Monday, November 10, 2008

Jamaica Funk: Original Jamaican Funk and Soul 45s (Soul Jazz, 2007)

We're lucky to have Soul Jazz, which covers a rather eclectic selection falling into my own musical taste - that area covering post-punk and new wave as well as reggae, disco, and funk - and they've given us such post-punk gems as The Sexual Life of the Savages and New York Noise, as well as various Studio One compilations and releases by personal favourites including Konk, ESG, Arthur Russell, Mantronix and A Certain Ratio. And that's just to name a few.

This particular compilation, which collects tracks from 1972-1978, falls into the basket of recent releases of Jamaican music from the 60s and 70s falling outside the traditional reggae canon (other notable works include Trojan's Work Your Soul and Blood & Fire's Darker Than Blue.

Like those releases, the tracks featured on Jamaica Funk aren't actually reggae-free, so to speak; there's a clear musical influence on most of these cuts, which are for the most part more closely wedded to the reggae tradition, and then to soul, than to, say, the funk of James Brown or George Clinton. There are some familiar names here (testifying to the diverse talents of Jamaican musicians): Augustus Pablo (with two instrumental cuts of 'Ain't No Sunshine,' a version of which also appears on Original Rockers), Derrick Harriott, The Heptones and Big Youth, among others.

Like other Soul Jazz releases, this is a very well put together selection, which flows nicely, dud-free, and an interesting range of sounds, showcasing this soul-funk-reggae fusion area. As Soul Jazz suggest, there's a three-way fusion of Jamaican, American and British trends in the work featured here which made itself felt both in the music musicians were listening to, and in the nature of emerging markets for the Jamaican sound in the UK and the US. Particular highlights are the moody instrumentals: Cedric Brooks' Silent Force, Winston Wright's Jam #1 and The Rebels' Rhodesia. I was also very taken by Sydney, George & Jackie's cover of perennial favourite Papa Was A Rolling Stone (while various other covers of funk and soul tunes are also in evidence). For a different slant on Jamaican popular music, uncovering connections which may not be obvious or well-documented; or, on the other hand, an excellent selection and construction of a bunch of funky reggae numbers; it's well worth your while taking a look, or rather, a listen.

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