Monday, December 20, 2010

End Of Year Report & Top 5 Reggae Albums Of The Year

For me this year has not seen the same great wealth of quality reggae releases as last year, although in truth that was always going to be a difficult task. This year has also seen the further demise in record sales. I myself posted on here and reported about this for United Reggae at the end of 2009 and now they have followed that up with the news that another prominent London based specialist reggae shop is about to close.
That said this year was not been completely barren and full of gloom and doom by any means. Veteran reggae stars Don Carlos (Changes) and BB Seaton (Ready for the World) released excellent new albums and stalwarts Luciano and Gyptian both had critically acclaimed albums out. New comers Toussaint, with his own brand of reggae soul on ‘Black Gold’ and Dutch born Maikal X’s ‘Genesis’, both show great promise for the future, also crowds at reggae based festivals appear to be up, with Rototom Festival in Spain attracting over 130 000 people.
The death of reggae maybe a bit premature, but for some of reggaes big names may find that they will have to evolve somewhat and maybe add different styles to their portfolios for if they want to progress and maybe even get reggae to flourish again. This will on doubt upset many traditional fans, but for reggae to get back to the position where it was in the late ‘70s and early ’80s it may have to fight its way to the forefront from within other musical genres.
The underground reggae scene appears to have a wealth of talented people out there, and a lot of hardcore support, in fact without the absolute dedication and passion of today’s underground reggae and dub artists from many nations Reggae, as we know it would possibly not exist. Reggae today is the underground; they hold onto and create what we remember from time.
Springline label has played its part with many releases this year from the likes of, The Manor, Steve Steppa & Samson plus a couple of well received compilations. Next year, it is hoped, will be no different with an alternative, off centre dub album from Denja entitled ‘Shamen's Trip’ due for release in February and a 2nd album from The Manor in the pipeline for early summer. Also as I’ve been speaking about diversifying Springline will also release its first non-reggae offering ‘Cheap Dress Full Of Stars’ by the David Powell Experience at the end of January

To find out more about these artists you can visit

Finally, as is so often the case at the years end, here are Gibsy’s and mine top 5 reggae albums of the year. I have chosen mine on the basis that these are from artist that were either new or just ones that I had not heard of before and therefore gave me an unexpected surprise when listening to them.

Skarl's Top 5 for 2010
2. The Bullets - Sweet Misery
1. Zema - Jubilee

Gibsy's Top 5 for 2010
5. Pato Ranking Meets Don Fe - Vol 1
4. Digikal Roots - Let There Be Version (EP)
3. Manor - Revelation Congo
1. Pama Int’ Meets Mad Professor - Rewired

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Josey Wales – Reggaes Best Outlaw

Josey Wales was born Joseph Winston Sterling in West Kingston, Jamaica. He took his stage name from the Clint Eastwood Western The Outlaw Josey Wales and along with his sound-system partner Charlie Chaplin and the likes of Brigadier Jerry was widely regarded as one of the best DJs on the dancehall scene of the early ‘80’s.
Wales’s first DJ performances were with the Roots Unlimited Sound System in 1977, but it was as part of mentor U-Roy's King SturGav Hi-Fi Sound System in the early '80s, where he spent three and a half years, that he really made his name. At King SturGav he teamed up with fellow DJ Charlie Chaplin and the two sparring partners became one of the most potent one-two punches of the era, which in turn made King SturGav arguably the biggest sound system around.

