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Five Star Review

Roots Architects: From Then 'Til Now

What wonderful musical legacy is presented to us here? An album that basically began in 1978, developed further as a brainchild and was put into practice in 2017, finally finding its completion with the release in 2024. But first everything in order.

The cover image of “Roots Architects: From Then 'Til Now“ (Fruits Records) shows a typical street scene in Kingston. Dogs eat discarded leftover food from the sidewalk. A young woman in the background stares suspiciously at the viewer. Older men sit on a bench and look with infinite patience at the dusty street while a grizzled, bearded gentleman with a walking stick approaches us. A normal day in Jamaica.

When we look at the history of reggae, it is usually told through singers, producers and sound systems. A singer or toaster was hired to sing or chant over a pre-existing rhythm. The producer paid the recording costs and tested the song at a dance to see if it could become a hit. In the 1970s, when reggae was deconstructed and transformed into its avant-garde offshoot Dub was transformed, the sound engineers who used their studios as instruments became more and more of a focus. The dedicated studio musicians who produced the actual rhythms are often overlooked. Except perhaps from a few aficionados who always kept an eye on the instrumentalists involved.

The Jamaican-Chinese roots reggae singer I Kong - aka Errol Kong, nephew of the legendary Leslie Kong - released the LP "The Way It Is” with a unique line-up that included almost all of the island’s leading session musicians. Although the album received critical acclaim, it flopped financially, and I Kong went into self-imposed musical exile in the countryside. In the early 2010s he was contacted by Swiss producer and vintage reggae lover Mathias Liengme. Liengme became friends with Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace in 2011. Many people will know “Horsemouth” from the Rockers film and as the drummer on the early Burning Spear recordings. Some time later, Liengme found himself in Jamaica, where he welcomed the living legends of the golden reggae era that had made the country and reggae world famous. Through I Kong, Liengme met Robbie Lyn. Robbie Lyn had played keyboards on The Way It Is and hundreds of other famous Jamaican recordings. After working together on I Kong's long-awaited album "A Little WalkLiengme turned to Lyn for his ambitious project. Robbie Lyn opened his address book, opened up his connections and the ambitious project took shape. The work of the Swiss pianist and producer Mathias Liengme is a true meeting of veterans. In February and March 2017, Mathias Liengme traveled to Kingston for the fifth time to honor the musicians who delighted his ears since his youth and led him to write a doctoral thesis on Jamaican music. He wanted to record with as many of the surviving veteran session musicians as possible. With the help of some of them such as Robbie Lyn, Fil Callender or Dalton Browne, he managed to bring together more than 50 musicians aged 54 to 85 for nine instrumental songs. Fifty of the greatest studio musicians in Jamaica's history, whose work spans from the beginnings of reggae in the late 1960s to the present day and who contributed to reggae's international success. This great instrumental album is a tribute to the unsung heroes who created all of these amazing riddims. The names alone speak for themselves: Ernest Ranglin, Sly & Robbie, Karl Bryan, Vin Gordon, Glen DaCosta, Robbie Lyn, Ansel Collins, Dougie Bryan, Mao Chung, Boris Gardiner, Jackie Jackson, Lloyd Parks, Bo Pee, Dalton Browne, Flabba Holt, Fil Callender, Mikey Boo, Barnabas, Horsemouth, Dean Fraser, Ibo Cooper, Cat Coore, Derrick Stewart, Dwight Pinkney, Bubbler, Lew Chan, etc… They are all responsible for thousands of hours of recording and millions of minutes recorded by heard by music lovers around the world.

So the Roots Architects, the legends of reggae, returned to the studios in Kingston to do what they always did best: make instrumental music together. The result is a great album that is indispensable for all lovers of Jamaican music, instrumental reggae or simply beautiful music. For musicians, "From Then 'Til Now" is what "Inna de Yard" is for singers. Plain and simple, a tribute to the greats. But unfortunately, "From Then 'Til Now" has now also become a kind of epitaph for the musicians who have died since the recordings in 2017. Winston "Bo Pee" Bowen, the namesake of the album, died on March 26, 2019 at the age of 62 from a fatal heart attack. Arnold Brackenridge died on October 7, 2020 at the age of 70 from prostate cancer. David Trail died at an unknown time this year. Dalton Browne was 64 years old when he died on November 1, 2021 from complications following major heart surgery. Bongo Joe died at the age of 86 on September 5, 2021. Mikey Boo, whose drumming was impaired by a stroke and subsequent dementia, died on November 28, 2021 at the age of 74. Just ten days later, Robbie Lyn's good friend Robbie Shakespeare succumbed to kidney surgery at the age of 68. He was followed in the same month by 71-year-old Mikey Chung. The project's youngest musician, bassist Christoper Meredith, died on July 27, 2022 at the age of just 54. After a series of health complications, Lyn's beloved "big brother" and former bandleader Fil Callender passed away on May 27, 2022 at the age of 75. Robbie's keyboard colleague and close friend Tyrone Downie died in a hospital in Jamaica on November 5, 2022 at the age of 66. Her keyboard colleague Ibo Cooper died on October 12, 2023 at the age of 71.

May they all rest in peace as their immortal music vibrates speakers, bodies and souls for many dances to come.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I dedicate this review to my dear friend Endi (Palatinate for Andi), who left for the realm of the ancestors after a long illness. Like the heroes mentioned above, he has not left us, but rather before us.

2 Responses to “Roots Architects: From Then ‘Til Now”

Oh dear,

After reading this review, I'm actually ashamed of my comment in Release Radar. But well, at least I appreciated the musical foundation.
If you don't suffer from some kind of brass phobia like I do, then this album is truly a gift. I already have way too much of that
written, which simply doesn't do the album justice.
That's why I'd rather not give off even the slightest hint of bad vibes in relation to the great album.
The review was once again written with all love and maximum respect, but in my opinion the best sentence here is right at the end and amazes me all the more because it was the first time I heard it or at least consciously noticed it.

“Like the heroes mentioned above, he is not gone from us, but merely before us.”

These words have an extremely comforting effect, if I may say so myself.

Yeah man
This Is DubBlog!
Cause, effect, music, love and comfort!!! ………………. lemmi

I still have some information that I didn't want to muddle up in my review. I still find it interesting:

1. Roots Architects – 1000 Light Years
2. Vin Gordon & Glen DaCosta feat. Sheldon “Atiiba” Bernard – In The Shadow
3. Ibo Cooper & Lew Chang – Whitewater
4. Ernest Ranglin & Tyrone Downie – Memories Of Old
5. Vin Gordon & Glen DaCosta – Rose Hall's Birds
6. Vin Gordon & Ernest Ranglin feat. Karl Bryan – Squirrel Inna Barrel
7. Ibo Cooper & Cat Coore feat. Glen DaCosta – Under The Cotton Tree
8. Roots Radics & Dean Fraser feat. Dwight Pickney – 45 Charles Street
9. Sly & Robbie & Dean Fraser feat. Peace Diouf – Everlasting Love

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