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Showcase, Vol. 1

Wayne Jarrett

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Album Review

Once again, it takes a German company to unearth and reissue a lost treasure of American music. When singer Wayne Jarrett was working at the peak of his powers, he was part of the stable of Wackie's, the Bronx-based label owned by Lloyd "Bullwackies" Barnes. Wackie's output has languished in obscurity for 20 years and now appears to be owned by a collective of German DJs and producers, which is gradually reissuing the label's somewhat uneven but sometimes revelatory back catalog. This one is one of the best items. Showcase, Vol. 1 is exactly what its title indicates: a collection of Jarrett songs presented in "showcase" style, each vocal version collapsing seamlessly into a dub mix at about the three- or four-minute mark; thus the program of six songs lasts about 40 minutes. The production work by Barnes and Clive Chin is dark, wet, and soupy — every song sounds like it's yearning toward its dub version even while the vocalist is in full swing. The songs themselves are a bit generic, as late-'70s and early-'80s reggae tends to be: song titles like "Brimstone & Fire," "Every Tongue Shall Tell," and "Holy Mount Zion" tell you exactly what to expect. But Jarrett's quavery tenor voice is sweet and clear, and the songs are tuneful and impassioned; the occasional surprising instrumental element (like the gorgeous flutes on "Holy Mount Zion" and the elegantly glittering percussion on "Magic in the Air") turns what would otherwise be a perfectly serviceable roots exercise into something more transcendent. And the dub versions are uniformly excellent. Highly recommended.

Biography

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '80s

A brilliant and criminally unsung roots reggae singer with a high, clear tenor voice similar to Horace Andy's, Wayne Jarrett recorded his key tracks in the late '70s and early '80s, including the classic Bunny Lee-produced "Satta Dread." Jarrett also worked with Jamaican producers Glen Brown (cutting "Youthman," another classic track) and Junjo Lawes, among others. His high watermark arguably came with the six tracks he recorded for Lloyd "Bullwackie" Barnes' Bronx-based Wackies label in 1982, which...
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Showcase, Vol. 1, Wayne Jarrett
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