Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 4/12/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #658:

The Congos – Heart of the Congos

Considered to be dub producer genius Lee “Scratch” Perry’s finest hour, this 1977 roots reggae classic was reissued as a double cd in 1993 along with a handful of rare, consistently excellent, absolutely psychedelic dub versions of original album tracks. The harmony trio’s lead singer Cedric Myton’s falsetto soars over the oldschool backing unit, including Boris Gardiner on bass and Ernie Ranglin on guitar, as Perry moves one instrument and then another through the mix, twisting and turning them inside out, sometimes breaking it down to just the drums or the bass, everything drenched in reverb. The songs run the gamut: from the remake of the old mento song Fisherman (complete with a basso profundo shout-out to a local herb dealer); the hypnotic chant Congoman; the gospel-influenced Open Up the Gate, Sodom and Gomorrow and Can’t Come In; the sufferahs’ anthems La La Bam Bam (Jamaican patwa for “clusterfuck”) and Children Crying; and the Rasta anthems Ark of the Covenant, Solid Foundation and At the Feast. Here’s a random torrent.

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April 11, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, reggae music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review from the Archives: The Congos and Toots and the Maytals at Tramps, NYC 6/12/97

[Editor’s note – when we first started this blog, we weren’t overwhelmed with album submissions and invitations to seemingly every show in town. Since we’d inherited a book of literally over a thousand reviews of New York concerts from over the years, most of them previously unpublished, from our predecessor e-zine, we’d put one up when we didn’t have anything new to report. With apologies to all the artists – over three dozen of you – whose excellent albums remain in the queue waiting for some attention, we return to a feature we hope to revisit now and again in the future. For those of you who’ve been pushing us to continue to put these up, thanks for sticking to your guns: the squeaky wheel always gets the grease]

Seems all the yuppie pupppies who didn’t make it uptown to the Matt Murphy show at Manny’s all showed up here tonight: I was finally edged out of my shaft of AC by a pack of drunken amateurs who acted as if I didn’t exist. A leering posse of fratboys persuaded a couple of shy but increasingly drunk girls to indulge them in body shots (how you drink tequila out of a girl’s bellybutton when she’s standing upright is a new frontier that physics hasn’t figured out yet). That aside, the somewhat reformed Congos (frontman Cedric Myton, minus the two original harmony singers) gave a powerful performance that was, as it turned out, impossible to follow. Myton was joined this time out by two women singing backup, creating some hauntingly delicious harmonies that faithfully replicated the sound the legendary roots reggae group achieved on their cult classic album Heart of the Congos. Although the synth player’s horn setting went out of tune on one song, this wasn’t a problem for the rest of the show. Most of the material drew from that legendary album, including Ark of the Covenant, At the Feast (a showcase for Myton’s soaring falsetto, which is as vital as it was twenty years ago) and the last song (an encore which they went into again after Rockers TV host “Rootsman” Earl Chin got the audience to howl for them), Fisherman. Which, surprisingly, actually wasn’t as good as the rest of their stuff  – although the part about the dealer with “the best collie weed in town” went over well.

Toots and the Maytals followed, playing to the crowd, or so they thought. Toots: “Are there any people from Jamaica out there?”

Silence.

But the fratboys had come to party, and Toots delivered. It’s been thirty years since 54-46 Was My Number, since Toots Hibbert – the Jamaican James Brown – did jail time for weed possession, and it’s amazing how he keeps his set as fresh as he does, considering how they play the same songs night after night to (in this country at least) a mostly white audience that has no concept of the circumstances under which they were created.  With horn section, keys, lead guitar and their irrepressible frontman, they made their way through actually inspired, sometimes ten-minute jams on classics like the joyous Pressure Drop, the bouncy Time Tough and Get Up, Stand Up, a brooding epic on record but an endless minor-key dance vamp here. As good as most of the band was, the weak link was the lead guitarist, whose garish metal solos only detracted from the songs’ hypnotic energy (Toots really needs to deep-six that guy). Meanwhile, Toots gyrated, spun and exhorted the crowd to sing along, and they complied (fratboys are a subservient lot). Take Me Home Country Roads was better than the execrable John Denver original, but when they followed that with Louie Louie, after an hour’s worth of bouncing, it was time to concede the battle for the shaft of air conditioning, head out into the heat and hit Twin Donut for an after-show snack.

June 12, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment