The Heptones

Pressure!

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The original trio reunites and releases an album worthy of the Heptones' name, and in one fell swoop extinguishes the memory of the subpar sets they had saddled fans with in recent years. Boasting a pair of excellent covers, a great take on one of their old masterpieces, and a clutch of new numbers, Pressure! recaptures the group's old magic. The trio is assisted by Tapper Zukie's superb production and fabulous rhythms laid down by a kaleidoscope of island talent: Sly & Robbie, Mafia & Fluxy, Errol Flabba Holt, Earl "Chinna" Smith, Robbie Lyn, Frank "Bubbler" Waul, and more. Of course the covers -- Bob Marley's "Rastaman Live Up" and Burning Spear's "Marcus Garvey" -- are an immediate point of entry, with both boasting inspired arrangements and seething rhythms. Leroy Sibbles' powerful performance on the latter vies with Winston Rodney's own, with Barry Llewellyn and

Earl Morgan's harmonies a reminder of why the trio garnered worldwide acclaim to begin with. Their dance-flavored re-cut of "Country Boy" is just as heartfelt, if not quite as clean. The new material is actually even stronger. On "World Crisis," the trio delivers up an impassioned dissertation on the state of the planet and its lack of leadership. The stellar title track, a Zukie composition, is a militant sufferer's song, a theme echoed in "Are You Coming With Me" as the trio despairs of better days and packs up to go to Zion, while "By the Sweat of Your Brow" looks to the Bible for comfort. Superb songs all, but the trio saves the best for last. "Old Time Gang Leader," co-written by Llewellyn and Zukie, boasts one of those mesmerizing, militant Sly & Robbie rhythms that seem to heave across the grooves and off into infinity, while Llewellyn offers up one of the strongest performances of his career, with a powerful warning to the rudeboys. With the album's arrangements running across the musical spectrum from lovers rock to militant roots, sizzling dancehall to deep dread, Pressure! is a sumptuous musical experience; while the trio's performances smolder with emotional depth, their harmonies are sublime. A much-welcome return, this album is destined to be a classic.

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