by: Jarret Lovell
Amlak Redsquare - Book of Judges - (True Lion Sound) DIGITAL RELEASE
Part of the Red Square Production Crew, Amlak is the nephew of Spragga Benz. His sound is crisp and rooted in political themes. Nothing cheesy here. Think Jah Mason - rootsy with contemporary production value. Try "Your Love" which begins with great female background vocals and slow, deep keyboards to get the rhythm started. The song then opens up to lyrics about a troubled relationship that cannot break the bond of love, even if the man is less-than-perfect. "Freestyle" starts with such a great, almost funky riddim that carries the song. "Creator Works" starts slow and ambient, with nice effects throughout carrying this beautiful track. "Book of Judges" reminds listeners that there's still much creativity in reggae music.
Lloyd Parks - Time A Go Dread - (Pressure Sounds) DIGITAL RELEASE
A huge figure in reggae, bassist Lloyd Parks has performed in some of the genre's most important backing bands (Joe Gibbs Band, Skin Flesh and Bonek, The Revolutionaries) and is featured on some of reggae's biggest anthems. One again, Pressure Sounds brings us a reissue of some great reggae tracks. "Time A Go Dread" features twenty two tracks including a couple of productions featuring Dillinger and singer Wally Bucker. This radio sampler features 9 selections - all good, all rootsy. Some with vocals, some dubs. "Push Push" is the lament of a poor man. "Famine Master" - a very nice track despite antiquated, gendered lyrics, begins with the question, "How can a man be free/when his wife and kids live in misery?" "Strike Master" focuses on the income gap between employer and employee and ends, well, with a call to strike. Great socially conscious roots reggae.
Jemere Morgan - Transition - DIGITAL RELEASE
The surname "Morgan" commands respect among reggae fans - as it should. Like the name Marley, the Morgans have established themselves as a reggae dynasty in the best sense of the word. The band "Morgan Heritage" has provided listeners with years of reggae/r&b, with each new generation of the family adding something new to the sound. The band's recent "Strictly Roots" (2015) is a testimony to that, as was their performance at the 2015 Catch a Fire tour opening for Damian Marley. Jemere Morgan is the son of Gramps Morgan, and his sound follows in the tradition of Morgan Heritage: part reggae, part R&B. "International Love" is soulful reggae; "Good Old Roots" is exactly what it says - roots reggae. "Love Yourself" is a Justin Bieber cover. A nice collection of songs that show Jemere's got soul!
Savoy Motel - Savoy Motel - (What's Your Rupture Records)
The press release describes the sound of this band in several ways - white funk, outdated boogie rock, 70s-esque, and European prog. flavoring, to name a few. All are somewhat correct, except for the "outdated" part. I'd probably add psychedelic to the mix, and suggest that the sound is psychedelic funk. Not too bad either. In fact, not bad at all. "Mindless Blues" starts with a drum machine beat, a great bass riff, plucky guitar, and ultimately female vocals singing - well, something about reflex. It's an incantation that is repeated throughout this effective track. Other tracks combine synth sounds, drum machines, funky bass and groovy guitar licks. From Nashville.
Asante Amen - Roots & Kulcha - (High Priest Records)
I don't have too much information on this artist. He has collaborated with such artists as Lutan Fyah, Tony Rebel and Luciano, and his sound is similar - good, slickly-produced contemporary, conscious reggae. Good stuff.