Fred Locks

The Missing Link

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The story behind this album--released in 2000 but recorded in 1978--is nearly Biblical: a tale of optimism, lost hope, and finally redemption that's fitting for its roots reggae/Rasta consciousness theme. In 1976, Vulcan released Fred Locks's debut set, "Black Star Liners." The album became a reggae classic, its title tune--a Garveyite view of repatriation--an anthem. With producer Hugh "Jah Shoes" Boothe, Locks recorded a follow-up set in '78. But Vulcan folded, and neither Boothe nor Locks had the cash to release the album, which was then abandoned. Over the next 20 years an original tape was lost, others damaged. Then, years later, the missing cassette surfaced, and the tapes were restored.

Admittedly, Locks's lyrics are not terribly profound, and his nasal voice not one of reggae's purest (he's sort of a Jamaican version of a bluegrass singer), but his straightforward style suits these classic-style roots songs about hope, anti-violence, uplift, and redemption. The line-up of musicians is stellar, including Jahlovemuzik's celebrated Albert Malawi on drums and Pablove Black on keyboards and backup vocals, and "Rastafari Rule" and "The Only One" (and its dub) are standouts on this fine album and piece of reggae history.

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