Get up Stand up – The Wailers This was the first roots reggae rebel record that had mass appeal and was played on national radio. For the first time it seemed that reggae was about to hit the big time and have mainstream appeal. It made me realise that there was an alternative to the status quo religion and lifestyle. Here was this Rastaman singing ‘get up stand up, stand up for your rights’ and everybody was singing it. It also marked the move of roots reggae away from a traditionally rhythm section sound to a more fuller sound with rock lead guitar and other melodic instruments.
Young Gifted & Black – Bob & Marcia (Nina Simone) this song was actually a hit in the English national charts. Young Gifted and Black was the refrain, to be young gifted and black is where it’s at. It was to be some years later that I got to see the full lyrical content and was blown away by the courage and conviction it must have taken to pen lyrics of that nature in the time that Nina first wrote that song. It added to the increasing awareness of my Afrikan identity.
Groundation – Ras Michael & The Sons of Negus .This has to be arguably the most important album of its kind in its time. Full Nyahbinghi drumming promoting Rastafari and chronicling the rise of the movement, through the enslavement and colonization process and the mysticism surrounding Haile Selassie (Ras Tafari) as King & Emperor and spiritual leader. It was important because now there was an outlet for what was to become my link and identity with Rastafari.
SummerBreeze – The Isley Brothers When I first picked up the guitar with ambitions to play I wanted to sound like Ernie Isley of the Isley brothers. Loud heavily driven lead guitar, the solo on summer breeze is a classic, for a long time I pursued this idea of being a lead guitarist, but song writing and performance took precedence when I was called on to step up for the lead singer who decided to drop out two days before the band’s debut appearance. After that it was rhythm guitar and vocal duties for me.
Something Inside So Strong – Labbi Siffre. When I first saw Labbi Siffre on television I was encouraged, here was a Black Man playing acoustic guitar singing a pop song ‘Pretty Little Girl’ ‘It Must Be Love’ he was doing something outside of the norm that was expected of a Black Artiste. He disappeared for a number of years and then returned with this tremendous hit, Something Inside So Strong. All at the same time it was soulful, it was a protest song ‘the higher you build your barriers the taller I become’ here was a song that was not rock, not pop, and it had meaningful lyrics and it made the charts, magical.
Now That We Found Love – Third World What!! an authentic pop reggae song from a respected reggae group coming out of Jamaica, so it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, roots rockers, reggae could also be pop as in popular without being trite. So here’s another opening and avenue for my song writing, here was a way the band could be and not compromise our street cred. Mainstream music while retaining authenticity.
Back To Black – Amy Winehouse I admired Amy Winehouse as a writer, and Artist. She had a good singing /writing style and no matter how much they hated her, they couldn’t ignore her she was so good. Even though influenced heavily by black American R&B she made it her own she brought something very individual to the style. I was influenced by her style in some of my song writing. Some of these songs have not been produced by the band yet and I don’t know that they will be, they may turn up in a solo album later on in my career.
Say it Loud I’m Black & I’m Proud – James Brown Consciousness raising from the Godfather of Funk, I could say I am Black and not be ashamed of it. In the context of the increasing awareness around race and identity, with a backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement this was a call to black unity. Now I had a chant, a rallying call something I could be a part of and I could shout it from the stage, it was okay to say black, and draw attention to it.
Battering Down Sentence – Bunny Wailer I was strongly influenced by this record in my application to writing songs with meaningful lyrics that told a story. ‘I find myself growing in an environment where finding food is just as hard as paying the rent’ After hearing this track I knew that I wanted to be militant and positive in my songwriting which would influence the direction of the band.
Don’t Turn Around – Aswad An English Reggae band crossing over from ‘Roots’ to mainstream and seemly accepted by the mass, signed by a major label, things are definitely looking promising.
Talisman release their latest album, Don’t Play with Fyah on March the 17th.