The Abyssinians

Live in San Francisco

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For those who have lost track of The Abyssinians in recent years, a word of warning: this is not the "classic" vocal trio, although it still remains very much a family affair. Original member Donald Manning is here, with a trio of his children enlisted in the backing band. Brother Lynford is not, replaced by the Manning's eldest sibling Carlton, of Carlton & His Shoes fame; Bernard Collins is also AWOL, and in his stead comes David Morrison. So, if anything, the onstage Abyssinians are even more Manning-heavy than in the past.

Live in San Francisco was recorded at the Maritime Hall in that city in 1999, during a tour celebrating the group's re-activation the previous year. The new lineup runs through a crowd-pleasing, hit heavy set, with only "Declaration of Rights" and "Leggo Beast" the notable omissions.

Inevitably though, the Abyssinians' sound has altered, but not as far as the backing band is concerned. It's truly startling how close their performances are to the songs' originals, with the musicians deftly recreating the sound of the past with virtually note-perfect copies. In the hall the effect must have been particularly evocative, on record, only the keyboard heavy mix gives the game away.

Obviously, with the passage of time and the shifting of lineup, the same can not be said for The Abyssinians themselves. Their pristine vocals are not always as clean as of yore, particularly on one of the new numbers "$19.95 Plus Tax." However, their faith and fervor are still at the fore, and with Carlton's superb handling of lead vocals, the group's reputation as one of roots reggae's greatest acts remains intact.

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