burning spear

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The Heptones: Sweet Talking (Studio One)

The Heptones: Sweet Talking (Studio One)

Produced by the legendary Clement Dodd and fronted by the sweet voice of Leroy Sibbles, the Heptones were one of the great Jamaican vocal trios who brought in soulful harmonies borrowed from 50s bands like the Drifters. This 18-track collection of mid-60s tracks (most in stereo remixes not previously released on CD) includes their covers of...

Unity Pacific: Into the Dread (Moving Productions/EMI)

Unity Pacific: Into the Dread (Moving Productions/EMI)

When the documentary about the life of Unity Pacific's singer-songwriter Tigi Ness made it to the small screen on Maori TV and the Film Festival many in the country had their introduction to a modest man and his remarkable life. Now 52, Ness is something of late bloomer in making albums: his debut From Street to Sky (also the name of the...

Katchafire: Say What You're Thinking (EMI)

Katchafire: Say What You're Thinking (EMI)

About six years ago I first encountered Hamilton reggae band Katchafire playing in a pretty ropey provincial bar. I'd met them backstage beforehand -- actually in a room full of beer barrels -- and I knew within minutes these guys could be huge. They were genuinely nice people and had a repertoire of almost 200 songs -- mostly covers, and...

Pitch Black: Rude Mechanicals (Remote)

Pitch Black: Rude Mechanicals (Remote)

The electronica duo of Mike Hodgson and Paddy Free who are Pitch Black were in the vanguard of New Zealand sound and vision performances in the 90s, so much so that you'd love to see them release a CD/DVD, which would make a good deal of sense. But it is also testament to their sensibilities that their internationalist music has an innate...

Tahuna Breaks: Reflections (Chewy/Rhythmethod)

Tahuna Breaks: Reflections (Chewy/Rhythmethod)

While I understand the wide appeal of Fat Freddy's Drop -- a laidback distillation of reggae, soul and so forth -- it is too mellow for my taste. Tahuna Breaks -- who also distill elements of soul and reggae but have an urgent rock attack too -- are much more my kind of thing. Vocalist Marty Greentree often sings like his life depends on...

Bob Marley: Songs of Freedom (1992)

Bob Marley: Songs of Freedom (1992)

Bob Marley was quite a man . . . nobody seems to have a bad word to say about him. Oh sure, a few wacko reactionaries got het up over the dope thing and tossed him into the Godless Heathen Corrupting Our Youth basket. But here was one spliff smoker who would run 10km before breakfast, was always keen to play a game of soccer and knew more...

KATCHAFIRE (2005): Slow burning their way to consciousness

KATCHAFIRE (2005): Slow burning their way to consciousness

Reggae is one of the bloodlines of New Zealand music. It is there whenever an acoustic guitar comes out on the marae or suburban barbeque, and you can hear it in the hi-tech dub incarnation in clubland and dance music like that from Salmonella Dub, Trinity Roots, Pitch Black and the many bands out of Wellington. Yet since indigenous reggae...

TIGI NESS INTERVIEWED (2003): From street warrior to natural mystic

TIGI NESS INTERVIEWED (2003): From street warrior to natural mystic

The high-rise skyline shimmers in the summer heat beyond the faded iron roofs of Auckland's inner-city suburbs. Tigi Ness sits on the back porch of his Grey Lynn home, in the foreground a tended and productive garden, far beyond those gleaming towers of greed.At 47, Ness is the patriarch of Aotearoa reggae. A Rastafarian for 20 years, the years...

LEE SCRATCH PERRY IN THE 90s: Getting dub'n'reggae through time tuff

LEE SCRATCH PERRY IN THE 90s: Getting dub'n'reggae through time tuff

By the early 90s - a decade on from the death of Bob Marley - the consciousness reggae movement he headed was floundering internationally. In New Zealand, where reggae is one of the bloodlines, it was disappearing from radio and aside from well attended appearances by Judy Mowatt and Ziggy Marley concerts it really was “time tough,”...

Various:Calypsoul 70 (Strut)

Various:Calypsoul 70 (Strut)

Although this compilation - subtitled Caribbean Soul and Calypso Crossover 1969-1979 - came out a few months back I thought I'd wait until the weather got better before posting it. It is that kind of music, and today after I cleaned the barbecue it seemed timely. A 20 track collection of bands whose names are completely unknown to me - Magic...

