Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Black Uhuru “Red” (Produced by Sly & Robbie) Mango Records 1981 Reggae (100 Best Albums of the Eighties Rolling Stone)


Black Uhuru “Red” (Produced by Sly & Robbie) Mango Records 1981 Reggae (100 Best Albums of the Eighties Rolling Stone)
Black Uhuru “Sponji Reggae” 1981 (HQ) on google+
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1981 is considered to be a bad year for reggae and its obvious why. Bob Marley the famous reggae singer/songwriter passed away in 1981, so basically the genres only well known figure is now dead. Coincidentally the most iconic and well known reggae artist suddenly passes away in the same month that Black Uhuru release their most critically acclaimed album Red. While Red wasn�t even close to being as popular as anything that Marley released it is still one of the strongest reggae albums released in the early 80’s. 

Red is a very diverse and colorful record. Pianos, flutes, synthesizers, electronic drums, guitars, and brass instruments are all found throughout the course of the album. The record opens up with Youth of Eglington, a shimmery, vibrant tune. There is actually a lot going on musically, grand piano chords play over a sleazy flute line and of course the classic reggae guitar riff is also playing. Lead singer Derrick Simpson sings through all of this, his slurred tone and Jamaican accent gives the music a heavy Carribean atmosphere making the song a definitive highlight . Spongji Reggae is another track that incorporates numerous instruments into the music. A synthesizer twinkle plays frequently over a sandy beat, the production makes it seem like Black Uhuru are playing right in front of your eyes. This is easily the kinkiest song off of Red and it even wants to make me get up and do a little jig. 

Utterance has to be the most soul influenced song off the album. Simpson is accompanied by an array of sublime female vocalists that sing in between the groovy guitar licks creating a gospel and religious type of feel. The most noticeable part of the song would have to be the slick guitar playing, it�s the best off of the album. Carbine has a slightly different approach from the rest of these songs. It has a slow, steady beat played over a mellow guitar riff. The focus of the song would definitely be the chorus were Simpson and some women vocalists wail out undecipherable words about freedom. Black Uhuru really nail the Jamaican atmosphere with this song. The highlight of Red has to be the closer, Trodding. A deep, lazy bassline plays over dub effects and piano chords. Snazzy guitar rhythms take over throughout the middle of the song and instrumentally this is the strongest track off the album. 

While this is an excellent record there are two songs that pail in comparison to the rest of the album. Puff She Puff is your run of the mill reggae tune, the monotonous guitar riff plays over Derricks strong vocals but the problem is that the song clocks in at five minutes long and it tends to get boring and tedious after a while. Rockstone follows Puff She Puff and is another lackluster song. It features another typical reggae melody with the basic guitar line that is repeated throughout the whole song. This stretch of the album shows that reggae music can get repetitive as these two tracks are both stripped down and basic. 

Instead of playing the same song over and over Black Uhuru mix in crafty elements of soul and funk into their reggae roots. Some reggae fanatics consider Red to be a classic, but I strongly disagree. While it contains some key tracks and groovy instrumentation it�s nothing mindblowing, yet it�s still good. If you�re seeking some laid-back and relaxing reggae this wouldn�t be a bad choice yet the atmosphere is animated and peppy. There are some occasional parts were the music will get relaxing but for the most part it stays upbeat. Despite its lifeless mid-section Red will please anyone who is looking for some loveable reggae music that will get you off your feet….by..zebra…sputnik….~


