Archive for Joe Higgs

Joe Higgs – Unity Is Power (1979)

Posted in Joe Higgs, Rocksteady, Ska with tags , , on April 16, 2014 by 1960s: Days of Rage

“Deeply respected but largely unknown reggae mastermind Joe Higgs was a silent force helping to guide the shape of Jamaican music throughout some of its most fruitful periods in the ’60s and ’70s, working as a songwriter for superstar acts like Toots & the Maytals and as a vocal coach and guitar instructor for Bob Marley, and even filling in with the Wailers on their first American tour. His influential presence never equated to commercial success with his own musical career, but the efforts of said career left behind a handful of incredibly strong solo records, the second of which was 1979’s Unity Is Power. Coming from a background that saw both the roots of ska as well as the evolution of rocksteady and what became roots reggae, Higgs incorporates all the various facets of his musical personality into this remarkably colorful album, injecting his rich reggae tapestry with elements of soca, American soul, and rock & roll. The set kicks off with the jubilant ‘Devotion.’ This is a chart-topper in some alternate universe, with its joyfully melodic reggae backbone driven by skanking guitar and curiously busy boogie-woogie piano. Ska-tinged horn sections back up Higgs’ rich baritone, and the hopefully downtrodden character of the song casts Higgs as a Jamaican take on the ghetto consciousness of Curtis Mayfield. The midtempo rock & roll simmer of the title track enforces this comparison as well, with dazzling backing vocals and mournful guitar soloing adding flair to the song’s message of struggle and hope for better days. Tracks like this and ‘Love Can’t Be Wrong’ are in line with the late-’70s love affair between reggae artists and rock bands, mirroring Peter Tosh’s associations with the Rolling Stones that were happening around the same time Unity Is Power was put to tape. Standout tracks are bountiful here, with melancholy rocksteady tunes like ‘Think of the Moment’ butting up against politically empowering slow-burners like ‘Sons of Garvey.’ Higgs tutored a young Jimmy Cliff, and some of the vocal inflections and phrasing on these songs give rise to the question of who influenced whom, especially in their more emphatic moments. Stylistically varied without losing too much focus, Unity Is Power is a rich and celebratory album that showcases Higgs’ numerous talents as a songwriter, arranger, vocalist, and reggae innovator. His is a name and story known mostly by die-hard reggae heads, but albums like this are strong enough to be picked up on by even casual reggae listeners.”

YouTube: Unity is Power, Vineyard, Devotion, One Man Kutchie, Neither Gold Nor Silver, Sons Of Garvey, (Sadness Is a) Part of My Heart

No Bones for the Dogs: Dubs From 1974-79

Posted in Dub, Errol Thompson, Joe Higgs with tags , , on May 3, 2013 by 1960s: Days of Rage

“This record colors in a vital gap in the catalog of the legendary reggae mastermind Joe Gibbs. Specifically, this is the first compilation to succinctly sum up the work of Gibbs with his legendary partner Errol Thompson. Together, Thompson and Gibbs moved the sound of their label from the gimmicky beeps and crashes of the African Dub series toward a harder, more streetwise sound. This is ghetto music, as hard and uncompromising as anything that’s erupted from the Bronx or Hell’s Kitchen. This is also an excellent second or third purchase for those just diving into dub. This stuff doesn’t have the murk of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s sets or the rolling religious thunder of King Tubby’s best work; this is music with little agenda beyond being the toughest it can be, all sharp edges and striding swagger. Like a lot of dub comps, some of the grooves will be familiar to the initiated, but most of this stuff is fairly rare and the selection and ordering here are impeccable.”

YouTube: I Stand Accused, Six Foot Six, Burning Version, Give it to Jah, The Road Is Rough, Informer Version

Roots Rock Reggae (1977)

Posted in Bob Marley and the Wailers, Inner Circle, Jimmy Cliff, Joe Higgs, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Robbie Shakespeare, Ska, Sly Dunbar, The Black Ark, The Mighty Diamonds, The Upsetters, Third World, U-Roy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2013 by 1960s: Days of Rage

“‘Roots Rock Reggae’ depicts an unforgettable moment in Jamaica’s history when music defined the island’s struggles and immortalised its heroes. Director Jeremy Marre films Bob Marley and the Wailers, and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry record in his legendary Black Ark studio with The Upsetters. Jimmy Cliff rehearses with Sly and Robbie, while Inner Circle’s historic live gig is recorded on the violent Kingston streets. The legendary Abyssinians harmonise their haunting Rastafarian songs; Joe Higgs (formerly Bob Marley’s teacher) plays and talks; majestic toaster U Roy raps alongside The Mighty Diamonds, and Third World record in a Kingston studio. There is also early archive footage of Toots and the Maytals, and Haile Selessie’s royal visit to Jamaica while police and thieves battle it out on the streets, and the ghettos erupt in violence.”
YouTube: Roots Rock Reggae

Silford Walker – Burn Babylon / Burning Version (1976)

Posted in Dub, Joe Higgs, Robbie Shakespeare, Silford Walker with tags , , , on March 20, 2013 by 1960s: Days of Rage

YouTube: Burn Babylon, Burning Version

Two Sevens Clash – Culture (1977)

Posted in Culture, Dub, Joe Higgs, Marcus Garvey, Rastafarians with tags , , , , on January 15, 2013 by 1960s: Days of Rage

Two Sevens Clash is the debut album by roots reggae band Culture, recorded with producer Joe Gibbs at his own Joe Gibbs Recording Studio in Kingston in 1976, and released on Gibbs’ eponymous label in 1977 (see 1977 in music). The album’s title is a reference to the date of July 7, 1977. Hill said ‘Two Sevens Clash,’ Culture’s most influential record, was based on a prediction by Marcus Garvey, who said there would be chaos on July 7, 1977, when the ‘sevens’ met. With its apocalyptic message, the song created a stir in his Caribbean homeland and many Jamaican businesses and schools shuttered their doors for the day.”

“One of the masterpieces of the roots era, no album better defines its time and place than Two Sevens Clash, which encompasses both the religious fervor of its day and the rich sounds of contemporary Jamaica. Avowed Rastafarians, Culture had formed in 1976, and cut two singles before beginning work on their debut album with producers the Mighty Two (aka Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson). Their second single, ‘Two Sevens Clash,’ would title the album and provide its focal point. The song swept across the island like a wildfire, its power fed by the apocalyptic fever that held the island in its clutches throughout late 1976 and into 1977. (Rastafarians believed the apocalypse would begin when the two sevens clashed, with July 7, 1977, when the four sevens clashed, the most fearsome date of concern.) However, the song itself was fearless, celebrating the impending apocalypse, while simultaneously reminding listeners of a series of prophesies by Marcus Garvey and twinning them to the island’s current state. For those of true faith, the end of the world did not spell doom, but release from the misery of life into the eternal and heavenly arms of Jah. Thus, Clash is filled with a sense of joy mixed with deep spirituality, and a belief that historical injustice was soon to be righted. The music, provided by the Revolutionaries, perfectly complements the lyrics’ ultimate optimism, and is quite distinct from most dread albums of the period.”

“For all its Biblical heft– the title was taken from a Marcus Garvey prophecy about chaos erupting on 7/7/77— Culture’s reggae classic Two Sevens Clash, like Funkadelic or gospel, took suffering as a means for uplift. Re-sequenced from its original running order, this 30th Anniversary Edition opens with ‘I’m Alone in the Wilderness’, which singer Joseph Hill does appear to be, for about 20 seconds. The minor key screws up to major, and the second time Hill claims solitude, he’s joined by Albert Walker and Kenneth Dayes; Robbie Shakespeare’s guitar nods in repose with the rootsiness of a Band record; wet organs drone in the background; an electric piano punctuates Hill’s exultations; Sly Dunbar clacks along on drums like their bejeweled rickshaw.”

YouTube: Calling Rastafari, I’m Alone In The Wilderness, Pirate Days, Two Sevens Clash, I’m Not Ashamed, Get Ready To Ride The Lion To Zion, Black Starliner Must Come, See Them A Come, Natty Dread Taking Over, Not Ashamed Dub

I’m not ashamed (Live)