Album review
Cobra Style: Productions From The Wailers' Musical Director
Various / Aston Familyman Barrett

Tracking list

  1. Familyman & The Rebel Arms - Cobra Style
  2. Brimstone - Back Weh
  3. Jimmy Riley - We're Gonna Make It
  4. Familyman & The Rebel Arms - Eastern Memphis
  5. Familyman & The Rebel Arms - Guided Missile
  6. Brimstone - Babylon
  7. Ashantiwah - Elegant Shape
  8. Wailers Band - Distant Drums
  9. Senya - Children Of The Ghetto (Discomix)
  10. New Wave & The Rebel Arms - My Girl
  11. Familyman & The Rebel Arms - Well Pleased
  12. Maria Anderson & The Wailers Band - Woman In Love
  13. Familyman & The Rebel Arms - Work
  14. Senya - Natural Woman

    Bonus Tracks:
  15. Cobra Style (Disco Mix)
  16. Well Pleased (Disco Mix)
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)

Vocals : 4 Backing : 4 Production : 5 Sound quality : 4 Sleeve : 5

Although the name Aston Barrett may sound familiar to long time reggae fans we will introduce him after all as he is probably not or lesser known to the younger generation of reggae fans.
Aston "Familyman" Barrett was Bob Marley's bass player, band leader, arranger and the foundation writer of much of the group's music. He toured and recorded with the legendary Wailers from 1969 until Bob Marley's untimely death in 1981. Furthermore he played on tracks produced by the likes of Duke Reid, Joe Gibbs, Sonia Pottinger, Lloyd "Matador" Daley, Lee Perry, Winston "Niney" Holness and Clement Dodd. He played on the first true international reggae hits "Liquidator" and "Return Of Django" and his band, the Upsetters (actually the Hippy Boys but renamed the Upsetters by Lee Perry), was one of the first to tour the U.K. and Europe. The drum & bass section - so very important in reggae music - was formed by Aston "Familyman" Barrett and his brother the late Carlton Barrett. Both were responsible for literally thousands of reggae songs and they would have graced many more if they had not spent so many years endlessly touring with the Wailers. So, it's obvious that "Familyman" is one of the cornerstones of reggae music, emulated by other musicians and vernerated by the Wailers.
Aston "Familyman" Barrett's undisputable skills and talent as musician as well as producer can be captured on the Heartbeat release "Cobra Style: Productions From The Wailers' Musical Director" and its dub instrumental companion "Familyman In Dub". "Cobra Style" is a fine compilation set of instrumental and vocal tracks from the seventies which have not been available on compact disc before. The opener and title track of this album sets the pace for what turns out to be an interesting document of timeless roots reggae music. The aforementioned track is an instrumental which features "The Rhythm King", Familyman's secret rhythm box and the earliest drum machine made. The box was also featured on the here included "Guided Missile" and "Work" and on Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry", "Revelation" and "Johnny Was". This instrumental is followed by the first vocal effort, a track which was recorded by the early seventies U.K. reggae unit Brimstone featuring Brinsley Forde (who later helped form Aswad). "Back Weh" and their second contribution "Babylon" are two solid tunes. Both songs were recorded in Belgium and mixed by Familyman in Jamaica. "My Girl" was another track that was included on the tape of the Brimstone recordings. After all these years there's too little exact information available to detect its origin. However, it's a good example of U.K. reggae rock fusion reminiscent of the style of music that later was made popular by Steel Pulse.
Former member of the Uniques Jimmy Riley renewed his working with Familyman (they met while recording the Uniques' "Watch This Sound") when he recorded the solid "We're Gonna Make It". Next two tracks are instrumentals with particularly "Eastern Memphis" - recorded at the same time as the Wailers' "Natty Dread" sessions - being a stand-out effort. Askawantih delivers a wicked Dancehall tune, one of the latest recordings found on this album, before we get one of the earliest tracks of this collection, "Distant Drums", which happens to be a great instrumental take on Yabby You's song "Love They Neighbour". This cut is truly a special one as it is one of the first examples of the so-called "Far East" sound, later brought to prominence by Augustus Pablo. Furthermore it is one of the first recordings of Robbie Shakespeare and all the Rasta hand drumming is the Original Wailers - Bob, Peter & Bunny.
Then female singer Senya steps forward. She delivers two (disco mix) songs with a good vocal performance, excellent musicianship and fine lyrics as the main ingredients, which truly makes these tunes great efforts. Maria Anderson is the other female artist who is featured on this album. Familyman met here at a Bunny Lee session and recorded this nice, little song with her. Remain the tracks "Well Pleased" - a solid instrumental which incorporates great horn parts - and "Work", which is a weird piece of work with Ian Winter's voice heavily processed through a chorus and a phraser, turning his deejaying into more of an instrument. The bonus tracks are a welcome addition to this more than interesting album from the vaults of that great musical talent : Aston "Familyman" Barrett.

Teacher & Mr. T.