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Album Review

Although they have exerted a significant influence over their harmony-trio peers and can arguably be credited for defining the overall shape of spiritually oriented roots reggae in the '70s, Abyssinians remain a relatively obscure ensemble when compared with such similarly configured colleagues as the Mighty Diamonds, Culture, and the Meditations. Their legend lives on in two songs — "Satta Massaganna" and "Declaration of Rights" — both of which are quintessential roots anthems and have been covered endlessly. On this reunion album (the content of which largely duplicates the band's 1996 release $19.95 Plus Tax), "Declaration of Rights" is missing, but the "Satta Massaganna" rhythm shows up twice: once at the beginning of the album, as an exquisite new song entitled " Power Over Evil," and again at the very end, in a talkover version titled "The Right." In between are a number of other fine tunes, including the blues-based "Child Abuse" (a topic that recurs several times) and the rather strange horticultural anthem "Smokey Joe," which blends "Little Boy Blue" with the story of Moses and the burning bush in order to promote the sacramental consumption of herbs. Recommended.


Formed: 1969

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s

Few groups better captured the heart and soul of roots reggae than the Abyssinians; the vocal trio's heavenly close harmonies, dark melodies, and Rastafarian themes, all delivered with a deep spiritual feeling, were instrumental in defining and refining the genre. Bernard Collins and Donald Manning were longtime friends, and neither initially planned a career in music. That all changed one night in 1968, when during a creative burst, the pair composed "Satta Massa Gana" (also spelled "Satta Amassa...
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Reunion, The Abyssinians
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