By 1979 the ‘classic’ line up of Black Uhuru was ready to conquer the world. Derek “Duckie” Simpson and Michael Rose, who had been together with Errol Nelson since 1977 now formed a partnership with American social worker, Sandra “Puma” Jones. It was her sweet vocal addition to the heady mix that was to prove the turning point. 
In the early '80s if you wanted both critical and popular approval in the the dancehalls, there was only one rhythm team you needed to call to get your skank on: Sly and Robbie. It was Shakespeare and Dunbar who had sat behind the desk of the band’s previous (breakthrough) album, Sinsemillia. In truth, Red, coming only eight months after serves up the same sunshiney mix of roots vibrations and electronic gadgetry. 
It’s a fairly irresistible mix of radical politics (Youth Of Eglington, Carbine) and positive fun (Sponji Reggae) all topped off with Rasta spirituality (Utterance) and good humour (Puff She Puff). Michael Rose’s voice is a distinctive wail that delivers the mid-tempo numbers with conviction. Together the trio make the last stand for roots culture. Following this reggae was to take a dramatic swerve into ragga and dancehall, and such righteous fare was suddenly outmoded. 
Yet, for a time they were THE name to drop, whether you were in Brixton or Brighton, even garnering a support slot with the Rolling Stones on a world tour. And while they continued to be a top draw for many years (a version of the band still exists), Red remains the peak of their back catalogue…..Chris Jones…BBC review…~


The sophomore release from the third and most successful incarnation of Black Uhuru (singers Don Carlos, Erroll “Jay” Wilson, and Rudolph “Garth” Dennis had come before), Red spotlights the singing talents of then rising star Michael Rose, American-born Sandra “Puma” Jones, and original member Derrick “Duckie” Simpson. Backed by the tight and dancehall-era defining Sly & Robbie band, the trio reels off eight high-quality reggae cuts here, including classics like “Youth of Eglington” and “Sponji Reggae.” Filled with Rose’s astute lyrics, the album provides an engaging blend of steppers rhythms and social commentary. Sly & Robbie’s ingenious mix of sophisticated roots reggae and a variety of modern touches (synthesizers, electronic drums) not only brought Black Uhuru widespread fame but, along with Henry “Junjo” Lawes and Prince Jammy’s contemporary productions, also helped define the slicked-up last stand of roots rhythms in the first half of the '80s, while foreshadowing reggae’s coming digital age. A very enjoyable listen, recommended along with other fine offerings by the band like Chill Out and the Grammy-winning Anthem….. by Stephen Cook…allmusic……..~


Until the late eighties, only one foreign musical culture, Jamaica’s reggae and its antecedent ska, had managed to exert a major influence on rock & roll. With the passing of reggae’s primary architect and prophet, Bob Marley, the Kingston-based vocal trio Black Uhuru appeared poised to assume the mantle of reggae’s leadership. At a moment when the music was in critical need of a strong new voice, Black Uhuru’s finest album, Red, shone with all the musical intensity and political fervor of the Rastafarian movement. 

Black Uhuru, formed in 1974 by singers Derrick “Duckie” Simpson, Garth Dennis and Don Carlos, took its name from the Swahili word for freedom (uhuru) and cut a handful of Jamaican singles that failed to attract much attention. After several lineup changes, Black Uhuru solidified as a trio consisting of Simpson, fellow Kingstonite Michael Rose and American social worker turned performer Sandra “Puma” Jones. 

Along the way, Black Uhuru also replaced its original producer, Jamaican dub master Lee “Scratch” Perry, with the bass and drum battery of Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar. The thunderous drumming of Dunbar and heartbeat bass of Shakespeare were already earning them a reputation as one of the world’s finest rhythm sections. Black Uhuru’s first collaboration with them — which was also the first recording for Sly and Robbie’s Taxi Records label — caught the attention of Island Records president Chris Blackwell (the man who introduced Bob Marley and the Wailers to the world). The group made its debut on Mango/Island in 1980 with Sensimilla. On Red, released the following year, the propulsive, electronic sound of the band solidified. 

Red is a plea for cultural revolution and religious faith. From the opening “Youth of Eglington,” a call not to arms but to thought and clean living for Rastafarians, through the closing “Carbine,” which counsels patience to Rastas in the diaspora, Red strives to send a message of hope to a people in cultural exile. Along the way, Black Uhuru celebrates the naturalist and nationalist roots of its lifestyle. 

