Aug 30, 2011

RhoDeo 1135 Roots

Hello, we're still on that island with a huge place in the global music catalog, Jamaica. A production hothouse and they say the Weed makes you slow and lazy-go figure. Without the ganja driven reggae music Jamaica would have remained a Caribbean backwater and dare i say would never have given us Bolt, the fastest man in the world who made a mockery of himself this weekend, but then that's what supermen tend to do isn't it..

First up one of big classics of the seventies " Heart Of The Congos" Bizarre ! Considering the record was turned down by Island, and even back in Jamaica it received only a limited release. It took some time before a decent copy became available in the west. Blackheart Man the other classic, derives from a Jamaican tale to spook the children, A.K.A. the bogus man in the UK. It's a bit Wailers minus Marley self produced by Bunny Wailer. An assertive stance of a man following his heart, though later, in the nineties , he sold many records honoring Bob Marley.

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The Congos formed as the duo "Ashanti" Roy Johnson (tenor) and Cedric Myton (falsetto), later becoming a trio with the addition of Watty Burnett (baritone) Cedric Myton grew up in St. Catherine, Jamaica and began his singing career as a member of the Tartans in the late '60s. Singing in a tuneful rocksteady style. He formed the Congos, initially as a duo with Johnson, Roy Johnson grew up singing spirituals at home and was a member of Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus. More importantly, Johnson attended school with Lee Perry, the start of a relationship that would lead to Perry working with him and Myton years later., recording their first single "At the Feast". Perry expanded the group to a trio with the addition of Burnett, this line-up recording the classic roots reggae album Heart of the Congos in 1977 at Perry's Black Ark studio. The album featured illustrious backing singers such as Gregory Isaacs, The Meditations, and Barry LLewellyn and Earl Morgan of The Heptones. Its been described as "the most consistently brilliant album of Scratch Perry's entire career".

Perry's previous productions by Max Romeo and Junior Murvin had been huge commercial successes thanks to a deal with Island Records, but Perry was in dispute with Island at the time the Congos' album was finished, so it was released on his own Black Ark label, limiting its success overseas, and causing a rift with the group. The Congos went their own way, organizing a limited pressing of the album themselves. United Kingdom label Go Feet eventually reissued the album in 1980, and although the group had recorded new material since leaving Perry, Heart of the Congos proved a hard act to follow and their other releases suffered as a consequence. Albums such as Congo Ashanti were sparser and sounded ordinary compared to Perry's kitchen-sink-and-all massive productions.

Burnett quit the group, soon followed by Johnson, who embarked on a solo career as Congo Ashanti Roy, Myton continued to record as The Congos with various other musicians until the mid-1980s.

In the mid-1990s, The Congos reformed, with Myton and Burnett joined by Lindburgh Lewis, several albums following in subsequent years, Natty Dread Rise Again 91 and Revival (97) In 2005 Myton recorded Give Them the Rights with a host of backup singers and star session players such as Sly and Robbie and Earl "Chinna" Smith, very much in the spiritual 70s roots vein.

In 2008, The Congos appeared in the independent feature film, Wah Do Dem which captures them performing "Fisherman," and "Congoman Chant," under a full moon at Helshire Beach outside Kingston.In 2009, Myton, Burnett, and Johnson reunited with Perry to record the album Back in the Black Ark, which, despite its title, was recorded at Myton's studio in Portmore and at Mixing Lab, Kingston

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Lee Perry is generally acknowledged as a production genius, but on occasion that genius can be destructive. On Heart of the Congos he was brilliant, and across the record's original ten tracks Perry created a masterpiece of music. Many critics consider this 1977 album one of the best roots records of all time, and at the very least, it was Perry's apex t took nearly two decades for Heart of the Congos to reappear, finally reissued with a clutch of period bonus tracks by Blood and Fire. The Congos themselves seem the least-likely contenders to record an exceptional album with Perry. The duo of Cedric Myton and Roy "Ashanti" Johnson had a unique sound, revolving around the former man's crystalline falsetto, which was set off by the latter's rich tenor. The pair composed deeply cultural songs, but both men's vocals had a gentle quality that would wither under a typical deep roots arrangement. Every track on the original album is worthy of classic status, and all presented the group and their songs in the best possible light. To this end, Perry was aided by a phenomenal group of sessionmen and guest backing vocalists which included Gregory Isaacs, a pair of Heptones, and the mighty Meditations. But beyond the Congos' superb songs and performance, the superb musicianship, and the exceptional vocal talents, it's Perry's arrangements that brought these numbers to life. Each one was carefully tailored, taking into consideration the mood of the piece and the vocalist. Every track offers something new: a unique sound, an unforgettable melody and rhythm, an unexpected arrangement.