JIMMY CLIFF, REGGAE PIONEER, INTERVIEWED (1993): Many rivers crossed

JIMMY CLIFF, REGGAE PIONEER, INTERVIEWED (1993): Many rivers crossed

Jimmy Cliff – the fundamental reggae pioneer -- could have been a contender.  Never quite the crown prince of reggae, a title taken without struggle by Bob Marley, Cliff nevertheless stacked up the kind of profile early in his career that marked him out as someone special. He’s still doing it, still making fine music...

TOUGHER THAN TOUGH: The 1994 box set of Jamaican music considered

TOUGHER THAN TOUGH: The 1994 box set of Jamaican music considered

One of the most exciting things about popular music is that you can never anticipate where the next wave will come from. Could you have predicted Chicago in Forties, Memphis in the Fifties, Hamburg and Liverpool clubs in the Sixties, Berlin or the Bronx in the Seventies and early Eighties? Or Seattle, Havana, the deserts of the sub-Sahara ....

DAMIAN MARLEY INTERVIEWED (2006): Maintaining the family standard

DAMIAN MARLEY INTERVIEWED (2006): Maintaining the family standard

The most common complaint from those who have stardom thrust upon them -- the tabloid coverage and paparazzi, the private chef serving you rather than some kid on minimum wage -- is that nothing prepares you for this life. Okay, it’s tough at the top -- it’s not that easy at the bottom however -- and no, you can’t go to...

Dub Colossus: A Town Called Addis (Real World/Southbound)

Dub Colossus: A Town Called Addis (Real World/Southbound)

Bridging dub, world music, an ethnomusicology project and with a smattering of jazz, this project by UK musician/producer/remixer Nick Page who is Dubulah, aka Dub Colossus (and co-founder of the groundbreaking Trans-Global Underground then Temple of Sound) brings to attention the wonderful music of Ethiopia, but in a very different light....

BOB MARLEY; TALKIN' BLUES: The Rastaman chanting down Babylon in 1973

BOB MARLEY; TALKIN' BLUES: The Rastaman chanting down Babylon in 1973

Shortly after Bob Marley died in May ‘81 a journalist asked former-Wailer Peter Tosh what the passing of this charismatic reggae figure meant. Tosh considered the matter carefully, then offered this insightful -- but eloquently, unusually -- observation: “No more music from Bob.” Rasta/Zen reduction right there. And...

BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH INTERVIEWED (2000):  The people's poet laureate

BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH INTERVIEWED (2000): The people's poet laureate

Britain's most popular serious performance poet for more than two decades, Benjamin Zephaniah, laughs as he recalls hating poetry as a kid. If you said you liked it, it was as if you were filled with angst. And for a boy of Jamaican parents growing up in Birmingham, it was all a bit dead-white-male. Yet, at 42, the much-published,...

BURNING SPEAR INTERVIEWED (2000): Still tending his crop

BURNING SPEAR INTERVIEWED (2000): Still tending his crop

Burning Spear lets go a deep, resonant laugh which starts as a chuckle then becomes increasingly full-throated. Savour that moment, it's the only break in his gravitas during this friendly, respectful conversation. Burning Spear - aka Winston Rodney - is the conscience of reggae, keeper of the flame of its roots, and the music's most...

JAMAICA'S STUDIO ONE AND CLEMENT DODD: The focal point of reggae

JAMAICA'S STUDIO ONE AND CLEMENT DODD: The focal point of reggae

King Stitt is something to see all right. His glazed eyes appear to look in different directions. There are huge bags beneath them, his greying dreadlocks are tucked under a huge tea cosy, his wiry beard unkempt. But his most distinctive features are a bottom lip the size of a sausage and a single sharp tooth which projects out of his...

Fat Freddy's Drop: Dr Boondigga and The Big BW (The Drop)

Fat Freddy's Drop: Dr Boondigga and The Big BW (The Drop)

I was among the seven people in the country who wasn't totally besotted with Fat Freddys' debut Based on a True Story (although perhaps a more appropriate title might have been Based on a Best Seller).  Didn't it quickly turn into dinner music for people too cool for Norah Jones? So given that, maybe my opinion on this long awaited...

Hikoikoi: Hikoikoi (Hikoikoi)

Hikoikoi: Hikoikoi (Hikoikoi)

In a country which has so many pressing social issues it has always struck me as interesting that reggae -- often the voice of the disenfranchised and dispossessed -- has, in this nation, most often erred to the more gentle and less controversial end of the spectrum. Perhaps it is emblematic of our country that we prefer...