Despite critical raves for both Red and for Black Uhuru’s live shows, American audiences proved largely indifferent to a seemingly impenetrable foreign culture. The lack of success, coupled with business squabbles, led to the dissolution of what is considered Black Uhuru’s definitive lineup. “We’d be one of the strongest reggae bands ever if we could have avoided the jealousies,” says Simpson….Rolling Stone….~


Because it’s so praised, some folks seem to want to be contrary and say this is not Black Uhuru’s best album. They’re wrong; it is. Granted, other of the group’s fine albums are in the ballpark, but this one hits hardest. “Youth of Eglington” is a sparkling opener, and for a group that can sound a little samey, this song stands out. Rhythm aces Sly and Robbie are at the top of their game here, and the backing is essential to the album’s greatness. Of course, singer Michael Rose is afire, even on the many mid-tempo lopers that merely simmer. Few of these songs stand out as melodies, but as constructed and committed reggae songs they’re often quietly excellent. This very consistent album is almost as good as reggae gets….by….hudbannon…~


Very chillaxed album that is not only beginner friendly (I mean my experience with reggae prior was pretty much limited to Bob Marley) but it’s unique sounding and it’s one of those albums that most people should be able to really enjoy regardless of their taste. The lyrics are well written, and the songs sound so familiar even though they are entirely original. Another really interesting thing about this album is that they play a roots style of reggae, yet they use technology like synths and electronic drum work and it sounds fabulous. It’s wonderful how current and yet true their past this album is. You’ll nod your head, you’ll wish you had more reggae, and you’ll want to hear more from this band…what more do you need?….by…Goregirl ….~


A1|Youth of Eglington|5:01 5 
A2|Sponji Reggae|4:56 4.5 - 5 
A3|Sistren|4:33 4 - 4.25 
A4|Journey|5:23 4 

B1|Utterance|3:42 4.5 - 5 
B2|Puff She Puff|5:09 4 
B3|Rockstone|4:39 3 - 3.5 
B4|Carbine|6:05 3.5 - 4 

Side A: 17.75 - 18 4.47/5 89 - 90%: Exceptional; repeated listens demanded 
Side B: 15.5 - 16 3.94/5 78 - 80%: Solid; few major reservations 
Overall: 33.25 - 34 83 - 85%: Great; repeated listens suggested; BUY IT 

Better reggae supergroups are few and far between. Some of the dub influences are a little tacked on and it might jam on a little long but, that’s reggae. …….by…Nodima ….~


“Red” opens with the slightly jazzy “Youth of Eglington”, a kind of idea echo filtered through the island breezes to the Clash’s “Guns of Brixton”. It doesn’t stop delivering the rhythms and the deceptively smooth uncompromising messages until the last track “Carbine” is done. 

Sandra “Puma” Jones features backing throughout “Red”. She didn’t sing on the other and first Uhuru release I know, “Sinsemilla”. I don’t know if it’s her high voice, her presence, or something else, but Rose’s vocals on “Red” are earthier than on “Sinsemilla”, finding him crooning, wailing, almost talking, and then urging slightly-gravelly into the mic in an impassioned way that’s utterly captivating. he captivated me on “Sinsemilla”, too, this is just different. Edgier, and the music’s a bit more driven. A bit. 

Like “Sinsemilla”, “Red” is the kind of record I listen to from start to end. It has no filler, and while the moods shift, there’s an overall feel to it that seductively works its magic. I never want to skip ahead, and that’s a rare thing in a record. 

“Rockstone” (I don’t know if this is just me making connections) reminds me of the Clash again and their breaking rocks in the hot sun in “I Fought the Law” (which is a cover, itself). Slaves, prisoners, yeah. Quite different sounds, but related. But before you think I’m saying Black Uhuru are an Island Clash, no, I’m not. They’re Black Uhuru. 

“Utterance” is possibly the most understated anthem I’ve ever heard: …..by…Brevity …..~


Black Uhuru (“liberty” in Swahili) debuted almost when Marley was already history. That is why, generationally, if we had to choose an example of maturity and progression in Jamaican music, of overcoming the “age of innocence”, this would be the band and “Red” its most forceful work. 

