So I just finished listening to the new Island Head album called ‘Punky Reggae Party.’ They were recently interviewed on Dermot Hussey’s show and I had to give them a listen. Many thanks to Billy Messinetti of Island Head for getting me a copy of the album “with the quickness.”
The album “Punky Reggae Party” by Island Head is composed primarily of Bob Marley compositions. It is fundamentally reggae but, it is all instrumental with a unique approach. The melodies are shared by trumpet, sax, guitar and keyboard.
The first thing that struck me when I looked at the track listing was that they included some heavy Bob Marley and the Wailers tunes. You expect to see a “One Love” or “Three Little Birds” when a band seeks to cover Marley songs. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they selected some of my favorite Marley tunes like “So Much Trouble In The World,” “Wake Up and Live,” “Punky Reggae Party,” and “Burnin’ and Lootin.’” This should be interesting…Covering Marley is a daunting task. No, let me rephrase that. For seasoned musicians, covering Marley may not be that hard, however, pulling it off is a whole different story. These songs carry a heavy vibe. A vibe that each of us has carried with us for many years. It is therefore very difficult to pull off playing these songs and having them sound, and feel, authentic.
The next thing that catches the eye is the names of the Island Head musicians. The two guitarists are legendary reggae players – Andy Bassford (Toots & The Maytals) and Mikey ‘Mao’ Chung (Peter Tosh, Black Uhuru). Neil Jason (bass) was in John Lennon’s band and David Frank (keys) played on many hits such as “Sussudio” and “Higher Love”. Tim Cappello (sax) is famous from his years with Tina Turner and Don Harris (trumpet) played with the Allman Brothers, Tower of Power and Nile Rodgers & Chic.
According to Billy Messinetti percussionist “a passion for reggae and love for musicians interacting and jamming are why Island Head was created. The album was recorded live and allows the musicians a chance to step out, yet it is very listenable. It was mixed by Grammy award winning engineer/producer Dave O’Donnell at Germano Studios, NYC.”
I can tell you this. These musicians can play. They not only know the songs inside and out, they feel this music. The authenticity of this album bled right through my Sennheisers, into my ears, and I felt these songs through and through. This is no Delixx take on Marley. It is different. It has a jazzy vibe to it. However, the strength of the songs, the talent of these musicians, and the organic connection they share with each other, keeps this album standing strong inna Babylon!
“So Much Trouble in the World” is currently in regular rotation on SiriusXM The Joint. Pat McKay, program director said;
“Island Head is an important project to reggae. It’s always great to have substantive, high art. This work contributes to reggae’s growth. Reminds others of what it really is and what is still possible. I feel so especially blessed to share this brilliant work with our audience.”
The entire album has been featured in Jamaica on the show ‘Riffin’ by our good friend and legendary radio host Dermot Hussey and on a Philadelphia radio show “Sounds of the Caribbean.”