CD / LP
April 15, 2014
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 5||Backing : 5||Production : 5||Sound quality : 5||Sleeve : 5|
Well respected and acclaimed producer, engineer, singer and musician Roberto Sánchez from Santander (north of Spain) has attracted notable attention from fans of vintage roots reggae with the Showcase albums he recorded with Jamaican veteran artists Earl Zero and Milton Henry, in 2010 and 2013 respectively.
Roberto Sánchez is strongly influenced by the sounds of reggae's golden era; deep and raw sounds with a message within... the sound of Black Ark with Lee Perry and The Upsetters with Boris Gardiner and Mikey "Boo" Richards, the sound of Channel One with Scientist and Roots Radics, the sound of Joe Gibbs with Errol Brown and Lloyd Parks, and the sound of Studio One with Jackie Mittoo firstly and then with Pablove Black. He is also deeply influenced by Augustus Pablo in terms of musical production. So it's no real surprise that his production work mostly focuses on the roots and dub sounds from the 70s and early 80s. It's truly striking how he manages to capture the vibe, the mood and the feel of those days so perfectly well as can be experienced while listening to Earl Zero's "And God Said To Man" (A-Lone Productions) and Milton Henry's "Branches And Leaves" (Iroko Records/A-Lone Productions).
The next veteran artist with whom Roberto Sánchez worked on a brand new Showcase style album is Earl Sixteen. "Natty Farming" is not the latter's very first album done inna Showcase stylee. Earl Sixteen, who got himself a reputation in the second half of the 70s mainly due to a number of singles cut for producers such as Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Joe Gibbs, Augustus Pablo, Derrick Harriott and Mikey Dread, saw Coxsone Dodd release his third full length album entitled "Showcase" in 1982. However this wasn't a Showcase style album all the way as not every vocal cut was followed by a dub version. And so his very first real Showcase style album was the Earl Morgan produced "Shining Star", which appeared on the Vista label in 1983. In 2008 Gussie P produced and released Earl Sixteen's second Showcase style set, "Jah Messengers", which in 2011 was followed by "The Fittest" on the Dutch JahSolidRock label and the 2013 released "Walls Of The City" on Earl Sixteen's own Merge productions imprint.
The "Natty Farming" set with its 6 vocal cuts plus 6 dubs takes the listener back to the rub-a-dub sound of the early 80s. If you didn't know these recordings were done some 30 years later, you would really think you had laid your hands on an album with previously unreleased gems from that time. The musicians who expertly played the riddims for this album are The Producers, a new band formed by Prince Jamo, Don Fe, Dubby Ambassah and Roberto Sánchez himself. What makes it special is the fact that the 6 riddims featured here were built on some drum recordings by ex-Roots Radics drummer Style Scott at the renown Channel One studio in the early 80s, done for producer/artist Linval Thompson and engineered by Barnabas.
Earl Sixteen, whose instantly recognizable rootikal and soulful voice is always a pleasure to listen to, is in very good shape. The early 80s Channel One feel and style of the riddims fits him perfectly well and makes him shine bright on each and every vocal cut. The album gets started with the previously released 7" single and title track "Natty Farming". Vocally, lyrically and musically this is a strong effort. But it even gets better with "Time Has Come", a standout piece with great horns and awesome bassline that urges you to turn your speakers up. Big roots tune!! "Everybody Bawling" is Earl Sixteen's solid rendition of the Duke Reid produced classic hit from The Melodians. It's followed by a next highlight on this album, the wicked "Juicy Black". For the last two vocal tracks, Earl Sixteen surprisingly chose to do a reggae interpretation of Blur's "Tender" ("Universal Love") and Sly & The Family Stone's "Hot Fun In The Summertime" ("Hot Sun"). In particular "Universal Love" makes a very good impression and thus is worth hearing. All dub versions complement the vocals fully and are a truly worthwhile addition.
Besides the musical part of this release, there's also the wonderful sleeve design inspired by a painting by Bristol based Sil Cunningham that draws attention. All in all this is another superb Showcase album outta Spain, issued on Roberto Sánchez's own A-Lone Productions.