Review: 17 North Parade's latest essential reissue delves into the archives of Joe Gibbs' Belmont Records and offers up a new edition of Gregory Isaacs' 1975 roots reggae classic "Babylon Too Rough". Produced by legendary desk duo The Mighty Too - Joe Gibbs and regular engineer Errol Thompson - it sees a then youthful Isaacs add his sweet, soulful vocals to a sparse and stripped back riddim rich in flanged guitars, jaunty piano stabs and warm bass. As with the original Jamaican "45" release, the flip sports Gibbs and Thompson's dub-wise version (which for some reason was re-named "I Stand Accused"). This is an exceptional dub: slow, weighty, spacious and with tons of well-placed effects in the traditional Gibbs style.
Review: The Montpellier-based crew behind new roots reggae label Samuel have a slightly different take on the sound than some of their contemporaries, with some of the tracks on this fine, compilation style debut EP drawing inspiration from other musical styles. So while Benjamin's vocal opener "Give Thanks" is a deliciously chunky slab of soulful reggae rich in hazy organs and dub style bass, Armel Courree, Pascal Bouvier and Corentin Lehembre's "Ethio Roots Theme" brilliant combines dub-wise reggae rhythms with duelling horn solos more akin to Ethio-jazz. The crew's global influences come the fore on the flip, where Lone Ark dubs out "Give Thanks" - with some subtle nods towards Turkish psych-funk, and Hoarang turns "Ethio Roots Theme" into a Binghi percussion workout with added hazy horns.
Review: Power House reissue a classic slice of roots from the early '80s courtesy of the mighty Barrington Levy. "Praise His Name" is a quietly fortified cut with Levy in full spiritual mode, keeping his vocal register characteristically high and sweetly soulful over the riddim. The riddim itself is outstanding, coming from Power House owner George Phang's signature style of tight, minor key chops and a pattering beat that manages to be nimble and heavy at the same time. Flip it over for the version, if that's your persuasion, and you can enjoy the bare bones of the riddim in all its glory. Seminal stuff from a reggae master.
Review: Those with a love of reggae should be familiar with the work of Winston Reedy - after all, he's been offering up singles and albums since the early 1970s. His latest album sees him join forces with the Inn House Crew, a specially created band of legendary Jamaican players, to deliver a slick, super-sweet selection of soulful reggae covers and original tracks. Reedy's voice is superb - emotive, rich and soothing - while the backing tracks are warm, sunny and groovy, sitting somewhere between classic 1970s reggae and the digital style that has dominated since the 1980s. It all adds up to a hugely enjoyable and entertaining set that's as summery and smile-inducing as they come.