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Album Review

In the second half of the '70s the Virgin label swept into Jamaica, inked deals with some of the island's greatest roots acts, and released a stream of classic singles and albums on Virgin itself or its swiftly established imprint Front Line. However, Front Line was closed in 1979, and the following year spelled the end of the parent label's interest in the genre, leaving a stable of artists high and dry. The Twinkle Brothers had cut three acknowledged masterpieces for the British company and amassed a major following across Europe, but they too were unceremoniously shown the door. Of course, this wasn't the end of the band, nor even of the original lineup. Norman Grant set up the Twinkle label, and with him also acting as producer, the Brothers set to work on Me No You - You No Me. Change, however, was in the air, and there's another entire group's worth of musicians lending a hand with the set. Musically, too, there's a notable shift in sound, as the Brothers began incorporating more contemporary elements from home and abroad into their own style. This was a disappointment for some fans, who expected the Brothers to continue churning out the same thundering dread as before. Still, the title track, "Constipated People," "Make Everyone Happy," and "Africa for Africans" (and its "Dub") all retain at least some of that deep roots flavor. "People" may not bend under its own weight but still blends biting lyrics and luminescent guitar work with nyahbinghi beats. "Africa" is a powerful anthem, with a complex arrangement and a dense eclectic sound, "Happy" is equally anthemic, deep roots in a more upbeat mode, while "Me No You - You No Me" is pure culture, its own deep roots offset by swooping synth. "Longing for You" picks up another favored facet of the group's sound, Norman Grant's phenomenal soul vocals, here in a '60s setting. "Beautiful Jamaica," a paean to their island home, reaches even further back in time with its doo wop-ish harmonies, but the arrangement itself works in bright reggae, champagne keys, and Dean Fraser's smokiest sax solos. And it's this (relatively) brighter reggae styling that predominates, albeit with some exceedingly original twists. "Trouble de Yah" for instance melds the insistent beats and riffs with jazzy piano and new wave-ish synth. "Stealing" is even more inspired, and incorporates a Far Eastern sound, but not of the Augustus Pablo arabesque variety, instead wrapping an Oriental synth melody around its roots. Those looking only for a regurgitation of past dread glories should stick with the Twinkles' earlier material, especially as a number of the songs here recycle some of the group's own classic riddims. However fans of musical progression will know this set for what it is, a stellar album that saw the band move strongly forward into a new age, proving they were still a powerful musical force to be reckoned with.

Biography

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '60s, '70s

It seems as though the Twinkle Brothers have been around since the beginning of time, or at least the beginning of reggae. Led by Norman Grant, the Twinkles began in the early '60s as a trio featuring Grant and his two brothers singing in a slick trio style similar to that of the Melodians and the Mighty Diamonds. In the early '70s, the group hooked up with the influential producer and arranger Bunny Lee, a union that produced a number of reggae hits including "We Can Do It Too" and "Miss Laba Laba."...
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Me No You, The Twinkle Brothers
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