by: Jarret Lovell
Chuck Foster – Looks Like Trouble - (Catch Me Time Records)
If Southern California can be said to have a reggae “scene” – and it does – it surely owes its cultivation to Chuck Foster. His credentials are solid: Longtime host of “Reggae Central” on KPFK, columnist for Beat Magazine and Reggae Festival Guide, author of two books on reggae. In recent years, Foster has spent his time in the recording studio putting out both reggae and dub albums. “Looks Like Trouble” is the former, with Foster on lead vocals and production duty. The sound itself is straightforward. Backed by full band (i.e., no canned horns), the music is fresh, while the vocals are softly sung without any patois accent, or any attempt to “sound” like reggae. The result is a sound that is a hybrid of folk and reggae.
Gloria Ann Taylor – Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing - (Ubiquity)
Little is known about Gloria Ann Taylor, other than the fact that her long out of print songs – especially “Deep Inside of You” – are coveted by soul fans, and that an original 7 inch can garner big bucks. The music website Pitchfork compares her sound to Aretha Franklin and James Brown. The collection here – a reissue of her much sought after 5 song release Deep Inside of You will most certainly upset collectors, but why deny people her voice and style? Also included are 12 inch mixes and a few extra gems. Listen and enjoy.
Brooklyn Funk Essentials - Funk Ain't Ova (Black Plastic Magic)
When I first listened to the Essentials' 1998 release In the Buzzbag a few years ago after finding a used copy, I was intrigued. The band had an interesting sound, perhaps more dub and world music than straight funk. This certainly wasn't bad, but there was perhaps a disconnect to the band's name. With their latest release Funk Ain't Ova - their 5th studio album, the sound is unmistakably disco-funk! The album opens with a killer bass groove on "Blast It," and female vocals urging listeners to indeed Blast it sound reminiscent of Cynthia Robinson of Sly and the Family Stone urging listeners to "Dance to the Music." "Dance or Die" has such a funky keyboard groove, one can overlook the simple lyrics. Hey, it's a disco anthem; it's not supposed to be deep. "I'm Gonna Find Me a Woman" features vocals so deep bass that Barry White would be proud. "Hold It Down" is straight up funk, with bass and horns to make you move. Each track on this album is so party-friendly, it is simply hard to sit still. "Recycled" is a spoken-word, funk/dub track that is simply phenomenal! Super fun album.
Stick Figure - "Set In Stone" (Stick Figure Music)
Bands like Rebelution and Slightly Stoopid are sometimes derided as being "fraternity reggae" or "reggae lite." Music aficionados always have their biases, preferring everyone to be into the deep artists within the genre, rather than give popularity to teh artists playing at the margins. But what these people never discuss is whether the music they deride due to its fanbase is actually decent. Nor do they acknowledge that such artists may be gateways to more pioneering artists. But both are true: many bands that play at the margins are nevertheless very good, and they do serve fine introductions to other reggae artists. Let Stick Figure be a case in point. Written, performed and produced by Scott Woodruff, Stick Figure is a Massachusetts-based reggae band similar to the sound and style of Rebelution. Indeed, Eric Rachmany of Rebelution guests on track #5, while Slightly Stoopid guests on #4. This is chill out reggae to be sure; slow, acoustic, soulful. #6 "Sentenced" is built around a beautiful piano riff; #9 "Smokin' Love" features Collie Buddz. #14 features KBong. While some of the lyrics do continue reggae's (obnoxious) obsession with all things marijuana, the music is nice, with instrumentation not commonly heard in reggae.
King's Army Resurection (Ever Easy Music)
Reggae music is riddim-driven, and many times albums will be released with different artists all doing their own song over the same musical track. Think of it as variations on a theme. Here, the riddim is called "King's Army Resurection" and it features a beat, rather than a bass line. The album itself features twelve artists doing their thing over twelve versions of the song: Sizzla, Wayne Wonder, and Gramps Morgan to name a few. Is it the best reggae riddim ever? Hardly, but with twelve versions, you're sure to find one you'll enjoy.