by: Jarret Lovell
Tiken Jah Fakoly - Dernier Appel - (Barclay)
Tiken Jah Fakoly is one of Africa's most beloved reggae artists, perhaps rivaled only by Alpha Blondy. Unfortunately, his work is little known here in the United States, perhaps because most of his lyrics are sung in French. But Tiken has a respectable discography that blends dub-heavy reggae with powerful lyrics about geo-politics. Case in point: his latest release Dernier Appel translates in English to "Last Call." The song "Human Thing" (sung in English) features Nigerian singer and activist Nneka and features such lyrics as "It's not only white man who do that/it's not only Black man who do that" and suggests that the world's problems may involve race but are bigger than any one particular race. "Diaspora" features vocals from Africa's other Ivory Coast reggae legend Alpha Blondy. And there's a cover of Max Romeo's "War Ina Babylon." For a full-length, the album is rather short. It also lacks some of the heavy dub sound of previous releases, though it features twelve Mande instruments (from the Mande culture of West Africa). If you are not familiar with his sound, do give this album a try.
The Black Ark Years - The Jamaican 7 - (Trojan)
One of the most innovative recording studios in Jamaica, the Black Ark Studios - with Lee Scratch Perry at the controls - was the place where musical magic was made, and its output largely comprises the golden age of reggae (along with the sound of Studio One and Channel One). Disc 1 of a 3 disc anthology (discs 2 and 3 coming soon), these 20 tracks are reggae classics in the truest sense of the word: Max Romeo's "War Ina Babylon" (see above review of Tiken Jah Fakoly), Junior Byles' "Curly Locks," and Junior Murvin's "Police and Thieves" are but a few of the more well-known tracks. But it's the lesser known tracks that are absolutely essential. No filler here, this anthology has introduced me to such artists as Susan Cadogan, King Burnett, and Junior Dread. Absolutely essential listening - more proof that Lee Scratch Perry was the master producer.