A potent piece of late 70s UK roots, “How Long Jah” is the reverse side of the first release from Misty In Roots’ own People Unite label, “See Them Come.”

Long a favorite of John Peel, the band is still performing, just like contemporaries Aswad and Steel Pulse. It’s important to note that this studio disco 12″ carries much more gravitas and weight than either the 1979 recording on Live at the Counter Eurovision, or the lighter, funkier, and shorter incarnation found on the 2002 Roots Controller album. While the vocals and rhythm remain generally the same, the teasing keys and horn blasts of the live cut are suppressed: the tune an eerie shell of its concert self. However, the bpm, brought down by at least twenty, combined with the strength of the bass are what really transform this into a meditational anthem.

The dissonant and haunting opening bars, asking ‘tribulations upon the land, can you feel it my brother?,’ begin a series of rhetorical ruminations. The refrained title nears mournful mantra, then the brief words between reveal the band’s underlying mindset: ‘there’s not a place on Earth for the human race, lord; nowhere man can be free from money, the controller.’

Time, nearly two minutes of instrumental jamming, is provided to think upon the complex societal effects stemming from the pursuit of wealth, led by a tough drum and bass combination. As the song starts to wind down, the chants hang in the air, delayed. But the melody, ominously moving between the foreground and background, ultimately provides a needed sense of optimism amidst the lingering dread.

For the curious – and it’s definitely also worth a listen – the front of the wax does feature an equally hypnotising key line direct from Rastavania, but then it successfully pairs an even more downtrodden vocal with a far funkier groove. The extended section brings a bit more of a dub approach, with a crash here and an echo there, but both sides of this release prefer to emphasize the sinister realities of humanity through groove and voice rather than rely too heavily on the engineering. Definitely out of print and lacking a digital re-release; happy hunting.


The Groove Thief
.the future of dub is the present.

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