by: Jarret Lovell
Barrington Levy – Anthology (VP Records)
The best of the best! Barrington Levy is like no other, and he has likely brought more people to reggae music than most other living performers. Indeed, he is among a few Jamaican artists to have scored hits in the roots, lover’s rock and dancehall styles. At the same time, he has successfully crossed over into the mainstream by collaborating with rap/hip-hop artists and “alternative”/electronica, while his vocal skat singing has been sampled by many an electronic deejay. VP Records has now compiled a 40 song anthology of his work during the crucial years of his output (1979-84). There are some rare gems here – including the much sought after “Minibus.” There are also many hard to find singles that quite frankly are new to me! If you’ve never heard him before, now’s your chance. Play, PLAY, P-L-A-Y!
Bobby Kalphat – Zion Hill (Pressure Sounds)
If as a reggae music fan you’ve never heard of Bobby Kalphat, you are to be forgiven. Too often in the genre, vocalists overshadow the musicians, or experimental producers receive credit (deservedly so) for pushing the music into new territory. But at the end of the day, it all comes back to the musicians who produce the raw ingredients that make it all happen. And while some reggae musicians have managed to make names for themselves (Sly & Robbie, arguably the Roots Radics), most remained obscure. So yes – one is to be forgiven for never having heard of keyboardist Bobby Kalphat. At the same time, it is unforgivable to be a reggae music fan and yet to never have heard Bobby Kalphat. Fortunately, all can quickly be forgiven with “Zion Hill.” Released by UK reggae reissue label Pressure Sounds, this reissue of a 1977 dub album features 45s of Kalphat as both artist on keys and melodica. The album itself is vintage roots in a dub style, and it is chill out music at its finest. If you like Augustus Pablo, down-tempo, or you just want some cool background music to play while back announcing, this is the ticket. But why relegate it to the background or an afterthought? Play it as a feature! Highly recommended.
Etana – Better Tomorrow (VP Records)
Anyone who has followed KUCI reggae programming over the past few years surely knows about Etana. Anyone who has perused the KUCI program guide from last year likely came across our interview with her. A favorite of station reggae deejays past and present, Etana is back with a new album. Known for her unique sound that blends reggae with R&B and soul, her new album takes the sound she developed and hones it to perfection. Unlike past ventures that saw her collaborate with the likes of Alborosie and produce some rather fast paced, more electronic songs, there is little experimentation here. No worries, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Highlights include #11, #14. Great lyrics throughout. Best for a mellow, soulful vibe.