Monday, September 13, 2010

378. Funky Kingston. I've got your Reggae right here.

Album: Funky Kingston
Artist: Toots and the Maytals
Genre: Reggae
Year: 1973


  1. Sit Right Down
  2. Pomp And Pride
  3. Louie, Louie
  4. I Can't Believe
  5. Redemption Song
  6. Daddy's Home
  7. Funky Kingston
  8. It Was Written Down

I have to confess Reggae is a genre that I've never seen the point in. I just don't understand the attraction in the music of Jamaica which everyone on the planet seems to accept as a unifying artform. "How can you not like Reggae" people say to me as if I've just expressed my disdain for chocolate, sunsets or breasts. "Everyone loves Reggae" they say denying the fact that I'm living evidence to the contrary. The most annoying people are those that suggest it must be because I haven't listened to enough of it. They assume I've formed my opinion based on the opening bars of Eric Clapton's I Shot The Sherrif and all it will take is some time with "proper" reggae and I will not only enjoy the music but become a full on Rastafarian. Toots and the Maytalls Funky Kingston is the first proper reggae album to make it's way onto the chart. It wanders late into the countdown like a laid back Jamaican who doesn't see the point in rushing anything. There will be other examples of the genre later on in this list with Bob Marley making an inevitable appearance but for the moment Toots is the countdown's first attempt to turn me into a reggae fan.

Before I start my review I have to say two things- the first is that I'm reviewing the original release and not the American re-release with extra tracks, and the second is that Toots and the Maytals have the best name in the countdown so far. Toots is an incredibly cool name and I'm only sorry they didn't play heavy metal because that would be even funnier.

The good news is that Funky Kingston starts quite well. Sit Right Down is the best reggae song I've ever heard. Granted this isn't a staggering achievement, as praise goes it's up there with "nicest Nazi" but it's still something. Although I suspect the attraction has something to do with the fact that of all the tracks on the album it seems to owe the most to funk and the least to reggae. The familiar beat is still there but it's broken up with what sound like definite nods to The Temptations. The "My Father say..." passages are pretty groovy it has to be said. The problem is the album is basically all down hill from there. Pomp and Pride takes a single line and repeats it ad naseum over the top of a reggae beat until it starts to throb inside your brain like an old man trying to beat his way out of a flash mob. Track three is a further descent as the band rips out a cover of Louie Louie which takes all the charm from the song and turns it into a terrible cover. It reminds me of all those god-awful "A reggae tribute to..." albums were cash hungry record executives churn out rastafied versions of a great band's work with a reggae beat in the hope of collecting a quick buck. Radiohead fans can buy reggae, bluegrass and string quartet tributes to their heroes if they want to. I humbly predict none of them do.

Louie Louie finally collapses into what I can only describe as the low point of the album. I can't believe isn't a song as much as it's an annoying exercise in call and response. The lead singer takes an annoying line of vowels "ah a ah ah a ah ah ahh" and has it chorused back to him by a collection of individuals who clearly had nothing better to do at the time. Later he's quite happy to repeat this refrain and then modify it by replacing the "Ahs" with "ehs" and "ohs" as if he's setting the world's dullest eye chart to music.

The rest of the album doesn't reach the heights of the first track but doesn't dip into the depths of the rest of side one. The album just continued with the standard reggae plod that has failed to move me for so many years. My conversion to reggae may come at a later date but this album wasn't it.

Highlight: Sit down right
Lowlight: I can't believe

Influenced by: Jamaica
Influenced: Everyone who has ever made reggae (Toots actually invented the word)

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "...and the raspy character of his voice, together with a a tight though unobstructive backing band makes this CD a very enjoyable experience."

-I've never heard a band described as unobstructive before. What a great concept.

So does this convert you to reggae, or reinforce an opinion either way? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. Just starting to enjoy a bit of reggae. At the moment all songs sound the same but at least they are somewhat rather fun. I dont think anyone who is into reggae has ever used the words somewhat or rather ever before.