The Congos – Heart Of The Congos (77 flac  538mb)

01 Fisherman 5:28
02 Congoman 5:35
03 Open Up The Gate 4:22
04 Children Crying 3:54
05 La La Bam-Bam 3:57
06 Can't Come In 5:47
07 Sodom & Gomorrow 4:20
08 The Wrong Thing 3:00
09 Ark Of Covenant 3:46
10 Solid Foundation 4:29
11 At The Feast 3:39
12 Nicodemus 7:34
13 Congoman (12" Mix) 6:16
14 Congoman Chant 6:18
15 Bring The Mackaback 4:05
16 Noah Sugar Pan 3:28
17 Solid Foundation (Disco Cork Mix) 5:56

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Bunny Wailer, (born Neville O'Riley Livingston), also known as Bunny Livingston and affectionately as Jah was an original member of reggae group The Wailers along with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. He is widely regarded as a musical legend and is considered one of the longtime standard bearers of reggae music.

By 1973, the Wailers were untouchable, the biggest reggae band in Jamaica, and on the verge of an international breakthrough. Which is when it all went wrong, their first tour 3 months thru the UK, followed by a US tour split the band Livingstone refused to take part anymore in this unhealthy undertaking ,specially the lack of decent (Rastafari) food. He went solo, He launched his own label, Solomonic, with his debut solo single "Searching for Love," in 1973. The next year saw four more, . In 1976, Livingston's first solo album, Blackheart Man was released. The singer was accompanied by Tosh and the Barrett brothers -- the Wailers' own rhythm section, as well as Marley who joins in on a new version of the Wailers old number "Dreamland."

Remaining in Jamaica, Livingston's profile would be forever overshadowed by his globe-trotting former bandmates. 1980's In I Father's House, did nothing to change this situation, nor did the singles which had appeared across this period. Tribute to the Hon Nesta Marley was drawn from the same sessions as had produced Bunny Wailer Sings, and again was determined to help keep the Wailers' legacy alive. Of course, in the end there was no need for Livingston to fear, since Marley's death, shelves have been warped under the weight of Wailers' reissues, but in the early '80s, it's understandable that Livingston was concerned that the group's music might have disappeared forever into the archives.

In 87 the singer unleashed two new albums, Rootsman Skanking and Rule Dance Hall, both boasting a strong and confident dancehall flavor and scoring two Jamaican hits. Nevertheless a year later Livingston returned to an older sound for 1989's equally wonderful and rootsier Liberation. Time Will Tell: A Tribute to Bob Marley brought his the 91 Grammy.1995's " A Tribute to Bob Marley's 50th Anniversary" was a double album, featuring 52 songs, all loving recreations of Marley's Wailers' and solo compositions. Accompanied by a phenomenal aggregation of Jamaican sessionmen, the set would garner the singer another well deserved Grammy.

Meanwhile, Livingston was beginning to turn more of his attention towards politics. He has shown an especial interest in youth issues, and eventually formed his own political party, the United Progressive Party. The U.P.P. platform calls for the decriminalization of marijuana, but of equal importance, also offers up numerous educational reforms. The artist's heavy involvement in politics kept him out of the studio for much of the rest of the decade, but he finally returned in the new millennium with an exciting album, Communication (2000).followed by World Peace (2003) Rub A Dub (2007) Cross Culture (2009)

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After leaving the Wailers behind, Bunny Wailer (born Neville Livingston) wasted no time establishing himself as a highly original and visionary singer and songwriter on his own. His solo debut remains one of the most extraordinary albums of the roots period, a complex but instantly attractive and occasionally heartbreaking record that never rises above a whisper in tone but packs as much political and spiritual wallop as the best of Bob Marley's work. The song that pulls you into Bunny Wailer's magical web of mystical Rastafarianism is the first one, in which Wailer recalls being warned by his mother to avoid Rastas ("even the lions fear him") and then describes his eventual conversion, all in a tone of infinite gentleness and sadness at the hardhearted blindness of Babylon. Blackheart Man is a real achievement by an artist who was, at the time, only at the beginning of what would be a distinguished career.

Bunny Wailer – Blackheart Man ( 76   251mb)

01 Blackheart Man 6:17
02 Fight Against Conviction 5:09
03 The Opressed Song 3:18
04 Fig Tree 3:07
05 Dream Land 2:44
06 Rastaman 3:49
07 Reincarnated Souls 3:42
08 Amagideon (Armagedon) 6:44
09 Bide Up 2:31
10 This Train 8:29

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Anonymous said...

can you please upload Heart of the Congos, in flac if possible. thanks a lot and thanks for great blog.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post but The Black Album links have not been updated

Anonymous said...

thanks for the Congos re-up! (Bunny Wailer links worked for me BTW)

apf said...

Thank you for The Congos re-up, Rho.