Morgan Heritage deliver the fruits of their success following their historic Grammy win in February 2016 for ‘Strictly Roots’ with a follow up album worthy of it’s magical title ‘Avrakedabra’. Previewed to the world in February 2017 in the form of a mini video documentary, Peetah told fans.
“This album Avrakedabra was recorded in Africa, Europe, United States, Japan, Jamaica, several different continents……recording like that, just setting up anywhere where we get a chance it’s always a joyful vibe for us because we grew up in an area where you had to go to a studio and record on a 2” tape and set up everything in the studio…. When the inspiration hits we just record”.
I first heard of this new group called Morgan Heritage way back in 1995 on a mighty recut of the‘Heathen’ rhythm –the song was called ‘Protect Us Jah’ and I have closely followed their journey ever since.
Opening the 15 track album is ‘Want Some More’ featuring Mr Talkbox (the famed computerized voice featured on Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic). A fine introduction to the album with a laid back one drop rhythm with a call for ‘more reggae’ and ‘reggae rockers in your bones’ in a similar vein to reggae classics of yesteryear such as ‘Trenchtown Rock’.
The Marley connection is in full force for ‘One Family’ with multi-Grammy Award-winning Ziggy Marley and Stephen Marley sharing vocal duties with Peetah and Gramps …….
‘Avrakedabra’ is the 11th studio album and features a wide host of guests (possibly more than any of their previous studio albums) and the upbeat ‘Reggae Night’ features Dre Zion on a song perfect for a warm summer’s day. Dre Zion is actually a keyboardist in the band and is a superb cover of the legendary Jimmy Cliff song originally recorded in 1983. The vocals were recorded in a hotel in Zimbabwe and shows how much the recording industry has changed since the 1990’s making music more accessible utilising modern technology. Whilst the rhythm is lively and upbeat, and the lyrical content has sing-a-long appeal which will become the soundtrack to the summer it’s not my favourite song. A Global Remix featuring Chubb Rock, Stylo G, Bunji Garlin, Stonebwoy, Jaheil, Timaya, Drezion adds to the international flavour of the album.
“They want us to stay blind as a bat while they move sly as a fox, dat dem want” opens up the mighty Selah on a distinctive Winta James ‘Overstand Entertainment’ production –hard hitting yet powerful vocals exemplifying the beauty of planet Earth that we all live on. The accompanying music video shot on locations across the world complements the sentiments of the song.
Dre Island and Kabaka Pyramid join the royal family of reggae for ‘We Are’ on a futuristic sounding rhythm produced by Llamar “Riff Raff” Brown & Morgan Heritage. When the term “Reggae Revival” was first suggested by author Dutty Bookman in November 2011 few would have thought how much controversy this ‘label’ would have had on artists who were making waves on the local and international roots music circuit including Dre Island and Kabaka Pyramid. The truth is, roots music has always been there and never died and taking a listen to any of Morgan Heritage’s previous 10 studio albums will cement this opinion instantly. Great to see a bridge between some of reggae music’s future stars –a meeting of the old and new.
Moving from future stars to ‘Tribute To Ruggs’ which features the vocals of Bunny Rugs -lead vocalist of internationally acclaimed Jamaican band Third World and is a fitting tribute to an artist that has paved the way for so many great artists and musicians in Jamaica until the time of his passing in February 2014.
To date, this is the most diverse album from Morgan Heritage released on their own ‘Cool To Be Conscious’ label featuring influences ranging from pop, rock, country, hip-hop, electronica and EDM. The vocals for the album were laid down in different parts of the world and perhaps inspired by events at the time whilst touring and the overall result lacks the magic of previous albums. Exploring new boundaries can only be looked upon in a positive way and songs such as ‘Dream Girl’ and ‘Pineapple Wine’ are fine examples of Caribbean pop but unlikely to appeal to the bands international followers that have grown up on their rootsy one drop offerings of the past with thought provoking, hard hitting reality lyrics and themes. Overall, a well produced album expanding boundaries that will surely appeal to a wider listenership worldwide which could benefit from some more ‘roots’.