His first recordings were live performances issued on producer Bunny Roots' label, but it was when he hooked up with the primary producer of the day, Henry "Junjo" Lawes and began moonlighting for his Volcano sound system that in 1983 he issued his first-ever single on the Volcano label, "Baby Come Home."The song wasn't much of a hit, but its follow-up, "Let Go Mi Hand," on the Mad Mad riddim, from an old Alton Ellis tune which was made popular by Michigan and Smiley’s use on ‘Diseases’, was a breakthrough smash that established Wales as a recording star, not just an electrifying live performer.
His debut album, ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ soon followed, helping to cement his status as one of Jamaica's top DJs, behind only Yellowman at his peak.
Further hits followed, including "Bobo Dread", which appeared on the ‘Two Giants Clash’ album recorded with Yellowman and "Drug Abusing", taken from his self-produced second solo album ‘No Way No Better Than Yard’.
In 1985 he cut an album for George Phang in called ‘Undercover Lover’ before moving over to producer King Jammy's label and recording a series of hits that included "Na Lef Jamaica," "Ha Fi Say So," "Right Moves," "It's Raining," and "Water Come a Mi Eye," among others. The ‘Rulin'’ album appeared in 1986 on the Black Solidarity label, and several collections of his work for Jammys also followed in the late '80s. By this time, however, Wales' conscious and Rastafarian style seemed increasingly out of date with other toasters, who were upping the ante for lyrical technique, with slackness and gun talk beginning to rule the dancehalls. Nonetheless Wales remained true to his beliefs and was an active presence on the Jamaican music scene for quite some time, both as a recording artist and as a mentor to up-and-comers like the young Shabba Ranks.

During the early ‘90s he mainly focused on collaborations, releasing duo albums with old cohorts U-Roy ‘Teacher Meets the Student’ and Charlie Chaplin ‘Kings of the Dancehall’ which appeared in 1992 and 1994, respectively, and a duet with Beres Hammond, "Hey Girl," was a smash hit in the U.K. reggae charts in 1993. The solo album ‘Cowboy Style’ was also released on in 1994 on Greensleeves and he also worked with the likes of Gussie Clarke, Tappa Zukie, Philip "Fatis" Burrell, and Bobby Digital during the decade. It was also during this decade, in 1997, that he was robbed at gunpoint in a Kingston bar. He was wounded in the incident and this ironically helped briefly revitalize his recording career, as he scored Jamaican hits with the singles "Bush Wacked" and "Who Shot the Colonel" (The Colonel being another of Wales’ aliases).
In 1998, Wales joined the reunited King SturGav Hi Fi Sound System, touring with the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Brigadier Jerry, and U-Roy and to this day he remains a popular figure in the dancehall scene and still knows how to get a crowd moving, as was witnessed in 2008 at the Reggae Geel festival in Belgium.
(Respects to Steve Huey)

Toussaint - Black Gold

Released back in August on I Grade Records was Black Gold by Toussaint. This album has been described as reggae soul and reggae roots music for its blend of reggae interweaved with soul, funk, jazz, R&B, and deft folk/rock elements, but call it what you want, I quite like soulful reggae, one thing is for sure Tousssaint has found a classy way of putting his message across.
It is not the first time soul has been mixed with reggae after all the likes of Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis and others were covering Motown and Stax classics for labels like Trojan way back. Ok maybe not in a way like this but their voices and some of the arrangements were not that far away from the originals and moving on into the late ‘70s Prince Lincoln Thompson was adding elements of Gamble and Huff’s Philly sound to his music. I suppose where this differs is that it is that here is an artist that has made something of a name for himself as a soul and jazz vocalist who has been drawn to the power of reggae and its association with being the music of the sufferers, for make no mistake despite its silky, easy on the ear sound this is an album fighting against the exploitation of the masses by the elite, a constant reggae theme.
There are also personal stories on here such as ‘Conquering Cocaine’, which touches on the singer's own history of trouble with the drug and softer moments like the R&Bish ‘Unforgettable’.
Some tracks are slightly Marleyesque in their qualities and this applies to "Roots In the Modern Time" one of the main stand out tracks for me. Here Toussaint tells how people are often found neglecting their roots as they pursue the comforts and symbols of the modern world, while the other stand out, and well away from a reggae vibe is the neo-soul sounding ‘Changes’. This tune has one of those jazzy vibes a kin to Erykah Badu and looks at the American political system and warns that though Obama may be president don’t expect things to change over night and that equality and fairness for all will still be a constant battle.
Hopefully this album should appeal to both reggae and soul fans in equal measure and maybe just maybe with the added help of the diversity in instrumentation it will see Toussaint reach wider critical acclaim.

