This is the debut solo album by London reggae artist Gappy Ranks, who first made a name for himself as part of the dancehall group Suncycle. On his solo album, he veers away from the hip hop-influenced dancehall of Suncycle, looking instead to rocksteady and early reggae.
Retro is the name of the game: the cover of the album evokes mid-sixties British ska, Gappy covers songs by Bob Marley and Tenor Saw, and recycles Treasure Isle riddims on several tracks. Just as many contemporary R&B singers are referencing and reworking classic sixties soul, Gappy is referencing and reworking reggae and rocksteady from the late sixties and early seventies.
The key to the sound of Put The Stereo On are the producers, the Peckings. The Peckings are Chris, Duke and Trevor Price, sons of British reggae pioneer George Price, aka Peckings. The Peckings contemporary take on old school sounds shows that they share a love for the music that their father so tirelessly promoted.
The songs range from the mellow skank and cultural lyrics of “Mountain Top” and the serious dread of “So Lost” to the more modern sounds of “A Little Understanding.” The mix of classic reggae sounds and riddims with modern production techniques and lyrics works perfectly on “Pumpkin Belly” and the title track. The analog riddims are beefed up with modern bass and drums, and Gappy’s commanding voice reminds you that this is the 2010s, not the 1970s.
Unfortunately, the Peckings try to make Gappy sound too contemporary, often running his voice through Auto-Tune. The robotic effect clashes with the classic riddims, and killed a couple of the songs for me. “Happiest Day of My Life” would be a much, much stronger song if Gappy didn’t sound like an underwater Cylon over the bright rocksteady riddim. His voice sounds better when the Auto-Tune is either not used or used sparingly.
Even with the unfortunate overuse of vocal effects, Put The Stereo On is a strong album. I loved the mix of old and new sounds, and the way Gappy and the Peckings put a fresh spin on 60s and 70s reggae and rocksteady. Not all of the songs worked, but those that did were pretty brilliant.