Only eight themes: some are irresistible pelotazos and others, simply, imperishable classics (“Sponji Reggae”, with its bells, the trotona “Youth of Egglington”, the reflective “Journey”, the strangely mystical “Utterance” …) 

In the sound, with the help of a clairvoyant producer, Sly Dunbar, they reinforce their hypnotic capacity with a forceful but non-invasive rhythm box and with audacity as unexpected synthesizers. Marvel the vocal work of Michael Rose, also the author of the incisive social texts, with a special corporality contributed by the “second” voice of the American Sandra “Puma” Jones. 

“Red” also has its guest superstar, no less than Robbie Shakespeare, who does many things on the album but, above all, runs it from start to finish, as the core of his nervous system, with a bass that is authentic edible dub. Maybe too much meat and too much blood for stomachs numbed by the ingestion of contemporary anemic post-punk anemic: the one that does not dare to declare, because perhaps ignores, with arrogant arrogance, where some of its most effective resources come from.Long long ago 
They use to say 
Rastafari going around 
taking little children away 
But now tlme is at hand 
I and I know those 
saying was wrong 
And that Rasta let them 
know their homeland 
And seek their culture 

What a joy to hear the 
utterance from a Rasta……….by…khurcius ….~

Believe me, Michael Rose isn’t trying to fill anybody’s shoes–he’d probably rather not wear shoes. The ululation and ragged sense of line are pure country, like Jamaican field hollers; lots of times the songs don’t even rhyme. But “Youth of Eglington” lets you know right off that this is a country boy who reads the papers, and with Rose pouring forth and Sly and Robbie rolling that rockers riddim, you don’t really care that it never gets any better. ..Robert Christgau…~