1. Nobody Knows
2. This Song
3. Roots In A Modern Time
4. Be You
5. Sunshine In Morning
6. Hello My Beautiful
7. Black Gold
8. Look Up
9. Conquering Cocaine
10. Rise and Fall featuring Jahdan Blakkamoore
11. Marching
12. Patient
13. Unforgettable
14. Changing
15. Rain Again
Available from System Records

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Josey Wales - Reggae Legend

Having recently reviewed both Johnny Osbourne and Sugar Minott ‘Legends’ box sets, Johnny for United Reggae last month and Sugar here earlier in the year, it was brought to my attention that dancehall superstar Josey Wales has also had a ‘Legends’ box set released as well.
Born in St Marys, Jamaica, Josey Wales aka The Outlaw and sometimes The Colonel was one of the best deejays of the 1980s and these four albums will show you why.
First up is 'The Outlaw Josey Wales' which was released in 1983. It was produced by Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes at Channel One with the Roots Radics firing up some of their best riddims such as the much used classic Mad Mad for ‘Let Go Mi Hand’ and Fat She Fat for ‘No Bother Me’.
His second album soon followed in the same year, but this time he strode out on his own producing the album himself with the help of Cornerstone producer Michael 'Pep' Chin. There is more of a rootsy feel to this second album with the High Times Band supplying more classic riddims such as Answer for ‘It Have Fe Sail’, Heavenless for ‘The World Is Like A Mirror’, Real Rock for ‘Too Greedy’, Vanity for ‘Yu Wrong Fe Send Come Call Me’and Queen Of The Minstrel for the beautiful ‘Maxine’. The album also featured the hit single ‘Drug Abusing’.
The third album is 'Two Giants Clash' with Josey clashing with Yellowman, as they ride atop the same Roots Radics riddims, with Lawes back in the producer’s seat. It doesn’t really cut it for me this album as Yellowman at times seems to be just going through the motions on songs like ‘Mr Big Shot’ and ‘Wrong Girl To Play With’, though he does redeem himself somewhat on ‘King Of The Crop’ which rides on Frankie Paul’s Stars. So Josey wins this one on points for me with songs ‘Bobo Dread’ on the Lovers Race riddim, ‘Jah A Mi Guiding Star’ on the afore mentioned Stars and ‘Sorry To Say’, a song about not being able to take a red eye girl, cut to Slim Smiths old Studio One smash Rougher Yet riddim.
The last of the four discs is 1985’s George Phang produced set ‘Undercover Lover’. The digital age is about to dawn. Now I’m not a great fan of digital, but Sly and Robbie with their Taxi Gang supply take some great old riddims like Phil Pratt’s Talk About Love, used to great effect for the albums title track, plus there are takes on the Real Rock riddim for ‘Nuffy Nuffy’ and Rockfort Rock is used on ‘Pon Street Again’. While the smash dancehall king of the digi riddims Sleng Teng is used deftly on ‘Freeze Who Goes There’. Also the song ‘Jose Ready’ which utilises the Hypocrites riddim has a certain catchiness to it, though this is with out doubt due to touches of The Cates Sisters ‘Get Along Without Ya Now’ in the chorus.
So once again Greensleeves bring out another fantastic box set and when these box sets are priced at just £11.99, as it is at Amazon, then its hard to find reasons not to buy.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Johnny Osbourne – Reggae Legend

Born Errol Osbourne in 1948 and raised in Jones Town, the Mecca of dancehalls in Kingston, he would become better known as Johnny Osbourne when he rose to success in the late ‘70s and mid ‘80s and became the king of those same dancehalls.
It was during 1967 that Osbourne first strode out as a singer when he became lead vocalist of The Wildcats. They recorded for producer Winston Riley but unfortunately nothing became of these works. The Wildcats' manager then financed a session at Coxsone Dodd's Studio One, from which his debut single, ‘All I Have Is Love’, was released. In 1969 he recorded an album, ‘Come Back Darling’ with the Sensations and with Riley once again at the controls. On the day of the albums completion, Osbourne emigrated to Toronto, Canada, to join his family. Here he sang with various soul and reggae groups, finally becoming lead vocalist for Ishan People. He recorded two albums with them, before the group broke up in 1979 and Osbourne decided to return to Jamaica.

