Unless you’re a fan of reggae you possibly wouldn’t be aware that reggae has spent the last few decades stretching away from the stereotypical ‘chung-chung’ guitar and has found it’s feet in other genres and sub genres that has not only enhanced the music but also widened the possibilities that the music can move into.
Morgan Heritage are somewhat of a reggae mainstay, made up of three stalwarts in Gramps, Peetah and Mr Mojo, they know reggae inside and out and, while the familiar and recognisable groove of the music remains, what they produce is far more interesting.
Taking in hip-hop, afrobeat, pop and a heavy dose of r&b (‘Pay Attention’ is a bona fide r&b classic in waiting) the soundscape of Morgan Heritage is grand, impressive and addictive.
Opening with a mock radio advertisement from journalist Jeff Koinange (which, in truth, brings nothing to the party, it sniffs of gimmicky and the music doesn’t need anything) we’re taken from the 1970’s reggae sound, chugging guitar and deep bass set against percussion and impressive vocals, it harks back to Bob Marley’s ‘Survival’ album in it’s feel and will appeal to all fans of reggae or people wanting music to relax to.
We then go into upbeat ska-sounding ‘The World is Yours’ which plays out like a party song with brass and catchy chorus, before taking on the summer feel of poppy ‘Beach and Country’. There are guests aplenty with Diamond Platnumz, Stonebwoy and dancehall act Popcaan, giving new angles to the music.
Stand out track for me is ‘Slave and Master’, it has a ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ groove to it and won’t feel out of place on any radio station or sound system, it’s that good. ‘Hold On’ could have been Kanye West’s next single, mixing gospel into the already over-brimming pot of genres, think of 90’s band Arrested Development and you’re over halfway there.
It’s refreshing and reassuring to hear a band working in so many different directions, bringing the genre bang up to date but also keeping the traditional reggae recipe in place. It’s true that if nothing changes, nothing changes, and from the outside reggae looks limiting but it can be so much more when the foundations are explored and stretched.
Maybe it’s time this music found a wider audience again, lots has happened since Bob, Jimmy and Toots exploded onto the world scene all those decades ago breathing life into the 80’s ska scene that followed. If you want to know where the music is now, give Morgan Heritage a few hours of your time.