The Congos

Cock Mouth Kill Cock

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Some 30 years ago the Congos recorded Heart of the Congos, one of the greatest roots reggae albums ever to come out of Jamaica, with producer Lee "Scratch" Perry at Perry's Black Ark Studio in Kingston. Heart of the Congos was such a complete package that the Congos have been hard put to come anywhere that near the sun ever since, and while it would be tempting to say that this new album finally puts them back into rarefied air, the truth is that albums like Heart of the Congos are products of a particular time and place and finding that exact sweet spot again is probably close to impossible. What Cock Mouth Kill Cock (the title is a Jamaican proverbial saying that essentially means, watch what you say, it could be your undoing) does do, however, is directly embrace Heart of the Congos' legacy and history, which is probably as close as the Congos are ever going to get to actually repeating it. The group has essentially been a solo outlet for singer Cedric Myton for some time now, but here he brings the other original vocalists, Watty Burnett and Roy Johnson, back to the fold and the reunited Congos tackle 14 new songs written in the old roots style over vintage rhythms originally done by producer Bunny Lee back in the 1970s, and the result of all this deliberate nostalgia connects back to Heart of the Congos like an almost fitting coda. Almost. When the album with Perry was recorded in 1977, Myton was simply one of the Congos -- albeit the member with the ether-rattling high lead tenor -- and since then he has become the Congos entire, which means that Burnett and Johnson do sing here, but they aren't given a lot to do, and Cock Mouth Kill Cock falls short of the brilliant ensemble singing that gave Heart of the Congos such a timeless feel. That Cock Mouth even echoes and references that feel makes it one of the best Congos releases in years, however. It's just so darn hard to reach the sun when you're constantly standing in the shadow of a monument. Highlights include the brightly skipping "Grandma Say," the near-majestic "River Beng Come Down" (which sounds like an unfinished outtake from Heart of the Congos), and the hopeful, buoyant "Chasing Dreams."

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