Review: ‘Take Us Home: Boston Roots Reggae From 1979 to 1988’

Well done to Noah Schaffer, Uchenna Ikonne and the Cultures of Soul for putting time, effort and other resources into this reggae-related ‘labour of love’, out of Boston, U.S.A.

The new release is comprised of 17 tip-top tracks from a variety of competent artists from the area’s roots reggae arena of the 1980s, including the I Tones, Danny Tucker, Zion Initiation, Healin’ of the Nations, Lambsbread and Errol Strength. In truth, had Boston-based music journalists/historians Schaffer and Ikonne not ‘gotten the finger out’, many of these artists and fine tracks would have evaporated into the ether. So ‘big thanks’ and ‘much respect’ are due to the Boston posse!

By Gerry McMahon

The album bears some similarities to the U.K.’s Sugar Shack label releases, who have also put much energy into releasing forgotten and rare reggae gems, albeit from the British Midlands. This Boston-based album opens with the I Tones’ sole contribution to the compilation, as it sets the tone with some serious offerings on the emotion we call ‘love’. This is followed by three tracks from the talented and considered Danny Tucker, with special mention and merit due to his opener, the ‘Take Us Home’ track, from which the album takes its name. The dated dimension of the collection is well reflected in this track though, as it harks back – with some dynamite drumming – to the Rastaman’s (frequently frustrated) aspiration to return to Africa/Zion, ‘where we will be free’. Next up come the explosive Zion Initiation, who well merit the inclusion of four of their tracks from the vaults. Tucker’s presence – as the lead singer and saxophonist with this group – is again apparent in both the message and the music. The bouncy and brilliant ‘Burning Fire’ track warrants special mention, for its considered lyrics, harmonies and overall musical merit. It’s sure fire to set you swaying. Indeed, their contribution to this musical combination could have been conceived and constructed yesterday, so contemporary is the quality-feel thereof. In fact, so good is their input here, that one can only reflect, yet again, that so much of life’s fortunes have as much to do with drive, timing and chance as they do with ability.

The Healin’ Of The Nations band then contribute three tracks, with mainly love-oriented messages set to some sweet sounds, with ‘Love Is The Answer’ especially ‘hitting the spot’. Thereafter Lambsbread kick in to maximum effect with four fine tracks looking at love from an array of angles. The same all-important theme features prominently in the final two tracks from Errol Strength, whose fine voice carries the collection to a climactic close, set to some sweet brass interjections.

An especially attractive feature of the release is its accompaniment by a whopping 32-page booklet that documents the rich and vast reggae history of the area, entailing in-depth analysis and eye-catching group photos, promotion posters and ticket stubs. Yet again, ‘hats off’ to Noah and his accomplices. Let’s hope that this release proves to be much more than a ‘labour of love’.


RELEASE DATE: March 1st, 2019