The Wailing Souls


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The Firehouse Rock album would go down in history as the Wailing Souls' masterpiece, Inchpinchers was its follow-up, and of equally high caliber. Both sets were produced by Junjo Lawes and backed by the Roots Radics, a brilliant amalgamation of roots sensibilities and sound system rhythms. Compared to say The Revolutionaries, the Radics boasted a much sparser roots styling, with wide open spaces for singers (or DJs) to fill. This proved the perfect backdrop for the Souls to strut their exquisite harmonies, and across both sets the quartet shine.

Point of entry for most fans was the scorching recut of their classic 1974 hit "Things and Time"." Here, Lawes slows down the pace, bassist Errol "Flabba" Holt turns up the heat, the brass ring out, and the Souls revel in their multi-part harmonies. Glorious! However, it was "Baby Come Rock" that set the sound systems ablaze. The rhythm is nigh on relentless, Style Scott's massive beats booming out and echoed by Holt's thump of a bassline, riffs, percussion, and the brass' equally emphatic blasts. Overhead, the quartet bring the house down with their finest call and response vocals, Winston "Pipe" Matthew shouting out encouragement and his bandmates answering with sweet harmonies that unite and separate. Here they give Toots & the Maytals a run for their money.

If "Baby" was aimed at the Kingston scene, "Oh What a Lie" cozied up to the countryside, with its lovely pastoral atmosphere wrapped around the citified beats. This showcases the group at their sweetest, the harmonies rolling across the song, thick as molasses, even as they tell off a mendicant. The title track is also a rebuke, but a sumptuous one, as rich as rocksteady, awash in sonorous brass and lilting keyboards, but thoroughly contemporary in sound. "Infidels" is more subtle, a quietly infectious number that throws the spotlight on the group's gorgeous harmonies.

Much of the album boasts strong cultural numbers, such as the devotional "Don't Get Lost," the stark roots of the heartfelt "Modern Slavery" with its nods to Black Uhuru, the more upbeat sufferers standing tall of "Ghetto of Kingston Town," the simmering roots reggae of "Mass Charley Ground," and the infectious tribute to the good man "Tom Sprang"."

So, why didn't this album garner the same lasting acclaim as its predecessor? Perhaps because Lawes didn't release as many singles off the set, not as many of the tracks had that grab you by the throat feel to them, and there's a slightly more introspective feel to this album. Yet, it remains a classic.

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