GHETTO ARC PRESENTS SERIOUS TIMES (Ghetto Arc/XL Recordings) Rating: NNNN
This is a serious compilation of some of dancehall reggae's more left-field hits, many of which surfaced on North American shores only in the form of rare 45s in Brooklyn mom-and-pop stores. Serious Times conveys the humid energy of Jamaica's culture with a thick, heavy group of tracks. You'll catch contact from this collection, featuring Jamrock legends like Sizzla and Richie Spice in and among lesser-known performers. The audio's coarse analog texture only adds character to a non-violent stack of singles that celebrate a refreshing variety of aspects of Jamaican culture (the mountain, the market, the marijuana). Gravel-voiced, soul-saturated tracks like Turbulence's Notorious and Jah Mason & Simpleman's Rolling are almost criminally uplifting.
MICHAEL ROSE Warrior (M) Rating: NNNN
Since Michael Rose mysteriously left Black Uhuru at the peak of their international popularity in 1985 to set up a coffee farm in Jamaica's Blue Mountains, it's been a struggle for the charismatic singer to re-establish his music career. Hooking up with Netherlands-based reggae outpost M Records has been a blessing for Rose, who's been getting back on the righteous roots path with the help of producer Ryan Moore of Twilight Circus fame. The new Warrior album recorded in Jamaica, London and the Netherlands revisits the stripped-down sound of Black Uhuru's 1981 classic Red album thanks largely to Moore's guidance and the participation of old-school studio hands Sly Dunbar, Dean Fraser, Norman Grant, Skully Simms and Chinna Smith. It should clear up any doubts about whether last year's great African Roots set was a one-off fluke. Rose is definitely back in action.
YABBY YOU Deliver Me From My Enemies (Blood & Fire) Rating: NNNN
A companion to Blood & Fire's great Jesus Dread two-disc set which brought together Yabby You's mid-70s conscious reggae classics Conquering Lion and Walls Of Jerusalem Deliver Me From My Enemies collects material from around the same time. So while it still has a deep roots vibe, there are growing signs of some dancehall aspirations amongst all the righteous dreadlocks spirituality and Babylon-burning. Once again, reissue producer Steve Barrow does an exemplary job of tracking down the right dubs and rare 12-inch mixes benefiting here from the voices of Trinity and Tony Tuff with informative running commentary from Vivian Jackson himself for a mighty fine set of golden era roots reggae.