When people talk about Foundation artists they might not be the first names off of anyone’s tongue, but Skully Simms and Bunny Robinson are just about as Foundation as you are ever likely to get having been the first Jamaican artists to make home-grown R&B records for use in sound systems in 1953. Indeed Skully then went on to be one of the islands top percussionists performing in various bands from The Aggrovators to The Upsetters
Formed in the 1990s especially for Pierre Marc Simonin’s 'Portraits of Jamaican Music' documentary and despite the loss of members Justin Hinds and Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Moore over the past few years Skully Simms, Bunny Robinson and Sparrow Martin are back with the Jamaica All Stars to bring us a new album “The Vineyard Town Serssions” recorded in Kingston.
This album, as with 2004’s “Right Track”, takes listeners back through the history of Jamaican music with slices of Mento, R&B, Ska, Rocksready, Reggae and Dub.
Opener ‘All Rudies In Jail’ is a newly penned cut of classic sounding Rocksteady groove, with Simms and Robinson singing anti-violence lyrics that are just as relevant today as they would have been back in Rocksteady’s heyday of 1967.
‘Bam Bam’ voiced by Robinson and ‘Hooligan’ with Martin on the mic are the Mento cuts with the latter’s happy-go-lucky vibe disguising yet more pertinent lyrics. Simms closes what is effectively a first part of the album with ‘One Step @ A Time’ a bright slices of spiritual reggae with hints of calypso. The other two cuts in this unofficial first part poetically tip a hat to both deceased members of the All Stars, Hinds and Moore, with dub versions of cuts that featured both on “Right Track”, ‘On The Last Day’ (On The Last Dub) and their cover of the old Soul Vendors hit ‘Swing Easy’ (Swinging Dub).
The second part of the album is live with R&B and ska the order of the day on ‘Boogie Flew’, ‘Crying Over You’ and ‘Back To Zion’ which was also on their live 2003 album of the same name. Its then back in to the studio for ‘Sparrow's Rudy Piano’ a chirpy instrumental of the album opener to close things off.
With a compartmental feel to this album, with it containing both live and studio performances, it does give the feeling that this is more like two E.P’s that have been bolted together to create an album as opposed to one conceptual idea or project. That said the songs on both parts are lively and entertaining with these vintage performers, proving that along with the help of other Alpha Boys musicians, they can still write good music and by the sounds of the live performances know how to party.