From the heady opening until the skanking close, the Kingston All Stars’ self-titled release showcases the genre-spanning skills of a famed and still-impressive musical coalition.
Throughout the album, a blended balance of vocal and instrumental cuts helps convey a timeless atmosphere, while works featuring Prince Alla, Cedric Myton, and Rzee Jackson all shine brightly.
That reggae’s most famous Sly is involved should surprise no one, though the lineup of longtime session musicians – who have played on countless well-regarded recordings – is solid through and through: Sly Dunbar, Ansel Collins, Mikey “Mao” Chung, Linford “Hux” Brown, Jackie Jackson, Robbie Lyn, Mikey “Boo” Richards, and Everton & Everald Gayle. Check David Katz’ full liner notes for further details.
Billed as a reunion rather than a tribute to the past, the entire album definitely has a desirable vintage feel, slinking in on the melancholic “Tribute to Kebra Hi-Fi” as the dissonant sounds of the sixties sing of sweet surrender. While certainly steeped in rocksteady, nearly more than reggae, the opening calls of “Man on Board,” as well as the reuse of its pulsing riddim for “Beyond The Open Sea” make it apparent that the weight of roots is never far away.
The Ansel Collins-helmed “Just When” looks farther backwards to provide a counterpoint, before Jonsana’s “Rudeboy Wail” stands at the precipice of the dub chamber. Clearly favoring the classic tenor singing style throughout, emotive efforts by Cedric Myton – from the red, gold, and green pulpit – and personal favorite “Bossman Say,” which finds Rzee Jackson bearing bad financial news with an honest nobility obviously lacked by whomever should be handling the payroll: ‘I don’t need no war, nor your crime; so when I work for you, just give me what is mine.’
Via its opening, “Coasting” approaches the mystic by way of some intriguing instrumentation, before settling into a solid jazz-inflected groove. Then Prince Alla returns for “Jah Made It All,” an at times list-oriented homage to the most high. “Clav-A-Rock” brings the instrumental funk back, albeit rooted in a 60s style, before “Swing Back” arrives in another vintage fashion: hints of surf rock pair well with the horn lines and tight riddim section.
The finale, “Eastern Ska,” clearly pays tribute to the minor-chord stylings of many preceding tunes, and while there’s no melodica here the horns more than capably carry the melody atop a catchy skank. A fine ending to a fine album, one which is hopefully just the beginning of the Kingston All Stars project!
The Groove Thief
.the future of dub is the present.
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