DubXanne: The Police in Dub (Echo Beach/Yellow Eye)

DubXanne: The Police in Dub (Echo Beach/Yellow Eye)

This is how I like my Police. Without Sting. As with that yelping guy in Yes and few others, I find Sting's voice very hard to take. Although I concede that when I consider their album sales (45 million and rising) as well concert ticket sales I am in a very small minority. So be it. Always quite liked the music, rarely liked Sting's...

International Observer: Felt (Dubmission)

International Observer: Felt (Dubmission)

The first thing to note about this new album by producer/dubmeister Tom Bailey is that there are 12 tracks. No noodling around or nodding off going on here, Bailey doesn't let any groove outstay its welcome. And throughout Bailey also adds in interesting elements to keep your attention: Is that a tongue-in-cheek suggestion of Eighties...

GWEN STEFANI of NO DOUBT INTERVIEWED (2001): Style and substance

GWEN STEFANI of NO DOUBT INTERVIEWED (2001): Style and substance

The fact is, Gwen Stefani of No Doubt looks even more gorgeous lounging casually on the couch opposite than she does in her carefully styled photo shoots.  While her magazine image is often that of a distant, pouting, sexually empowered ice-queen -- "Glamazon" is the new description -- in real life she glows naturally, laughs...

The Skatalites: Anthology (Primo/Southbound)

The Skatalites: Anthology (Primo/Southbound)

This 35-track double disc pulls together essential Skatalite material alongside work that appeared under the names of some the group's members (Rolando Alphonso, Baba Brooks, Don Drummond, Tommy McCook) and is a primer on the sound of Jamaican ska in the mid Sixties. The rhythm might be the choppy ska style but over the top you can hear the...

HERBS, NEW ZEALAND'S POLITICISED REGGAE REVOLUTION INTO THE HALL OF FAME (2012): Hard tings an' times

HERBS, NEW ZEALAND'S POLITICISED REGGAE REVOLUTION INTO THE HALL OF FAME (2012): Hard tings an' times

When Herbs emerged at the start of the 1980s they were a very different band from the avuncular, mainstream entertainers they became. The original five-piece was managed by the former president of the radical Polynesian Panthers, and the cover of their landmark EP Whats' Be Happen, released in July '81 during the Springbok tour, was an...

Katchafire: Say What You're Thinking (EMI CD/DVD Edition)

Katchafire: Say What You're Thinking (EMI CD/DVD Edition)

This will be brief because the original 2008 album (the third by this constantly working New Zealand reggae outfit) was reviewed at Elsewhere here, but just to note this expanded package now comes with extra tracks (two album tracks remixed and two live songs, one being Collie Herbsman off their debut album Revival, the other this album's title...

Willi Williams: Right Time (year unknown, mid 70s?)

Willi Williams: Right Time (year unknown, mid 70s?)

Reggae singer/writer Willi Williams is best known as the man who gave the world Armagideon Time which the Clash covered (and which appears on the Tougher Than Tough collection) -- and many other deep roots reggae songs. Always well connected, Williams first worked at Studio One in the mid Sixties, recorded with Jackie Mittoo in Jamaica and...

Mr and Mrs Mattis: I'll Never Move Again (date unknown, 1970s?)

Mr and Mrs Mattis: I'll Never Move Again (date unknown, 1970s?)

Here is a real mystery single: on the Narrow Way Gospel "label" out of Jamaica (crudely hand-printed, with a quote from Isaiah) comes this oddity which is clearly Jamaican singers but has a peculiar Pacific feel to it in the guitars. Another one-off bought in Brixton just simply because it sounds so good -- but whoever Mr and Mrs...

Managers: The Grove St Tapes (Hoi)

Managers: The Grove St Tapes (Hoi)

While it's hardly a tabloid heading -- "Ska band in reggae shock!" -- it is something of a surprise to hear Auckland's long-running and popular live act shift from upbeat ska to downbeat reggae grooves on this four track EP of originals cut from the same cloth as roots reggae of four decades ago. Singer Paul Frewin has a smooth...

BOB MARLEY; RASTAMAN VIBRATION RECONSIDERED: The legacy is music and the message

BOB MARLEY; RASTAMAN VIBRATION RECONSIDERED: The legacy is music and the message

The bassist with Hamilton reggae band Katchafire, Ara Adams-Tamatea, said it: "You go to parties now and they are still playing the same '70s Bob albums 20 and 30 years later. Why is that? Because Bob's message is still alive and the things he was singing about are still relevant." The Bob in question is dread rebel Bob Marley,...

