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Give Them the Rights

The Congos

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Album Review

The century's first Congos album of all new material, 2005's Give Them the Rights, comes a full six years after the spotty Revival, and leader Cedric Myton has used the time off to construct a much stronger set of tunes than that album could manage. More importantly, Myton has assembled nearly all of the old crew: Sly & Robbie produce, and the musician credits are like reading the starting lineup of someone's fantasy roots reggae team, from guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith on down. The result is an impressive simulacrum of classic '70s roots reggae, and yet while it studiously ignores commercial trends and misbegotten attempts to "update" the familiar Congos sound, nor does it sound like a boring period piece. Instead, there's "Praise H.I.M.," pure devotional roots reggae set to a gently swaying beat over which Myton trills a call-and-response lead vocal in his inimitable falsetto; the cutting character study "Mr. Shark"; and the thrilling anthemic opener, "It Can't Work." Give Them the Rights is no Heart of the Congos — you only get an album like that once in a career — but it's far better than naysayers might expect.

Biography

Formed: Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

A duo comprised of Cedric Myton and Roydel "Ashanti" Johnson, the Congos are known primarily known for one record, Heart of the Congos, released in 1977. Reggae historian Steve Barrow, one of the people behind the exquisite reissue of this long-thought-lost record, considers it as good as seminal reggae recordings such as Bob Marley and the Wailers' Natty Dread, Burning Spear's Marcus Garvey, and the Mighty Diamonds' Right Time. This is not an exaggeration. Myton and Johnson, working...
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Give Them the Rights, The Congos
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