Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Black Uhuru "Red + bonus tracks" (1983) [iTunes Link]

Arguably Black Uhuru's finest offering, RED was the band's sophomore effort on Island's Mango subsidiary, and crystallised their unique combination of contemporary sounds (including synthesizers and electronic drums), traditional roots reggae, and male/female trio vocals (with lead singer Michael Rose backed by Sandra "Puma" Jones, and Derrick "Duckie" Simpson). For a sound centred primarily on rhythm grooves, BlackUhuru's music is remarkably complex, and manages to sound both stripped down and fully fleshed out (there is a battery of interlocking instrumental parts at any given moment on the album). RED is greatly shaped by producers/rhythm section Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, though their production here is considerably cleaner and more streamlined than on RED's predecessor, SINSEMILLA. (Assistance from executive producer Chris Blackwell--the man largely responsible for the crossover success of Bob Marley's CATCH A FIRE--probably helped). Whether on the infectious bounce of "Sponji Reggae", or the trance-like "Sistren", RED is accessible but never poppy; it's serious and challenging, yet given to bright irresistible grooves. Black Uhuru contends for the post-Marley reggae crown, and this album is possibly the best example of what they do.

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