Little Axe: Bought for a Dollar, Sold for a Dime (Real World/Southbound)

Little Axe: Bought for a Dollar, Sold for a Dime (Real World/Southbound)

The previous album by guitarist Skip McDonald as Little Axe, Stone Cold Ohio, was a Best of Elsewhere 2006 album so interest was high for this one which also sees the whole Tackhead crew (bassist Doug Wimbush, drummer Keith Le Blanc) together again after 17 years, and with producer Adrian Sherwood. Guests include vocalists Bernard Fowler and...

Dub Spencer and Trance Hill: Riding Strange Horses (Echo Beach/Yellow)

Dub Spencer and Trance Hill: Riding Strange Horses (Echo Beach/Yellow)

Those who know their spaghetti westerns and love a bit of dubbery will welcome this new installment from the Swiss band Spencer/Hill (aka bassist Marcel Stalder, guitarist Markus Meier, keyboard player Philipp Greter and drummer Julian Dillier). Opening with Ennio Morricone's harmonica theme (from For a Few Dollars More, I think?) and then a...

JUDY MOWATT INTERVIEWED (1990): The black queen arises

JUDY MOWATT INTERVIEWED (1990): The black queen arises

Judy Mowatt wears her unofficial title “the queen of reggae" easily. A striking figure of regal bearing, she holds her head high, and, as a member of The Twelve Tribes of Israel, talks as easily about the Queen of Sheba in ancient times as she does about Yellowman, and DJ dancehall stars in Jamaica today – and shows a canny...

ERNEST RANGLIN INTERVIEWED (1999): Ska pioneer

ERNEST RANGLIN INTERVIEWED (1999): Ska pioneer

What becomes a legend most? In the case of Ernest Ranglin, good humour and modesty. This legend of Jamaican singlehandedly created ska back in the Fifties; recorded the young Bob Marley; arranged Millie Small’s international hit My Boy Lollipop in 64; enjoyed a jazz career in London, New York and Florida; and in the early-to-mid...

JAMDOWN, a film by EMMANUEL BONN (MVD DVD)

JAMDOWN, a film by EMMANUEL BONN (MVD DVD)

This unfocused and largely haphazard film -- part travel footage, part film of reggae artists, some political subtext hinted at -- dates from 1980 when French filmmaker Bonn took a camera to Jamaica and the streets of black Britain. There is considerable footage where the camera is looking out the window of a vehicle which travels though the...

Easy Star All-Stars: Dubber Side of the Moon (Easy Star/Southbound)

Easy Star All-Stars: Dubber Side of the Moon (Easy Star/Southbound)

Almost a decade ago the Dub Side of the Moon album appeared and through word of mouth, then touring shows and a live DVD, the thing -- a dub take on Pink Floyd's milestone/millstone in rock -- became a sub-cultural phenomenon. And, as is the nature of such things, it now undergoes another reworking as "The Dubber Side" because...

General Echo: Bathroom Sex (1980)

General Echo: Bathroom Sex (1980)

General Echo (Earl Robinson, shot by police in 1980 shortly after this song appeared) is generally credited -- if that's the right word -- with shifting Jamaican reggae away from consciousness lyricals (morally uplifting and philosophically profound sentiments ) to something rather more . . . base, shall we say? He's the man we can thank for...

Max Romeo: War Ina Babylon (1976)

Max Romeo: War Ina Babylon (1976)

When Max Romeo's Holding Out My Love to You album was released in '81 it came with heavy patronage: Keith Richards was a Romeo fan and had produced some of the tracks . . . so there was a cover sticker proclaiming "Featuring Keith Richards -- Free Colour Poster of Keith and Mick Inside". Romeo had moved from Jamaica to New York a...

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires: Elizabethan Reggae (1969)

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires: Elizabethan Reggae (1969)

Long before the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra of the late Eighties/early Nineties, Jamaican musicians were appropriating classical music and turning it around over ska and reggae rhythms. The provenance of this particular hit is perhaps a little muddied: it is variously attributed to (singer/bassist) Boris Gardiner of the Upsetters, and also...

Delroy Wilson: Mash Up Illiteracy (1974)

Delroy Wilson: Mash Up Illiteracy (1974)

In Third World countries music is often the vehicle for social messages and political comment because it gets directly to people who may be unable to read a newspaper or otherwise have access to information. Reggae singer Delroy Wilson (who died in '95) was one of those who used songs to actually say something . . . although not always so...

