While there have been some excellent heavy releases from Swans and Gojira, those will have to wait, because it’s summer. As they say in Jamaican patois, de reviews soon come. Meaning they’ll come soon but not too soon, soon enough, or enough time will pass by that you’ll forget you were waiting for it.
While major reissues of classic or undiscovered reggae albums have slowed down this past decade, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty more to discover. That little Caribbean island that had a population of less than 2 million in the first part of the 70s put out more music per person than any other country in the world. So many that it’s a pretty chaotic mess, and there’s no way to track or catalog all of it. Of the hundred thousand plus albums, and exponentially more tracks and dubs that were created, a significant portion of those masters are probably lost forever. But there are still thousands more out of print albums that could be exhumed and reissued, or at least made available on streaming. I really hope someone will follow the Blood & Fire model (the label that lovingly remastered some amazing music and put together gorgeous artwork, but has been dormant for a decade) and put some of them out.
For a while, from about 1994 to 2004, reissues were plentiful and for once people seemed aware of more reggae artists beyond just Bob Marley. Now it feels like we’ve taken two steps back, and once again I get blank looks when I mention Toots & the Maytals or Justin Hinds & the Dominoes. Really? But for those willing to dig, at least there are half-decent rips of out of print vinyl albums floating about, and even some selections on Spotify. While these are not exactly undiscovered artists, these are albums I have either heard for the first time in my life this past month, or rediscovered after not paying proper attention, but are now in my list of all-time favorites.
Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus – Dadawah, Peace & Love (Trojan/Dug Out, 1974)
Nyahbinghi drums has roots in Jamaican folk music going back to at least the 1940s, and was featured in one of the first Jamaican singles, “Oh Carolina” (1958). In 1972, Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation Of Rastafari released the double album Grounation (Ashanti/MRR), which was a fairly accurate representation of the ceremony of the same name. Ras Michael & the Sons of Negus would go on to release several albums that alternate between very rough, unadorned Nyahbinghi music (such as the Nyahbinghi album also from 1974), and more song-based work with accomplished, jazzy musicianship on Rastfari (1975) and Love Thy Neighbour (1979). Dadawah, Peace & Love achieves the perfect middle ground, with four long, hypnotic tracks that achieve a mysterious, mystical atmosphere similar to the Lee Perry-produced classic by The Congos, Heart Of The Congo (1977). Perhaps this album was an influence. In recent years its stature seems to be growing, as sort of the Nyahbinghi Astral Weeks or The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady. If you seek more, check out Cedric Im Brooks’ The Light Of Saba. Continue reading