French Rootsmen Jamwax are back with 3 digital productions of differing persuasions. Checking them chronologically, first up is Guardian Angel`s Woman At The Well, which dates from 1980. GA being Sylvia Fagan, with the recordings overseen by her brother, Lannie Glenmore “Bevin” Fagan – one of the vocalists in UK reggae band Matumbi. Glen / Bevin formed Matumbi in 1971, alongside Nick “Straker” Bailey, and school friend, Dennis “Blackbeard” Bovell. Straight outta South London – Battersea and Wandsworth. The Woman At The Well sessions played out at Gooseberry Studios – Bovell`s base of operations – located in a cellar below Gerrard Street, in London’s China Town. This is where Jah Wobble created the rhythm tracks for PiL`s Metal Box – with Bovell and Mark Lusardi – and it was also the site of the all-night lock-ins – “A Hole In The Ground” (as in “My Life In….”) – where Adrian Sherwood and African Head Charge searched for their vision of a psychedelic Africa. Guardian Angel`s first single contained a version named in tribute to the place.
Released on the Bevin`s own Cavalis Records the album mixes up reggae, jazz-funk, and African pop influences. There’s the brass-y disco of Crucial Loving – rapidly skanking with a particularly strong sax; a lovers cover of Casablanca`s As Time Goes By, and the Gabbicci knitwear and Farah slack strut of Last Funk – flashing its white socks for fans of that recent 52nd Street reissue.
The title-track betrays the siblings` Methodist Episcopal upbringing – their dad was a minister – by adapting the gospel according to John – 4:4-26 – and retelling the story of a thirsty Jesus meeting with a Samaritan water-bearer to the tune of dubbed-out horns and a harmonica lead. Bubbling, with a dangerous dubwise second half.
From 1985, there’s Robert Ffrench`s I Am Wondering. Ffrench`s debut LP is a firm Ban Ban Ton Ton favourite.
On I Am Wondering – a lovers of sorts – Ffrench is Dennis Brown in the high notes, and Gregory Isaacs in the song`s playboy sentiments. A guitar gently wah-wahs, while the synths do a giddy glissando. Midway through this discomix the bass becomes boss – throwing everything else – chopped piano chords and all – into echo. Then it`s rewind for the DJ cut – a brag and boast toast from Shortie Ranks – recounting his triumphs at legendary Kingston reggae venue, Skateland.
Jump a couple of decades and we have B.B. Seaton`s Voice Of The People. Seaton is a musical veteran, having begun his career in the 60s as one of the Gaylads – finding himself harmonizing with the likes of Ken Boothe and Delroy Wilson – while this track is lifted from his 2005 long-player, Reggae Land. Bottom-end booming, it`s an impassioned Jah Shaka-esque steppers. A warning of revolution, which calls out the rich, the greedy, the heartless and callous – as a plaintive guitar figure unwinds in the distance. It`s flipped by a version, suitable for disciples and bush chemists, that shifts between banging and ethereal. A flute floating in amongst the righteous thunder.
All of these fine sides are available to order and pre-order at Jamwax.