by: Jarret Lovell
Rafter - It's Reggae - (Asthmatic Kitty)
"Rafter" is the artist name for Rafter Roberts, an artist with the hip label Asthmatic Kitty. Unfortunately, that's about all I can tell you about this individual, except that he strikes me as a Shawn Lee kind of musician who dabbles in just about every genre. This brings us to the present release, titled simply enough "It's Reggae" - though dub would be more like it. These instrumentals are bass heavy chill vibes - electronic but sounding more analog than digital for a more authentic quality. The CD reminds of Twilight Circus Dub System, or Solomon Jabby. On his website, Rafter writes of the album, "I think itís great music for doing housecleaning or walks." You just might agree. FCC clean.
Clinton Fearon - Clinton Fearon - (Boogie Brown Productions)
Longtime member of the Gladiators as a vocalist and bass player, Fearon launched a solo career in 1987. His latest is straightforward reggae, offering very little that's new, but that needn't be a bad thing. "Come By Yah" has a great happy feel despite lyrics addressing political oppression, yet even the lyrics have a positive vibe, announcing that "we will not be unkind." "Talk With a Friend" just begs to be performed live, with crowds singing the chorus refrain "we can work it out." The final track "Shadow" comes out from nowhere and is clearly the standout track! Did I say there's nothing new here? Blending blues, gospel, falsetto vocals, and and infectious bassline - one wishes the entire album were in this vein. PLAY TRACK 13.
Hollie Cook - Twice - (Mr. Bongo)
Hollie Cook comes from a musical family. Her father is Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook, her mother was a back up singer for Culture Club, and her godfather is none other than Boy George. If Culture Club had a reggae vibe, than Cook leans heavily in that direction - having already recorded with producers Prince Fatty and Dennis Bovell. "Twice" is mellow, perhaps more so than one would expect given her past production team. It is nice to see female reggae artists, and track #4 (Postman) combines her soft vocals with a great rhythm. All tracks have lush keyboard effects so an almost ethereal sound, as begins #9 "Win or Lose." Play and decide for yourself if this one's a winner.
Black Slate - World Citizen - (Unit 8 Records):
Much of what I write here comes from reggae-vibes.com, as I confess to never having heard of Black Slate until this release. Having formed in 1974, these musicians backed such reggae artists as Dennis Brown, Ken Boothe, and Delroy Wilson. They released a debut album in 1980 ("Amigo") that is considered a classic. Subsequent releases followed over the years. "World Citizen" finds a somewhat different line-up from the original, maintaining two of the founding members. Track #3 has the reggae/disco sound I so like. Track #7 is called "Mozart in Trenchtown" and - yes - it contains elements of classical music! Really cool! Play it!