The Maytals: Disco Reggae (1977)

The Maytals: Disco Reggae (1977)

You could almost understand Kay Starr singing Rock and Roll Waltz as the waters around her rose in the Fifties. Her style was being swamped by the likes of rockabilly and rock'n'roll, so she was probably just trying to keep her head above water. But quite why the Maytals would have wanted to lean towards disco for this single when reggae was...

SLY DUNBAR INTERVIEWED (2003): Pull up to the drummer, baby

SLY DUNBAR INTERVIEWED (2003): Pull up to the drummer, baby

Silly question maybe, but you have to start by asking drummer Sly Dunbar -- one half of the legendary Sly'n'Robbie rhythm section alongside bassist Robbie Shakespeare -- what he's been up to lately. In the past couple of years the formidable Riddum Twins have played on No Doubt's career-reviving Rock Steady album, shared equal billing...

Nyabinghi chanters: Got to Move (1982)

Nyabinghi chanters: Got to Move (1982)

In 1935, just before the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, an article apeared in the Jamaica Times -- penned by an Italian fascist propoganda outfit -- which alleged that Ethiopia's Haile Selassie was the head of a secret organisation which was plotting to overthrow and kill whites. This alarmist article about the "Nyabingi Order" (the...

Bob Marley and the Wailers: Live Forever (Universal)

Bob Marley and the Wailers: Live Forever (Universal)

Some albums are accorded greater cachet because of the circumstances of their creation. Does anyone really think George Harrison would have won a Grammy for his instrumental Marwa Blues if he had been around to collect it? That was a vote driven by sentiment -- and probably regret and embarrassment that his contribution to music post-Beatles...

Herbs: Whats' Be Happen (1981)

Herbs: Whats' Be Happen (1981)

History, according to Napoleon (among others), is written by the winners. True in one sense. But if the losers are still out there they are often so forgetful of their history as to be worthless and absent witnesses. Many buy into the narrative of the winners whom you might have thought would be their adversary. Take the New Zealand reggae...

Bunny Wailer:Amagideon/Armagedon (1976)

Bunny Wailer:Amagideon/Armagedon (1976)

As Bob Marley was advancing a more light-filled, if still serious, face of Rastafarianism into the world, it fell to deep roots groups like Culture, the great Burning Spear and Bob's old bandmate in the original Wailers, Bunny Livingston (aka Bunny Wailer) to deliver the darker and deeper themes. The mighty Spear sang as if he had just been...

Ziggy Marley: Wild and Free (Tuff Gong)

Ziggy Marley: Wild and Free (Tuff Gong)

After a faltering start with the Melody Makers, Ziggy (now 42) uncoupled his music from overly familiar reggae rhythms and incorporated African sounds, hooked up with rap artists, kept a political agenda and all the while didn't veer too far from his father's path and sometimes the classic sound. Here his collaborators include Woody...

SALMONELLA DUB INTERVIEWED (2003): This touring life

SALMONELLA DUB INTERVIEWED (2003): This touring life

For two guys who have done 27 interviews back-to-back in Sydney, arrived in Auckland at midnight and got up early for a Mike Hosking interview on Breakfast, Tiki Taane and Andrew Penman are surprisingly chipper. Taane is playing a Tony Hawk skateboard game on a laptop, and Penman is looking through a scattering of CDs, vinyl and posters...

UB40: Just another labour of love

UB40: Just another labour of love

It was a few years ago now, but UB40 were back for another New Zealand tour. Well pardon my lack of enthusiasm. It's not that, like most critics, I don't have much time for their MOR reggae. I don't, but with me it's much more personal . . It was my misfortune to spend a day with the band in Birmingham many, many years ago. But the...

Burning Spear, Marcus Garvey/Garvey's Ghost (1975)

Burning Spear, Marcus Garvey/Garvey's Ghost (1975)

In Ted Bafaloukos' '78 film Rockers -- a lightweight comedy but excellent quasi-doco about the world of Jamaican music with a stunning cast of reggae luminaries -- there are any number of remarkable scenes: the lead character is a drummer (played by Leroy "Horsemouth" Brown) who puts a down-payment on a motorbike with the idea of...

Little Axe: Stone Cold Ohio (Virgin) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Little Axe: Stone Cold Ohio (Virgin) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Little Axe is guitarist/singer Skip McDonald who first came to attention as a member of the Sugar Hill Gang, the house band for Sugar Hill Records which released such classic rap tracks as Grandmaster Flash's The Message. McDonald went to England and joined Adrian Sherwood's On-U Sound crew and was a member of the innovative Tackhead which...

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