Some aficionados of Lee Scratch Perry – the mad genius, the architect, the modern day Michelangelo, inventor of dub, discoverer of Bob Marley, sonic pioneer, producer non-compare, wildman of music, burner of studios – say his greatest achievement beyond all others, in a lifetime of acclaimed creations, is The Congos.
The Congos are a reggae vocal band, from Jamaica. They are the archetypal and greatest reggae vocal band, no less, and it will be a deeply enjoyable religious experience when they sing for The Sup’ at The 26th.
Their heavy, earthy grooves are set in flight by the celestial light of three majestic voices: “Ashanti” Roy Johnson’s rich tenor, Cedric Myton’s clear as a bell falsetto, and Watty Burnett’s thunderous baritone have been in sweet, ecstatic union since the mid-70s.
In 1977 they recorded Heart of the Congos, with Lee Scratch at the controls, producing what is widely considered one of the great classics of reggae, and all modern music. Pitchfork has it ahead of any other reggae album in their Top Albums of the 1970s, and ahead of Dark Side of The Moon, Never Mind The Bollocks and What’s Going On. (I know, I know, art is not a competition. Just lazily framing this up.)
The show is fun, with these remarkable, big characters. But it’s never wacky. This is spiritual; these are conscious roots, about human awakening and cultural pride. Old testament Rasta vibes.
The Congos are some of the Original Masters. It’s a privilege, and a miracle of Time/a higher power that we can conjure a scene straight out of the fabled storybook and impossibly transport The Congos from Then to Now.
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