An artifact no roots reggae enthusiast should be without.
Angus Taylor 2009-12-01
After their revival of Merger’s Exiles ina Babylon in January 2009, French label Makasound are back with another reissue from the ‘progressive-roots’ wing of cultural reggae. From a religious point of view, Orthodox might be a fitting title; musically this lavish creation is anything but.
The Rastafarians were a California-based super-group formed around bassist Haile Maskel (formerly known as Mikey Ras Starr – who put out the album/collection Fire & Rain through Makasound in 2008), drummer Wolde Manifesskiddus (aka Shaka Man) and guitarist Herb Daly.
Released in 1981, when the dancehalls of Jamaica were headed as far away from this anti-sound system, roots mysticism as possible, Orthodox represented a landmark in musicianship and spiritual conviction.
Sadly, the group disbanded thereafter, executive producer Brother Keith allegedly absconded with the master tapes due to tax troubles, and the members went their separate ways, taking copies of the album with them. Shaka Man went on to release his own version of Orthodox on the US label Jubilee Palace in 2005. Makasound and Maskel have shuffled the tracklisting of the original LP, but otherwise it remains unaltered.
Psychedelic synths, bluesy rock guitars and busy basslines, clattering percussion and esoteric, densely cultural lyrics combine across the ten tracks. Occupation is a detailed decrial of Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia. Role Call assembles the many names and incarnations of God to dreamy ethereal chords that might, under different circumstances, have supported a soul ballad.
Maskel had been a part of Afro-jazz-reggae-fusion collective Light of Saba and two of the compositions here – Rasta Theme (previously recorded as Sabayindah) and Words of Wisdom – appear on the 2003 Honest Jon’s reissue of Cedric Im Brooks & the Light Of Saba.
Like Fire & Rain, this release sounds as if it was dubbed off vinyl, and the ‘flying cymbals’ of A Love We Deal Wit are harsh and tinny on the ear. Nevertheless, this is an artifact no roots reggae enthusiast should be without (as well as a great companion piece to Fire & Rain) – and now there are two editions from which to choose.