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VARIOUS: Take Us Home: Boston Roots Reggae From 1979 To 1988

Take Us Home: Boston Roots Reggae From 1979 To 1988Most people probably won’t have pegged Boston, Mass. as a locus of quality roots reggae but for at least a decade from the late seventies onwards, it certainly was – as new Cultures Of Soul compilation, Take Us Home: Boston Roots Reggae From 1979 To 1988, decisively reveals. Turns out that not only was Boston digging reggae before 1979, it was digging it before Exodus boosted Bob Marley into the stratosphere in ’77. In fact, Boston was digging reggae as early as the 1973 release of Jimmy Cliff-featuring Jamaican gangster flick The Harder They Come which brought what was then the latest iteration of Jamaican off-the-beat rhythms to a global audience. A large student population soon turned the film into required cult viewing and the city became a place that not only welcomed reggae but started producing its own.

On this collection, that rootsy New England sound is represented by seventeen tracks taken from the discographies of six artists and acts – one from the I Tones, three from Danny Tucker, five from Zion Initiation, three from Healin’ Of The Nations, three from Lambsbread (arising phoenix-like from the ashes of proto-punk band Death) and two from Errol Strength. Content varies from that with major crossover pop appeal (the synth-drenched chords of Danny Tucker’s Changes, Lambsbread slowie Country Girl and Errol Strength closer Oh What A Saturday Night) to a more intensely spiritual riddim. For the latter, check out the dub-inflected rastafarian material of Zion Initiation which, for the most part, is very reminiscent of the sort of reggae tune Bad Brains used to knock out when they weren’t laying down thirty-second hardcore DC punk tracks. The one exception to this is their multi echo-laden Got To Love Jah Jah which pursues an unusually psychedelic sound and is one of the best cuts on the album. The absolute highlight however is the single I Tones track – opener – Love Is A Pleasure which despite an original release date of 1980 is a throwback to the early reggae of Jimmy Cliff’s soundtrack to The Harder They Come which came at a moment when Jamaican music was morphing from boss reggae into roots.
(Out 1 March on Cultures Of Soul)

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