21 August 2013

Max Romeo & The Upsetters - War Ina Babylon

It is random pick time ladies and gentlemen, thanks to Miles Hunt from the Wonderstuff and his purchase which he shared on his Facebook yesterday.  Until yesterday I have not knowingly heard anything by the artist in question, and it I like the cover, it is really iconic.  So with a certain amount of blindness I go into this album.  Bit of background on the record, 'War ina Babylon' is an album by Max Romeo and Lee Perry's backing band The Upsetters, released in 1976.  Along with The Heptones' 'Party Time' and Junior Murvin's 'Police and Thieves', both released in 1977, this album is a part of what is referred to as Lee "Scratch" Perry-produced Black Ark "holy trinity" and this was released on Island records.  This album has had great praised and has also been sampled in dance music for years, the most famous of which is "Chase The Devil" which was sampled by The Prodigy on their hit "Out Of Space.

Now this is not your sugar coated pop reggae, this is the real deal here.  This album is as laid back as one can get without having help of an herbal variety.  It is full of passion and drive - this is a protest album in places.  On the track "Stealing In The Name Of Jah" Max talks about people stealing from his people, but for the protest there is also a wish for inner peace that soaks every part of this record.  "Chase The Devil" has a groove that talks to the soul and it talks about chasing the devil from these shores forever. There is also fun on this album, "Smokey Room" talks about weed, dancing and the smokey rooms that the band were performing to at the time. This is played with effortless ease and I can see why this is held as one of the most essential reggae releases of all time.

Is there anything wrong with this album - in a word, no.  The whole record from beginning to end is one of the finest examples of when Island records were on fire, when Lee "Scratch" Perry was at the height of his production powers and it captures Max Romeo & The Upsetters at the top of their collective game.  I am so glad that I got to see this cover and will be in more eternal debt to Mr Miles for that, but I can promise you that this is a record that should be in not just every reggae fan's collection, but in every music lover’s collection as well.  It is that good, essential and powerful.  Consider yourself told and be out there listening and purchasing people.

10 out of ten - This is proof there is a God (and as a special tribute to this album - Jah)

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

There is no official website (or fan one either), but there is a link a MySpace page

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Live version of "Chasing The Devil" - better than the first one I found.....

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