VARIOUS ARTISTS; SLY AND ROBBIE PRESENT TAXI, CONSIDERED (1981): Reggae inna state of change

 |   |  2 min read

VARIOUS ARTISTS; SLY AND ROBBIE PRESENT TAXI, CONSIDERED (1981): Reggae inna state of change

In the early Eighties reggae was reeling after the death of Bob Marley, the figurehead of style he popularised and, for the great middle-ground audience, was the genre's most identifiable figure.

But when reggae had broken in the early Seventies on the back of Marley and the Wailers' upward trajectory, it was apparent to close observers that the tiny island of Jamaica was awash with talent: vocal trios, inventive producers working with minimal equipment, Nyabinghi drummers, crossover pop-reggae acts, assured women singer in the male-orientated faith of Rastafarianism . . .

When the acclaimed rhythm team of drummer Sly Dunbar (aka Sly Drumma) and bassist Robbie Shakespeare (aka Robbie Basspeare) launched their own Taxi imprint on Island Records in '79 there was understandable excitement.

As producers Sly'n'Robbie had moved past old school styles and had embraced new technology (soon to be heard on the classic albums they produced/played on like Grace Jones' Nightclubbing).

But they also had their feet in the roots camps of Peter Tosh, Culture and Gregory Isaacs.

The famous Riddim Twins had been the anchor on many cornerstone albums to that point and with Taxi they could introduce (or remind us of) great Jamaican artists … and their production on the songs.

This album was the debut for Taxi and is something of a showcase for the artists and their own deep but sharp production style.

61CE1zWDbPLThere is an impressive rollcall of artists here: the soulful Jimmy Riley (on the mainstream My Woman's Love punched home by the rhythm section); vocal trio the Tamlins (on the Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong Smiling Faces Sometimes, a classic for Motown which was a hit for Undisputed Truth); the great Wailing Souls (with a bubbling beat on Sweet Sugar Plum, and Old Broom); Dennis Brown (Sitting and Watching) and General Echo (the dub-heavy Drunken Master).

Here too are the peerless Gregory Isaacs (Oh What a Feeling), the Viceroys (Heart Made of Stone) and Junior Delgado (Merry Go Round and Fort Augustus).

Sly gets his own track, the deep Hot Your Hot which has old school horns in the distance but foregrounds the synth drum and his kit on a simple dancefloor track held down by a solid and repeated bass line.

Unfortunately Black Uhuru's World is Africa (from their Sly'n'Robbie-produced Sinsemilla classic album) isn't included on the Spotify version of this album, replaced by Sheila Hylton's hit version of the Police's The Bed's Too Big Without You.

When this collection was released, reggae was in transition: righteous roots music was still represented (Black Uhuru), politics was still to the fore (notably in Britain with Misty in Roots, Steel Pulse and Linton Kwesi Johnson) and the great vocal groups like Culture carried on.

But coming in was dancehall and digital technology – which Sly'n'Robbie embraced – and they were changing the sound.

The grooves on this Taxi debut are still slow and loping as had been common in roots music in the Seventies, but in the production Sly'n'Robbie were in the vanguard of the change.

Check out Junior Delgado's Fort Augustus for the proof, it is the style of the mid Seventies hauled into a studio where the equipment was state-of-the-art for a new decade dawning.

Reggae was doin' fine after the death of Bob Marley.

.

Elsewhere occasionally revisits albums -- classics sometimes, but more often oddities or overlooked albums by major artists -- and you can find a number of them starting here

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   The Album Considered articles index

JEAN-PAUL BOURELLY: JUNGLE COWBOY, CONSIDERED (1987): His avant-gotta direction debut album

JEAN-PAUL BOURELLY: JUNGLE COWBOY, CONSIDERED (1987): His avant-gotta direction debut album

In an interview with Elsewhere some years ago, Vernon Reid of the seminal black rock band Living Colour observed that once they got through the door of the hierarchy of the white rock critical... > Read more

THE LOUVIN BROTHERS: SATAN IS REAL, CONSIDERED (1959): A slow waltz with the devil

THE LOUVIN BROTHERS: SATAN IS REAL, CONSIDERED (1959): A slow waltz with the devil

It's not strictly true that “You can't judge a book by its cover”. If the title is Sex, Strippers and Sleaze and the photo is of naked people cavorting in a dungeon then you can... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Henry Rollins: The power and the passion

Henry Rollins: The power and the passion

There are some musicians you don't want to meet. For me Neil Young is the never-again category for rudeness, and Henry Rollins just as matter of personal safety. He was a nice guy actually, but he... > Read more

Elsewhere Art . . . for Miles Davis in an Indo-jazz tribute

Elsewhere Art . . . for Miles Davis in an Indo-jazz tribute

By chance, some years ago I came across a three-record box set from 2007 ("audiophile collector's edition" no less) entitled Miles From India: A Celebration of the Music of Miles Davis.... > Read more