Reggae Hit L.A.

by: The Aggrolites

Look come, run see, reggae has arrived! "Reggae Hit the Town" in 1968 as the Ethiopians excitedly exclaimed. But that was in Kingston town, and it's only now, courtesy of the Aggrolites, that finally Reggae Hit L.A., an exuberant homage to the early reggae scene and everything that made it great. Even in its earliest years, reggae quickly embraced a diversity of sounds, both indigenous and American, but each driven by the genre's jerky rhythms and rough and tumble basslines. The Aggrolites magnificently showcase almost all of the sub-styles across 15 vocal and instrumental cuts here. We'll start with the biggest and baddest of the bunch, the organ blazing, DJ-fired international hitmakers Dave & Ansel Collins. "You Got 5," pays superb tribute to this chart-topping duo. Lee "Scratch" Perry, too, was gaining attention abroad with a series of sizzling, awe-inspiring productions, the fabulous "Baldhead Rooster" captures the flavor of his and the Aston and Carlton "Carlie" Barrett-led Upsetters work. Of course, the British weren't entirely dependent on Jamaican artists, homegrown talent like Symarip also provided the soundtrack for innumerable skinhead parties, with the Aggrolites tipping a porkpie hat to them with their anthemic skanker "We Came to Score." But even as the skins booted away the mods, in the U.K. Northern soul lingered on, and reggae artists like Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson, Ken Boothe and the underrated Owen Gray occasionally crossed into that scene with fabulous soul-laced singles. These Jamaican artists were all indebted to the U.S. soul scene, with Stax artists particularly influential, and the Aggrolites pay their respects to this scene as well, with the likes of "Faster Bullet" and the James Brown-esque "Reggae Hit L.A." In Jamaica, vocal groups still reigned supreme, some gospel laced, as "Reconcile" illustrates, others drenched in dulcet harmony, like the Mellotones or the Mighty Diamonds, who both receive a nod on the lovely "Let's Pack Our Bags" and the lush "Fire Girl" respectively. Funk inevitably left its imprint on the reggae scene as well, and a clutch of numbers note that fact, including the KC & the Sunshine Band styled singalong "Lucky Streak," the party starts here title track, and the glorious instrumental version on the "Take It Easy" riddim, "Left Red." The Aggrolites weren't really the first to introduce reggae, although by the time most Californians met the style, it had already evolved into the more downbeat, conscious roots. In its original form, reggae was highly energetic, bouncy and breezy, and the band capture its exuberance and light-heartedness in all its glory. An album that swaggers right off the grooves, and so full of fun that it's a party in itself. ~ Jo-Ann Greene

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