Denroy Morgan / The Black Eagles

Shock Dem

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Conscious roots-pop reggae from the '70s finds a release on Shock Dem with vocalist Morgan and his band, the Black Eagles. While the sound is far from the best, making you wonder at times if this was remastered from crackly vinyl, the material is well-worth hearing. The title cut smokes, "Brimstone and Fire" has some wonderful guitar work, and "Fire Gonna Burn" should stand as a Rasta classic, albeit sweetened with some American R&B backing vocals (Morgan moved to the U.S. in 1965), while the horns on "Rastaman a Come" are straight out of Memphis. On "Feeling Good (Pt. 1)," Morgan moves straight into James Brown funky territory, stepping off on the one and only giveaway, his Jamaican accent; he even has the whoops and yelps down, while the horn charts are superb. "Feeling Good (Pt. 2)" has a slightly slower groove; it's a previously unreleased track from 1967, and actually way head of its time, the horns this time out owing much more to jazz, with an outstanding alto player. Unfortunately, a lack of sleeve notes means there's no indication when most of the cuts were laid down, where, or by who; this is a shame, because these people deserve definite praise. Maintaining a reggae/soul bassline is tricky, but whoever's on the bottom end here handles it with consummate ease. It all closes with the rootsy "United Immigrants," a positive message that still gets its soul touches in. Maybe there's nothing as big as his 1981 hit, "I'll Do Anything for You," but it's a lovely little piece of vintage reggae.

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