Various Artists – Blood And Fire, Darker Than Blue: Soul From Jamdown 1973-1980

Andy Beta

By Andy Beta

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Darker Than Blue: Soul From Jamdown 1973-1980

Various Artists - Blood And Fire

Don't let the title fool you: while there is plenty of soul here, and all the productions fall into this eight-year window, the actual years covered and genre reach is far greater. While Soul Jazz's similar overviews of soul stay within Coxsone Dodd's Studio One confines, the net is cast wider here, allowing producers like Sly & Robbie and Lee Perry to slip into the mix. The set ultimately showcases Jamaica's longstanding love affair with African-American pop music: from Blue Note to Motown, Stax to Curtom, on up to Sugarhill.

A dazzling display of Jamaica’s longstanding love affair with African-American pop.

The opening "Ghetto Funk" harkens back to Jimmy Smith's Hammond-fueled bop while Welton Irie's closer "Hotter Reggae Music" jumps off from "Rapper's Delight." Strutting island instrumentals readily assimilate '70s funk icons like Kool & the Gang and War. In between, there is indeed lots of soul to be had: three Curtis Mayfield compositions get interpreted by the likes of Junior Murvin, and it's a treat to hear legendary vocalist Alton Ellis croon a Stevie Wonder obscurity ("It's a Shame"). Ken Boothe steals the show though — his lustrous voice scuffed with tears, his versions of powerful soul staples like "Is It Because I'm Black?" and "Ain't No Sunshine" stand right alongside the originals.