Just as Afrika Bambaataa was “looking for the perfect beat,” I’m one who’s seldom content with the direction reggae has shifted to in the modern era, and long to discover something more akin to the finale of its golden age, when Marley chanted his songs of freedom to a liberated Zimbabwe, Jah Shaka shook the rafters and Linton Kwesi Johnson poetically versed an English insurgence.
Alongside international acts such as Spanish The Emeterians, or Hollie Cook closer to us, Switzerland’s Fruits Records is that rare outpost still defending the ethos of that militant period in reggae, and if I’ve used the term “reggae perfection,” to define their wonderful outpourings before, this one takes the phrase to a whole new dizzy height.
Out tomorrow, 3rd September, Showcase Vol1, cannot be compared with any other reggae album I’ve heard of recent; it simply wouldn’t be fair on the others. I’d better pitch this against classics; Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Survival, Burning Spear’s Marcus Garvey, Black Uhuru’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and a particular favourite of mine, Misty in Roots, Live at the Counter Eurovision 79, in order to rank it equitably, fi true.
Probably the most respected and sought-after producer of the European reggae scene of the last decade, Roberto Sánchez takes his place behind the microphone to deliver a new album as a singer under pseudonym Lone Ark, and is backed by Fruits’ in-house band, The 18th Parallel, and it’s quite simply, a sublime combination.
Sublime because it honours the Jamaican roots reggae tradition, with bells on. To put in perspective these six tracks, with dubplate counterparts, is to accept I’m sent so much music they occasionally get played more than once, but Showcase has been on repeat for the last month, and it still makes me tingle with delight, and militantly march while washing up the dishes!
It just has all the elements of said reggae perfection, heavy bass, divine one-drops, scorching riddims and well-penned lyrics of righteousness. The creativity of the sound engineer and the musicians is freely expressed, and the melody is tight, allowing all elements to flow in an amalgamation which sizzles under the grill.
Without being preachy or spiritual, there’s balanced virtue in the words. Starting revolutionary in citing youth, with the rousing line of Defend; “the rights of our brothers and sisters who cannot defend themselves,” through the yin-yang revelation in the solid Snake in the Grass. Side B, however, starts with Build an Ark, talks of family values in everyday activities, and “Get You,2 projects positivity to defeat oppression, akin to One Love. And in a summary, it creates a tenet comparable to the words of Marley, along with the sound of Sly & Robbie at their peak of Black Uhuru. And I’m sorry, but you cannot beat that.
This album is a treasure, all reggae fans need in their lives.
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