by: Jarret Lovell
The Frightnrs - "Nothing More to Say" - (Daptone Records)
Clear your CD player, put away all other clutter, and get ready to have this one in your deck for some time. "Nothing More to Say" is so beautiful, so authentic, so vintage sounding, it seems impossible that this isn't a buried treasure from the vaults of Studio One. Instead, the Frightnrs [sic] is a collaboration between the band, black belt producer and arranger Victor Axelrod aka Ticklah and Daptone Records. In 2015, Daptone released the Frightnrs cover version of the Etta James classic “I’d Rather Go Blind” to great acclaim. Daptone had long wanted to make a full length Rocksteady LP with Victor Axelrod at the helm and The Frightnrs were the band to do it. “Rocksteady was the first style of Jamaican music that Dan and me fell in love with,” explains Frightnrs keyboardist Chuck Patel, “and the idea of making a classic album for a classic label like Daptone was a dream come true.” The album itself is so extraordinary in its ability to perfectly capture the sound of Studio One. Lo-fi production, vocal harmonies, and the rocksteady sound make songs like "Gotta Find a Way" instant classics. There's simply not a clunker on this release. Sadly, this may be the last such release from the Frightnrs, as lead singer Daniel Klein recently passed away from ALS. So play the heck out of this release as a testament to the outfit's accomplishment.
Marquis Melody - "Bring Me To Life" - (Skank So Recordings): Born of Jamaican heritage but calling Oakland Home, Marquis Melody's newest release is a mellow, smoothly produced release. While the opening tracks are more soulful than reggae, "Roots Party" kicks in with a traditional melodica riddim and ups the reggae a bit. "Hearts of Fire" contains a nice little skank with spoken/sing-song lyrics. While the album breaks no new ground, and while Melody's singing can - ironically - sometimes sound flat, there's enough on the album to enjoy.
John "Papa" Gros - "River's on Fire" - (John Gros)
New Orleans native, Gros (pronounced grow) has spent more than a quarter-century behind the piano championing the music of the Big Easy. "River's on Fire" mixes the sounds of rock & roll, funk and rootsy Americana. A nice album with something for everyone. Standout for me: "Why'd Ya Do It?" which combines dub, funk and soul. Fun!