pato Banton is very alright, and their take on Prince’s Purple Rain could and should have been left in the studio.
But; there is more than enough here to keep me coming back for years to come with Homely Girl and Rat In Mi Kitchen sounding better than I’d remembered.
Then…..there….are the Classics. How do they fare in this setting? Well, the socio-political songs from the early 80’s Food For Thought, Tyler and One In Ten are both still thought provoking, lyrically sharp and sadly so relevant today in 2016.
Plus, with a back catalogue so big and far reaching there are a couple of surprises here too with That’s Supposed To Hurt and I Got You Babe (featuring Kaya Campbell) both sounding wonderful.
While the trio and their band want to concentrate on new music; this Unplugged album really shows what a legacy the band has left on British and indeed Reggae music and long may that continue.

Released November 19th 2016

The Beat (featuring Ranking Roger) -Bounce

the beat

The Beat (featuring Ranking Roger)
Bounce
DMF Records

Fresh Faced Reggae-Ska Fusion With a Bit of a Message Deep in the Grooves.

Ranking Roger has been proudly flying the Beat flag for many years now; and while the live shows feature all the original hits; ‘this’ band has actually developed and evolved their very own sound and songs over 30 years on the road.
The album opens with the infectious Walking on the Wrong Side; which carries the trademark Beat ‘chunka-chunka’ Reggae-Ska chops; and Roger’s voice has never sounded better on a tale of the dangers black youth face on a daily basis.
The skanking continues with a vengeance over the next couple of songs; but The Beat enter heavy Bluebeat territory on Avoid The Obvious; a marvellous song just crying out for a Heavy Dub remix…..in my humble opinion.
My copy doesn’t make it clear; but I presume the dancelicious Talkin’ About Her is a duet between Ranking Roger and son and heir Ranking Junior (aka Matthew Murphy) and it works a treat; brining a little bit of Jamaican sunshine into my damp Summer.
To some degree I wish Roger hadn’t released this album under The Beat franchise; as he is selling himself short because this is very much is ‘his album’ with tracks like Work, Work, Work and My Dream owing more to Orange Street than New Street; and being all the better for it.
The endearing Reggae-Ska beats and melodies on offer here are all as fresh as a daisy; and only ever offer a nod to the past, with My Dream being a great example of a band being as tight as a badgers bum and top producer Mick Lister bringing the very best out of the crew.
Favourite track? Walking on the Wrong Side is the obvious choice for a single; but I love the heavier Roots of Close The Door which bookends the album and again features Ranking Junior Toasting in between Ranking Roger’s sweet voice on some fairly hard hitting verses.
While the album flows along very sweetly; two songs do stand out – Side to Side and My Dream, with both having a slightly heavier sound; and when you read that they were mixed by the legendary Dennis Bovell you will nod knowingly….. and I wouldn’t mind him having a go at remixing the whole album; or is that being greedy?
While I had my reservations when I first received this album; Bounce has been a delight from start to finish and has rekindled my love for Ska and Reggae music…..thank you Roger.

PS. The first time I saw this version of The Beat a young band from Leeds were third on the bill, and were laughed off the stage by us cool kids for ‘trying too hard’……whatever happened to the Kaiser Chiefs?

Released September 30th 2016

http://www.thebeatofficial.com/