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Wingless Angels

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Rolling Stones' guitarist Keith Richards fell in love with Jamaica when the group was recording their album Goat's Head Soup at Dynamic Studios in Kingston in 1972, and subsequently bought a home on the island's north shore in Ocho Rios, where he became friends with a local nyahbinghi drumming collective led by ska legend Justin Hinds. Richards eventually recorded the group one evening in his own back yard in Ocho Rios in the fall of 1995, then spent a couple years doing light overdubs on the recording before releasing it on his own label in 1997 as Wingless Angels. The record, which is wonderfully offhand and intimate, featuring unison vocals and African-styled hand drumming, has a quiet, timeless charm, right down to the crickets and peepers that are audible between songs. The selections are mostly traditional Christian hymns that have been retooled to Rasta ends, and with Hinds' simple, steady vocals leading the way, Wingless Angels has a powerful meditative effect. The Angels aren't a group in the commercial sense, more like a collection of musical neighbors, but its membership includes Hinds, Winston Thomas, Milton "Neville" Beckerd, Locksey Whitlock, Warrin Williamson, Maureen Fremantle, and Vincent "Jackie" Ellis. Richards added guitar and keyboard touches to the finished album, along with further light refinements from Blondie Chaplin and Frankie Garin, who brings a faint Celtic feel to the project with his flute and violin playing. The end result is way more Jamaican than Rolling Stones in tone, and makes for an utterly unique and refreshing listening experience. ~ Steve Leggett

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