35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
"Stand and give praise to the most high...",
This review is from: Stand And Give Praise: Trojan Roots (Audio CD)
Another excellent Trojan compilation of spiritual and cultural roots reggae from the mid to late 70's; the first since 2007's "Down In A Tenement Yard" by my reckoning. This selection keeps one eye on previous Trojan compilations, making sure not to replicate too many of the same tracks. So for people who've been collecting these sort of things for the last decade or so, there is a lot to recommend here; although for the novice newcomer to the genre this could hardly be classed as the "perfect" compilation of the era, omitting as it does key popular artists such as Horace Andy and Jacob Miller in favour of more obscure material. However the way this album draws together rare and scarce recordings unavailable elsewhere on CD, on Trojan Records or on any other label, is really rather impressive. The cover sticker says there are 12 tracks featuring here for the first on CD, though I count 16. Remarkable when you compare the budget price of this CD with the amount of money and time one would spend tracking down the original vinyl versions of the same songs.
Content-wise the tracklist furthers Trojan's love affair with the work of Lee Scratch Perry and Niney The Observer, with productions from the two making up 19 of the 40 songs on here, so you have ample opportunity to familiarise yourself with their particular artistic sensibilities: Lee Perry's quirky but always-melodic tendencies, and Niney's heartfelt spiritualism.
The discs are assembled chronologically, charting roots reggae's development from the dramatic and heavy, close-miked intensity of The Officials' and Joy White's opening 2 tracks; through to the definitive slower, more hypnotic and gospel-influenced grooves and on to the tough, militant "rockers" style. There's also 6 tracks showcasing the "toasting" deejay style (chanting rhymes over pre-existing rhythms), including one from legendary Burning Spear producer Jack Ruby and a wonderful Lone Ranger toast over an adaptation of Dave Brubeck's jazz classic "Take Five" ("STEP IT INNA AFRICA").
Aside from much dub remixing shenanigans (only Delton Screechie's track is presented in extended form with dub conclusion), this compilation pretty much has it all, from the super-melodic, honeyed harmony vocals of The Royals and Israel Vibration; to the tough militancy of "ONE LICK" by The Jewels.
My own particular highlights are: Joy White's "DREAD OUT DEH", the only cultural track from her otherwise love-lyric based LP "Sentimental Reasons" where piano and trumpet echo each other's melody; the irrepressibly groovy "LONG LONG TIME" by Winston Heywood, with quirky lyrics like "I never eat rice when it's really hot..."; Johnny Clarke's tough "ROOTS, NATTY ROOTS" (the perfect showcase for the fast tapping beats of the rocker sound); the exuberant Rastafarian gospel of The Ethiopians' "I LOVE JAH"; and Cedric Myton's legendary falsetto-led "AT THE FEAST" by The Congos.
The mastering throughout is almost faultless, only dipping into muffled murk on a couple of tracks, however the booklet is rather lacklustre. There's a half-baked "history" on the themes that defined roots reggae, but not a lot of info about the tracks themselves. When it does make mention of a track (Freddie McGregor's "ROMAN SOLDIERS OF BABYLON") it falsely labels it a Jacob Miller cover, though apart from sharing a title, the track has absolutely nothing in common with the Jacob Miller one!
Another thoroughly comprehensive and well excavated compilation from Trojan. Time will tell to see if they step into Blood & Fire's shoes and start re-issuing whole LP's from 70's roots artists, instead of the odd track on budget compilations.