Reggae music just does not get much better than this. Red features bedrock vibrating bass lines, massive chunky rhythms, and some of Michael Rose and Duckie Simpson’s most crucial lyrics. The Sly and Robbie production shapes a solid foundation over which the voices of Rose, Simpson, and Puma romp, implore, and call down brimstone and fire. They sing of militancy in “Youth of Eglington” and of adversity building character in “Sponji Reggae”; of enduring backbreaking work in “Rockstone” and of the simple joy of hearing a voice that you can relate to in “Utterance.” This is music with a serious edge that deals with the downtrodden, the dispossessed, and the exploited. But Black Uhuru also know how to play, to bring joy and respect, and to lift the spirit. It is a tough balance to maintain, but on Red, the group is more than equal to the task. –Jeff Grubb –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title……~ 
  For creativity & message, Uhuru matches the big boys; Marley, etc. even though there is a bit of a more serious and dire sound to their music and I would venture to say, probably the most intellectual sound of any reggae band.
Again, living in Third World Countries, much of this album, I feel like I am right there, in the heat of the mid-day: it is not as easy for me to write extensively on Uhuru as some other artists:
“Youth of Ellington” takes off from the beginning; one of those songs, one remembers right off; striking, remarkable: “Utterance of a Rasta” I believe is the next most memorable song; with an almost commercial more lighter side to the Uhuru; Duckie Simpson’s vocals adding much to that; “Carbine” has Sly Dunbar adding in some awesome percussion, the lyrics reflecting profound concern for society; and at the moment of my writing, calls to mind the present current events in Haiti. “Puff She Puff” is another grand song and might be likened to the other Uhuru song (on the live release “Tear it up” “Abortion.).
Indelibly left, on this, another Uhuru album, are the moments of spontaneity of the singing; something that sounds Afican, near ceremonial like, not discernible English; lending making them one of the more enchanting musical groups to listen to. This is not easy to describe; but you’ll know it when you hear it. Found notably on "Rockstone” and throughout the disc….amazon…~ 
  “REGGAE is not a thing you can just keep in a music category,” maintains Puma Jones, who is one of three singers in the leading Jamaican reggae group Black Uhuru.
Miss Jones’s assessment goes to the heart of reggae’s place in Jamaican culture. “It’s a spiritual thing, too.” Bob Marley, who had become the world’s best-known reggae artist before his death this year, was more than a leading pop songwriter and musical innovator; in Jamaica, he was looked up to as a spiritual and moral exemplar. And in reggae after Mr. Marley, the performers who come closest to living up to his dual role as entertainer and spiritual guide are Black Uhuru.
The group will be making a rare American appearance tonight (doors open at 9) at My Father’s Place in Roslyn, L.I. - tickets, $8; information: (516) 621-8700 - and tomorrow night at 8 at the Palladium, on 14th Street in Manhattan. Reggae’s leading rhythm section, the bassist Robbie Shakespeare and the drummer Sly Dunbar, who also produce Black Uhuru’s records, will be performing with them. Tickets for the Palladium show, $6.50 to $8.50, are available through Ticketron or at the box office (249-8870).
Reggae developed in the slum areas of Kingston and other Jamaican cities and towns, and the island’s urban poor have always been its core audience. Its lyrics decry racism and economic oppression, and its rhythms are derived from Afro-Jamaican folk sources. It is black music, but in the United States, the reggae audience has been predominately white. A number of reggae artists have tried to reach a sizable black audience in this country, and Bob Marley was beginning to succeed; shortly before he became too ill to perform, he opened a series of concerts, including one in Madison Square Garden, for the popular American funk band the Commodores. Black Uhuru has a substantial following among white reggae aficionados, but they are also reaching out to American blacks. Their Palladium show is being promoted by the influential black disk jockey Frankie Crocker.
English critics have called Black Uhuru’s music “hard” reggae. The lyrics are uncompromising, the singing is expressive and often chantlike, the rhythms are fluidly complex. Many observers see the group as building an impressive worldwide following with such hard music at a time when such reggae stars as Peter Tosh and Dennis Brown are watering down the music with borrowings from rock and disco. Black Uhuru’s coming European tour is completely sold out, and the group’s new album, “Red,” is high on the English best-seller charts. “Red” has attracted considerable attention and radio play in the United States, too. Part of the reason is the group’s vocal blend. Duckie Simpson, who founded Black Uhuru, and Michael Rose, who writes most of the songs, are strong, emotional singers, but the key element in the equation is Puma Jones, who was born in South Carolina and raised in Harlem and names the jazz vocalist Betty Carter as her favorite singer.

Miss Jones improvises easily, and the sound of her voice gives Black Uhuru’s three-part harmonies a distinctive richness and depth. For the most part, this blend is not the result of set arrangements. “We rehearse by ear, and once we start to sing there’s a feeling that comes,” says Duckie Simpson. “It’s not so organized; we don’t rely on that. I like it when the music sounds fresh.”

Michael Rose’s lyrics are as fresh as today’s headlines. In fact, “Youth of Eglinton,” the song that kicks off Black Uhuru’s “Red” album, warns of just the sort of urban violence that is now sweeping Britain. “The youths of Eglinton won’t put down their Remington,” the song begins (Eglinton Avenue is the main thoroughfare of Toronto’s West Indian community). The lyrics go on to address the youths of London’s Brixton district and of Brooklyn: The youth of Utica Avenue, they just can’t keep cool So much gun shot, some cripple, some turn fool. Despite their militant-sounding name, the members of Black Uhuru are against violence. “Youth of Eglinton” advises, “save your strength,” and the “Red” album closes with “Carbine,” a song that repeats the message “cool off, cool off.”

On a recent afternoon, Black Uhuru’s Duckie Simpson and Puma Jones cruised through Brooklyn’s East New York Jamaican community, past brick apartment buildings and restaurants advertising oxtail curries and blocks of chain-link fencing, in a limousine that had been hired by Island Records. Lister Hewan-Lowe, who was responsible for bringing the group to Island, directed the limousine’s somewhat nervous driver down Utica Avenue while the tape player blared “Rockstone,” a song from “Red.” The song describes Michael Rose’s experiences working construction jobs in Brooklyn, where he spends much of his time. “We down,” it says. “We are the slave.”

