Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What I've Been Listening To

I'm back on a reggae kick after a few months of not listening to much reggae at all. I'm not sure what motivates these changes in the music I want to listen to. What does it say about my state of mind that I mostly want to listen to seventies dancehall and roots reggae? As always, it's a slippery slope to go down, because there are literally thousands of records from that era, which means a lot of gems to uncover. I downloaded Prince Alla's Only Love Can Conquer, which is great roots music.

I was sick two weeks ago, and had a sick dream in which Amoeba closed. That dream made me want to give the ailing record store some of my hard-earned scratch before it goes the way of 8-tracks and affordable health care. I bought the Abyssinian's Satta Massanga Deluxe Edition, which collects their debut album (which was not originally called Satta Massanga) and some other tracks. "Satta Massanga" the song was a massive hit, and has been called reggae's national anthem. They were essentially a Rastafari gospel group, and most of their songs are heavily religious and practically sacred. Most reggae artists in the seventies were Rastafarian, but the Abyssinians were the real deal. To be honest, I'm not a fan of "Satta Massanga," but the rest of the album is pretty good, mellow reggae. I'm actually not a massive fan of this vocal group style of reggae. I've had trouble really getting into the Congos, Culture, and Burning Spear for the same reason. Something about the vocal harmonies doesn't quite sit with me. Not to say they aren't geniuses, just that they aren't quite my thing.

What I'm more excited about is far less noble: dancehall. Basically, a dude chatting over a version of an album, usually in a patios that is totally incomprehensible and dropping references I wouldn't understand anyways. One of my favorites is General Echo, one of the original 70s DJs. I came across an album he did as Ranking Slackness called, appropriately, The Slackest LP. "Slackness" means dirty talk, and in the 80s and 90s this came to mean the dancehall equivalent of x-rated gangsta rap. In the seventies, it was more like songs about seeing your dad naked in the bathroom. It's potty humor to the extreme, super childish but also funny in a stupid way. I got a collection of his non-slack reggae called Teacher Fi De Class which is pretty great.

I've also been going back to Jessica Lea Mayfield's Tell Me, which has some incredible moments, and TV on the Radio's 9 Types of Light. Both are really heartbreaking and sad.

Speaking of, Gil Scott-Heron died this weekend. He was sixty-two. He had been struggling with drug addiction for years, and it got the best of him. Sad end to a great musician.

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