February 22, 2012
Little Roy is overlooked a lot of times because he has put out so little material, but like Prince Alla and Fred Locks, it’s not the quantity that matters, it’s the quality. Tafari Earth Uprising contains some bona fide classic cuts, several of which have been remade many times since. This album compiles most of his ’70s hits and though this isn’t a superb collection as a whole, it has tunes that every roots reggae fan should have. “Prophecy” is the most well-known here, popularized even more by a ’90s Freddie McGregor remake. Its stirring rhythm and melody are instantly recognizable and likable, but even more enjoyable for me is the pure roots of “Christopher Columbus,” its African drums and early Wailers-esque sound making it irresistible. The melancholy “Tribal War” is another classic later covered by the likes of Buju Banton and others, while the poignant “Easy Chair” is likewise memorable. Less known but comparably strong is the catchy Abyssinians-like “Jah Can Count on I” as well as the melodic “Working”. A few decent dubs are included as well, “Blackbird” being the most notable. Although Little Roy maintains his raw, righteous, vinatage Wailers-esque sound throughout the album, the material is a bit uneven, at times drifting into drab territory. Still, if you’re into roots, you should listen to Tafari Earth Uprising as a vital piece of history.~ Reggae Reviews
Packin’ House gathers rare and, in some cases, previously unreleased material from Little Roy’s Tafari label — the best-known material released on the label having been featured on Tafari Earth Uprising. Unlike that album, Packin’ House (named for the house of Tafari co-founders Melvin and Maurice Jackson’s mother where the label set up shop) focuses on artists other than Little Roy, although he contributes 4 tracks, including the best one on this set, “Hurt Not the Earth,” unbelievably unreleased until now.
Little Roy’s coarse, tortured, yet worldly and knowing vocals draw irresistible comparisons to Bob Marley, particularly on “Hurt Not the Earth” and “Natty Yard.” On “Ticket to Zion”, meanwhile, he presents a fun take on the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride.” The most notable of Little Roy’s “friends” here are the Heptones, who provide a tune reminiscent of their Lee Perry collaborations in “Revolution” with an instrumental and rare DJ version with Leroy Sibbles chatting!Of the other lesser-known artists, John (not Johnny) Clarke provides the most memorable moment with the poignant tale of the plight of the unemployed on “Recession,” while a couple of funky instrumentals are thrown in by the Tafari All Stars.
The Tafari label wasn’t very prolific, preferring quality over quantity, and its sound favored a gritty, righteous roots vibe that might be a little too harsh for some listeners, but ’70s roots fans will lap it up. These vibes were recorded at Black Ark, Randy’s, Channel One, Dynamic, Harry J’s, and, of course, Packin’ House. Note that the liner notes are quite entertaining and informative, providing insight into the conniving nature of the music biz and giving little tidbits of information like Dennis Brown played bass on Little Roy’s classic “Tribal War,” and Glen Brown’s “Two Wedden Skank” is a version of a Little Roy/Leroy Sibbles cover of Isaac Hayes’ “Do Your Thing.” So pick it up the vibes here and buy a copy for yourself to read the notes. ~ Reggae Reviews