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Deep in the Roots

The Heptones

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Album Review

The liner notes are damnably vague about when this material was recorded — gosh, what a surprise for a reggae reissue! But it can be reasonably assumed that it comes from the late '70s, since some of the material appeared on the Heptones' Niney the Observer-produced albums of the time, King of My Town and Better Days. Otherwise, the record's filled out with previously unreleased alternate mixes, previously unreleased extended mixes, and — hold on to your hats — previously unreleased alternate extended mixes! Demanding more precise documentation for a reggae compilation is about as fruitless as demanding welfare handouts from a Republican administration, but the music here is quite good, even if those of us who haven't accumulated mounds of original mixes might have no basis for which to note how different or improved some of these versions might be. It's beautifully harmonized, soulful roots reggae with tight backing (Sly Dunbar is one of the credited drummers), sometimes using mournful horns, and often vacillating between the time-honored reggae themes of romance and Rastafarianism. There are a couple of excellent dub cuts, and a couple of unexpected well-done covers of American pop/rock hits (Tommy James' "Crystal Blue Persuasion" and Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds") are thrown in for good measure.

Biography

Formed: 1965

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

One of the definitive rocksteady vocal groups, the Heptones were also one of the few to successfully make the transition to the reggae era. The group was fronted by Leroy Sibbles, who was not only an exquisite singer but also a talented songwriter, arranger, and session bassist at the legendary Studio One. Penning much of its own material, the group boasted one of the deepest catalogs of its time, full of high-quality numbers that were widely imitated for their close-harmony vocals, and widely recycled...
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Deep in the Roots, The Heptones
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