Congos Give Them the Rights

For a band that only gets around to releasing an album a few times a decade, the Congos (or more accurately Cedric Myton, since Roydel "Ashanti" Johnson is no longer in the band) have had a disproportionate effect on roots reggae. Give Them the Rights comes seven years after the commercial and critical flop Revival, but Myton has come at this album with ferocious attention to detail delivering 11 prime Congos cuts. The list of collaborators reads like a dream reggae album: the ubiquitous Sly & Robbie are accompanied by actor/drummer Leroy Horsemouth Wallace, bassist Flabba Holt, the inimitable guitarist Earl "Chinna” Smith, session keys king Lloyd "Obeah” Denton, saxophonist Dean Frazer and Wailers alumni Junior Marvin and Sticky Thompson among others. The songs are steeped in vintage roots sounds but with a cleaner, less experimental style of production than Lee Perry gave the band on their seminal Heart of the Congos record. "It Can’t Work” is a hard-hitting warning to those who would hide culture from the next generation and, as an album opener, it sets the pace for what amounts to a deeply spiritual album where themes of social justice and Rasta theology are woven directly into the music they accompany. The intensity and ethereal quality of Myton’s falsetto only heightens the seriousness of the message. "Praise H.I.M.,” in particular, is on the road to becoming a classic with its gospel style call and response chorus and the funkiest organist this side of Earl "Wire” Lindo. (Young Tree)