Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Catching Up

(Delroy Wilson is 'Living in the footsteps of another man...')

The warm 'Indian Summer' (i.e. late-season) weather has returned on schedule to San Francisco, a perfect time to reflect on recent reggae news and releases.

Pictured above is the cover for Delroy Wilson's fantastic Dub Plate Style on Pressure Sounds. The crooner known for rocksteady hits like "Run Run" and "Rain From The Sky" for Coxsonne's Studio One is captured on this collection in 1970s mode.

Dub Plate Style highlights Wilson ease with both soul ballads like "Living In The Foot Steps of Another Man" and roots work such as "Better Must Come," a song famously adopted by Michael Manley as his campaign anthem in Jamaica's 1972 General Elections that swept the People's National Party to power. This 20 song collection is full of cool and easy vocal tunes.

Also on Pressure Sounds check the Treasure Isle rocksteady dub collection, Pleasure Dub, accented by Tommy McCook's rich saxophone licks. And soon come: Sound System International, an early reggae collection highlighting the work of King Tubby and the Clancy Eccles All Stars.

SAD NEWS: The reggae fraternity and dancehall fans in particular are mourning the sudden loss of Wycliff "Steely" Johnson, a prominent session musician and producer known for work with his longtime cohort Cleveland "Clevie" Browne. Johnson was 50, and had been suffering from kidney disease. Steely & Clevie were dancehall giants producing literally hundreds of memorable riddims and songs for artists big and small -- Buju Banton, Capleton, Maxi Priest, Shabba Ranks, Beenie Man and more. I'll personally remember him for those excellent early 90s digital reggae one-riddim compilations. Reggae has lost another great player.

Another major news item this week: Live Nation-AEG canceled a string of Buju Banton's North American concert dates after appeals from gay rights advocates. Some reggae fans were surprised by the move, considering that Buju performed at New York's famous Madison Square Garden earlier this year. A Facebook group has been launched by fans in Buju's defense.

The row with Banton extends from his 1992 song "Boom Bye Bye," which features violently anti-homosexual lyrics. Recorded when Buju was 15, and prior to his conversion to Rastafarianism, the singer has changed his tune considerably over the years, transforming into a global peace and human rights advocate whose new album Rasta Got Soul features zero offensive lyrics.

However, the situation for gays and lesbians in Jamaica continues to be dire and deadly, especially after the sitting Prime Minister delivered a homophobic rant while on a government trip to the UK. Buju may not be a deserving target, but the island's extremely influential entertainers should do more to speak out about this particular social injustice in their society.

In other reggae news:
Mighty Crown have added Barrington Levy to their annual mega concert Sept 5, which draws as many as 40,000 fans. It's Levy's first appearance in Japan in 20 years.

Vybz Kartel, Serani and Tarrus Riely have been nominated for MOBO awards, presented on Sept 30 in Scotland.

Fast rising singer Delus has a new mixtape called "Listen Up."

The dancehall riddim Cheez Trix featuring Natalie Storm, Bugle, Charlie Black is making waves.

Maxi Pries, UB40 and Maximus dan have teamed up for the new song "Morning Light."

Inner Circle's excellent new State of the World album is out now on Shanachie featuring collabos with Lutan Fyah, Bushman, Jr. Reid and Luciano. Hear clips on their website.