Round 3: ROOTS

From Joe:

The Congos, Fisherman. (Heart of the Congos, Black Ark Studio, 1977).

I find I have a hard time with these blurbs, because my prosaic justifications seem to detract from the power of the songs. What is there to add? And particularly with you guys, the significance of this album is no doubt obvious. But nevertheless, I'll start there. Heart of the Congos is one of the most rootsy records ever cut. It is also has an uniquely dense and dubby sound throughout while still sounding spare. It is a kind of electronic sorcery that only Lee Perry could produce through his determination to lay down track on top of track on top of track - excessive yet never sloppy or indulgent. But even while it dwells in a distinctly strange, foggy region of late '70s Jamaican music, it is very familiar in other ways. The lyrical content stays within Rasta territory of biblical reference, witness to suffering, and righteous livity. And the melodies are lilting and sweet.

Why Fisherman? The tune itself is both melancholic and mesmerizing, and it draws you in almost against your will. The lyrics weave together different narrative threads - the anxious weight of responsibility to feed hungry children; reference to Jesus' disciples, fishermen who became fishers of men; and affirmation of "a-de best collie weed in town." One thing I have always liked about this song is the way it illustrates why Rastafarians have such a direct and literal relationship with biblical stories. In this case the symbolism and practical necessities of being fishermen must make the story of Peter seem very familiar. Cedric Myton's falsetto makes you almost feel the hunger pangs of the hungry belly pickney, and Ashanti Roy's contrastingly low voice bottoms it out. You can distinctly hear the backing vocals of the Meditations, which further beautifies the picture. At the risk of sounding cliché, it's a masterpiece.

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