Trojan Sessions

Pama International

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Trojan Sessions Review

by Jo-Ann Greene

"I got so much to shout about," Pama International frontman Finny and multi-instrumentalist Nick Mannaseh demurely sing out on the song of the same title, and indeed they do. Not only has the band been signed to the legendary Trojan label, but the resulting Trojan Sessions is their most phenomenal set yet. This is the kind of album that is exceedingly difficult to get through, because as much as you're keen to hear the whole thing, so wonderful is each track, that you want to play every one over and over again. It's a wow of an album, and one glimpse at the guest stars featured within makes that even more than clear. Still, Jamaican legends turn up everywhere nowadays; what makes the star roster's appearances special is that the songs seem to have been written with each artist specifically in mind. "It Ain't Funny," is a grand example, bringing together for the first time in over a quarter of a century the indomitable duo of Dave & Ansel Collins. So perfect is their number that it almost sounds like it came straight off the pair's Double Barrel album. They are magnificent, but the festive reunion is further pushed to gala proportions by the appearance of the Specials' Lynval Golding and Sir Horace Panter, who feature on a further clutch of tracks.

But where would early reggae have been without the DJs? And look, here comes one of Jamaica's best, Dennis Alcapone, giving an exuberant performance over the haunting "Neither High Nor Dry." Pama's vocals may be lovely on this number, but Winston Francis and A.J. Franklin are simply sublime on their rocksteady-styled "Fisherman," a song that showcases the two men's exquisite harmonies to perfection. And what better setting for trombonist Rico Rodriguez to strut his stuff than on the blazing, ska-fired "Disobedient Children," which brilliantly slides straight into roots reggae. Even more amazing, the master brass man picks up the mic for this number as well! The dubby roots of "Betterment Blues" is the perfect backdrop for the wonderful Dawn Penn, while the bouncy early reggae styling of "Penny Wise Pound Fool" is an equally delectable setting for the fabulous Derrick Morgan. From classic artists to classic riddims, Pama themselves shine on "It's All About the Money," an inspired version of the "Skylarkin'" riddim; "I Know It's Not Your Way" is a glorious, dubby, cultural take on a rocksteady gem; "Life Is What Happens" slides from British beat to the Far East -- rockers gone international; the aforementioned "Shout" parties in rockers and dub territory, while "One Step" dances Northern Soul straight into steppers. There isn't a less than stellar track on this album, with the band effortlessly showcasing their guests as well as themselves. Forget everything else released this year, and next, you'll be too busy replaying this set to hear a single other song.

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