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7", 10" & 12" Single Reviews

Fisherman 7" series (Blood and Fire)

For those who discovered reggae in the 1990s, Blood & Fire’s re-issue of the Perry classic Heart Of The Congos was a real ‘eye teeth’ LP. The heavily processed drum motif at the start of the first track, Row Fisherman Row is perhaps one of the most recognized roots intros of all time, and Blood & Fire’s latest project is a series of 12 cuts on the rhythm (spread across 6 45s) as a run-up to the release of their Fisherman style CD at the end of the month.

So how do they compare with each other? The Congos - Fisherman (Edit) is just that – a 7” edit of the album track - and really needs no introduction. If you don’t want to pay the silly money being thrown around for the original single on ebay and the like, I would strongly suggest adding it to your collection right now.

The flipside Big Youth - Feed A Nation finds Jah Youth on excitable form with a lively chant on the merits of sustainable development (!) that is one of the stand-out tracks of the series. Max Romeo – Give Praises is a somewhat ‘off the cuff’ sounding insight into Max’s Rasta convictions that impresses more as a spiritual than a musical statement, while spirituality and consciousness are still the focus on the other side for veteran chanter Prince Jazzbo who excels on Live Good Today.

Next up it’s Horace Andy with an anti violence message on Love Love Love. Again the vocal has an improvised quality but Horace’s honeyed voice is on particularly fine form here. Flip it over for another stand-out track, a brilliantly moody sax piece from Jamaican jazz and roots genius Dean Fraser on the aptly titled Fisherman’s Anthem.

Like Horace Andy, Mykal Rose demonstrates how well his voice has held up and matured over the years on Let Your Love, and on the other side we get a break from serious issues with Jig Jig Jig; a nice piece of stream-of-consciousness chat by Early One, calling to mind the best of Yellowman (and naming lots of types of fish into the bargain).

The most pleasant surprise of the series is the inclusion of the mighty Lutan Fyah, for if any one singer of today embodies the spirit of the classic roots era enshrined here, it’s he. Whitewash Walls is a classic Fyah call to arms, packed with the usual rich lyrical imagery. Why this man isn’t an international superstar by now is anyone’s guess. On the flip we have another chant: Make Poverty History by Country Culture whose laidback delivery and singing style combine with a worthy ‘Band Aid’ type message.

The sixth disc features another son of the golden age, Luciano, with a lyrical and vocal tribute to Dennis Brown on Going Home, and finally, the title track of the forthcoming CD, Fisherman Style by U Roy; giving the rhythm respectful space and reminding us why he is the missing link between the scat singers of the jazz era before him and the ‘nonsense chat’ dancehall MCs that followed.

Over such a seminal rhythm, none of these versions can be regarded as anything less than successful. But the winners are Big Youth, U Roy, Dean Fraser and Lutan Fyah, with honourable mentions for the rest. Completist nerds (like myself) will, of course, buy them all.

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