Tafari Earth Uprising

Little Roy

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Tafari Earth Uprising Review

by Jo-Ann Greene

Earl "Little Roy" Lowe launched his career in the rocksteady age, cutting a handful of singles for Coxsone Dodd and a couple for Prince Buster, none of which made much of an impression. As reggae took hold, though, the singer hooked up with Lloyd Daley, and cut the smash hit "Bongo Nyah," followed by a slew of other singles into the early '70s. The bulk of his recordings were done under Daley's watchful eye, but occasionally Little Roy cut singles for other producers, including Lee Perry, who oversaw the stellar "Don't Cross the Nation" in 1970 and brought in the Wailers to help out on the session. In 1973, Little Roy teamed up with Maurice "Scorcher" Jackson, and later Maurice's brother Munchie, launching the Tafari and Earth labels, homes for a steady stream of the singer's phenomenal self-produced cultural singles. Working with top engineers, including Errol Thompson, Barnabus, and Sylvan Morris, and the cream of Jamaica's musicians, the high quality of Little Roy's work never ceases to impress. This superb compilation bundles up virtually all of the singer's most crucial songs from this era. The earliest is the aforementioned "Don't Cross the Nation," the bulk of the set, however, are later self-productions, although Perry was brought in to engineer both "Blackbird" and the stellar "Tribal War." The latter is arguably the singer's most revered number and continues to be versioned to this day. Of equal caliber is "Prophesy," its riddim a stunning adaptation of an old jazz number, "Peanut Vendor." Today, it's better known as the "Taxi" riddim, named after the version Sly & Robbie created for the dancehall age. The glorious prayer for the "Earth," the powerful "Jah Can Count On I," the emotive "Richman Laugh," and the harmony drenched "Christopher Columbus" are all standouts. The latter is one of several singles backed by the Ian Rock Group (aka Ewan Gardiner and Anthony Ellis), who can also be heard on the bouncy "Working" and the splendid "Forces." Gregory Isaacs beautifully produced that last number, releasing it on his own African Museum label. And on a final note, "Mr. T.," one of Little Roy's first self-productions, boasts the Heptones on harmonies. Little Roy's work during the '70s was uniformly flawless, and with his sweet, strong vocals, emotive delivery, and thoughtful lyrics, all his singles were memorable. The fact that he still fell off most roots fans' radars is unforgivable, but Pressure Sounds has now released a powerful set to put that right.

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