On his return he joined back up with Coxsonne at Studio One recording ‘Forgive Them’ and ‘Jealousy, Heartache And Pain’ for the label. He continued recording extensively for Dodd into 1980 with these sessions culminating in the iconic ‘Truths And Rights’. Shortly after the release of this album he had a hit for the then Prince Jammy with ‘Folly Ranking’ and album of the same name soon followed. The success of these recordings made him one of the most in-demand vocalists in Jamaica and a glut of material was released. Along with many successful singles released over the next couple of years there were the Albums ‘Fally Lover’, ‘Warrior’, ‘Innah Disco Style’ and ‘Never Stop Fighting’ .
In 1983 Osbourne began the year with two big hits, 'Yo Yo' and 'Lend Me A
Chopper', before enjoying further success with the popular ‘Water Pumping’, an adaptation of Hopeton Lewis' smash hit 'Take It Easy', which had also served as the basis for Johnny Clarke's 1976 hit "Rockers Time Now".
The hits didn’t stop there with "Get Cracking", "Check For You", "Rewind" from 1984 and "Buddy Bye", "No Sound Like We" and "In The Area" in 1985 all scoring large.

A couple of lean years followed but he was back in the big time again in 1988 with the release of ‘Good Time Rock’ and ‘Rude Boy Skank’ recorded for Bobby Digital. These two songs were included on 1989’s ‘Rougher Than Them’. A few singles were recorded during this time as he continued to record for the likes of Coxsone Dodd, Ed Robinson and the now coronated King Jammy. Singles including 'Keep That Light', 'Unity' and 'A We Run Things' all saw the light of day, but regrettably a long-promised second album from Dodd never materialized
Johnny has remained a popular artist to this day although his recording days have been somewhat greatly diminished since those days of both Johnny’s and Reggae’s glory days.
To read a review of the latest Greensleves 4cd box set Jonny Osbourne - Reggae Legend visit

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Positively Nelsons – The US Virgin Islands Conscious Reggae Sisters

Reggae sister act Positively Nelsons are US Virgin Islands sisters, Arvian A.K.A. "Sparkles" and Stephanie A.K.A. "Empress Auset" who have been singing harmonious, motivational, inspirational and conscious reggae and gospel vibes for over 20 years at various venues across the globe.
It was not however until 2005 that they formerly become recording artists. Their music is an eclectic combination of various smooth and rhythmic reggae styles that will provoke thought, have you sitting at the edge of your seat or moving intrinsically towards the dance floor with lyrics that are filled with culture and meaning. Overall, the songs are uplifting, motivational and straight to the point with either Reggae Bubblers (featured on this blog here) or JamRock Reggae Band from Raleigh, NC supplying the riddims

The sisters have recorded four albums to date with 1st album, ‘No More Tumble Weed’, released in July 2005, followed by, ‘Wait A Minute’, released a year later in July 2006. Then after a short hiatus the 3rd album, ‘Know Where You’re Going’ was released in November 2008, before finally in February 2009 the 4th album, ‘So, Let Dem Talk’ hit the shelves.
These albums have variously been described as “a must listen to CD for all the conscious reggae fans” by Al Baptiste Sr (Xpress Band, Virgin Islands) on ‘No More Tumble Weed’ and Alton Aimable ( ) said of ‘Wait A Minute’ “A CD that is a musical Trojan to penetrate every ones mind and soul with lyrics to make you think.”
It is hoped that more great music will be available from the sisters soon but until then you can get any of their previous releases from