Outside a cut-rate clothing store, racks full of jump suits, jackets and slacks in Army khaki and camouflage patterns had been set up on the sidewalk. Many of the younger people on the street were wearing similar clothes; some had on Bob Marley T-shirts. The limousine pulled up outside Joe Gibbs Records, which is the Brooklyn outlet for a successful Jamaican record store. A Jamaican photographer who had come along for the afternoon began taking pictures of Mr. Simpson and Miss Jones outside the store, where a few children gathered to peer into the dark interior of the limousine. A van drove up and a stout Jamaican delivered a box of freshly pressed reggae singles. One was immediately played on the small store’s phonograph; like the broadside ballads of bygone days, reggae singles are best appreciated when they are brand new.

In the store’s back room, Puma Jones sat down behind a battered desk, balancing her two-year-old son, Jah Live, on her knees. It may seem curious that an American black woman with a degree in social work from Columbia has embraced Rastafarianism, the religion that is adhered to by most reggae musicians. Among other things, Rastafarianism teaches that women should serve their men and look after their homes; its tenets are not very compatible with feminism.

“A woman’s first commitment is to home,” Miss Jones says, “and to see that her man can step out in the world. When a daughter step out, she must step out in a firm situation.”

Miss Jones intended to live and work in Africa after she received her degree, but she was drawn to Jamaica, primarily by Bob Marley’s music. She stayed, she says, because “when I lived in South Carolina, and later in Harlem, I was always looking for a place where I would feel truly at home.”

“I visited Africa in 1975,” she continues, “but Africa is very far away, and when I was there, I didn’t quite understand how I could fit in. I knew when I got to Jamaica that I had reached home.”

Duckie Simpson recruited Miss Jones for Black Uhuru in 1978 after hearing her sing along with a Bob Marley record. He had founded Black Uhuru in 1974, and while there were personnel changes before Michael Rose and then Miss Jones joined, his vision of what the group should be remained the same.

“I always figured a group was more powerful than one man singing,” he says as he joins Miss Jones in the back room of Joe Gibbs Records. “If I traveled alone, I would have a hard time in Babylon.”

According to Rastafarians, Western civilization is inherently corrupt; it is Babylon, and those who succumb to its materialism fall from spiritual grace. To keep their minds on what they call “spiritual vibrations,” Rastafarians often smoke enormous amounts of marijuana, and this practice, along with their belief in the divinity of Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and their practice of wearing their hair in long, tangled braids called dreadlocks, makes them seem exotic to many Americans.

But most of Black Uhuru’s songs are straightforward pleas for equality and condemnations of racism and exploitation, with some specific, personal details thrown in; you don’t have to believe in Rastafarianism to understand their message.

“We get a white audience and a black audience already,” Ducky Simpson asserts, “and now more black Americans start to listen. In Europe and other places people listen, too. Reggae is international.” ….By ROBERT PALMER ….New York Times….~ 


Bass – Robert “Robbie” Basspeare* 
Drums, Electronic Drums [Syndrums] – Sly Dunbar 
Guitar [Lead] – Barry Reynolds, Ranchie McLean*, Mikey Chung, Dougie Bryan* 
Guitar [Rhythm] – Ranchie McLean*, Mikey Chung 
Percussion – Sticky Thompson* 
Piano – Keith Sterling, Robbie Lyn, Robert Shakespeare* 
Vocals – Duckie Simpson, Michael Rose, Puma* 









Recorded at Channel One Studio , Kingston & Compass Point Studio, Nassau, Bahamas. 

Tracklist 
Youth Of Eglington 5:00 
Sponji Reggae 4:56 
Sistren 4:34 
Journey 5:21 
Utterance 3:47 
Puff She Puff 5:08 
Rockstone 4:38 
Carbine 6:05 

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