by: Jarret Lovell
Big Youth - Screaming Target w/ Bonus Tracks - (Trojan Records)
This debut album by Jamaican deejay "Big Youth" was released in 1972, and it today stands as a classic in the reggae "deejay" genre. For those unfamiliar with the reggae deejay, he (it's traditionally been a he) is a figure who sings/chants/skats/toasts over a previously recorded track, adding lyrics all his own. The album opens with a scream (literally), then gives way to Big Youth deejaying over Dawn Penny's classic "No No No." Track #5 "One of These Fine Days" finds BY toasting over "One One Cocoa" by the great Gregory Isaacs. A great album if you love dj reggae. Yet this release also offers 14 bonus cuts - dubs, alternate takes, and vocal versions with the likes of Dennis Brown, the original "One One Cocoa" by Gregory Isaacs, and instrumental versions featuring Augustus Pablo and others. This is a massive release for anyone interested in reggae/dub/deejay music.
The Roosterz - Get on Board - (House of Productions)
What a fun little e.p.! From the Netherlands, the Roosterz blend ska, reggae and rocksteady. The first track "intro" is just that - a radio being tuned into a proper radio station, with little segments of ska, reggae and rocksteady fading in an out until the album proper begins. And it begins well with "The Rooster" which is a purely instrumental track perfect for chill. The track begins slowly with a simple drum beat and a twangy guitar. Thirty seconds in, a heavy bass line and organ kick in. This is super cool - think Jackie Mittoo. At the one minute mark, in come the horns and the track takes on a faster reggae/rock steady vibe, but always smooth and fresh. "Youth Rebels" (#3) seems to a song about child soldiers, or about those who convert children to soliders. Not a bad track, with a nice call/response (with female backing vocals) on the chorus, but I prefer the instrumental track. "Get on Board" is similarly a nice reggae vibe. "24/7" is ska/rocksteady, and it's oh so nice! For a song about wanting to relax, it'll be hard to stay seated and not skank during this one. The final track "O Galo" is another instrumental, and it has some great flute work over an upbeat and bass.
Bunny Lee and Friends - Tape Rolling - (Pressure Sounds)
Here it is! Nine reissued tracks from producer Bunny Lee during his days (1971) at Dynamic Sounds Studios before breaking out on his own. Track listing as follows: #1 Slim Smith, #2 I Roy and Augustus Pablo, #3 Big Joe and King Tubby, #4 U Roy Junior, #5 and #6 Cornell Campbell, #7 Busty Brown and the Clowns, #8 Horace Andy, #9 Delroy Wilson. Track #2 "Devil's Brother in Law" has a wicked riddim similar to the "Revolution"/"Here I Come" bassline. Tracks 5 & 6 by Cornell Campbell may be the same song, or two versions of the same, but it's beautiful. Track #8 is Horace Andy's classic "Man Next Door" which later became a huge hit by Massive Attack, with Andy re-imagining this classic. This is a sampler of the full release by Pressure Sounds. Great!
Burning Spear - Spear Burning - (Blood & Fire)
There's no way to overstate the importance of Winston Rodney (aka Burning Spear) to everything reggae. He helped create its sound and its conscience. When he began his music career, he pledged that his life's work would be to promote the teachings of Marcus Garvey, and promote he did. His album "Marcus Garvey" is not only one of the most important reggae albums ever recorded, but it is also one of the most important albums to be released in any genre. While Bob Marley receives the credit for spreading reggae's message of love, no other artist has introduced the world to the history of Jamaica, its people, and its Rastafarian followers than Burning Spear. Moreover, it may be no exaggeration to state that no other reggae artist has produced so consistently quality music as Winston Rodney. Never a sellout, he has also never strayed from his roots reggae sound. While this may be thought of as a drag, when the sound is so good, and when so much reggae today is mere ear candy, it is always nice to find Burning Spear still promoting Pan-Africanism to a roots reggae vibe. All of this brings us to "Spear Burning" - a collection of 16 Burning Spear singles, versions and B sides spanning his early days, including "Jah No Dead" and "Traveling." Out of print and hard to find, this is a great way to experience the best of reggae and socially conscious music. Play!