The Congos - Heart Of The Congos LP
Lee Perry is generally acknowledged as a production genius, but on occasion that genius can be destructive, and while there's no disputing his talent, sometimes the results can be less than aurally satisfying. This is especially true when it comes to albums, where Perry's efforts were often erratic. On Heart of the Congos he was brilliant, and across the record's original ten tracks Perry created a masterpiece of music. Many critics consider this 1977 album one of the best roots records of all time, and at the very least, it was Perry's apex -- only Junior Byles' Beat Down Babylon is an equal contender. Which is why it's all the more shocking that the record was turned down by Island, and even back in Jamaica it received only a limited release. It took nearly two decades for Heart of the Congosto reappear, finally reissued with a clutch of period bonus tracks by Blood and Fire. The Congosthemselves seem the least-likely contenders to record an exceptional album with Perry. The duo of Cedric Myton and Roy "Ashanti" Johnson had a unique sound, revolving around the former man's crystalline falsetto, which was set off by the latter's rich tenor. The pair composed deeply cultural songs, but both men's vocals had a gentle quality that would wither under a typical deep roots arrangement. Still, Perry had proved his worth working with the soft, husky tones of Byles, but few expected him to be able to repeat this feat. In fact, if anything, the producer was even more sympathetic to The Congos' styling and exhibited a musical self-restraint that astonished even his hardcore fans. Every track on the original album is worthy of classic status, and all presented the group and their songs in the best possible light. To this end, Perry was aided by a phenomenal group of sessionmen and guest backing vocalists which included Gregory Isaacs, a pair of Heptones, and the mighty Meditations.