Ansel Collins




Whilst better known for being the non-singing half of Dave & Ansel Collins, of Double Barrel fame, Ansel is actually a keyboard player of great renown in Jamaica, after having played on countless hits since the late sixties, and especially for Jimmy Cliff. It was he who gave drummer Sly Dunbar his first break, and then composed the Stalag rhythm [think Tenor Saw’s Ring the Alarm, or any number of other great versions.] The latter ended up being owned by Winston Riley, but it was Ansel’s musical prowess that had created it, and we’re happy to report he’s been far from idle in the meantime.

Every track on this instrumental album has an African theme, just like those groundbreaking sides from the sixties by the likes of Don Drummond and other members of the Skatalites. It’s a way of showing what’s in a musician’s mind, even though they’re not using words. Many American jazz pioneers did the same thing, and that same spirit lives on throughout this thirteen-track set.

Kemet is classic roots rock reggae with its snarling guitar, rousing horn lines and expressive organ riffing. Other tracks like Tyehimba and Nzinga are more pastoral, or as is the case with Tuthmosis II, reflect Jamaica’s rocksteady and reggae tradition. Emperor Dessalines is regal, as befits Haitian royalty, but then the whole album has a kingly air [listen to The Ankhcestors’ Will, for example], and there’s a dignity and majesty to Ansel’s compositions that’s borne not just from skill, but also the desire to imbue his music with something uplifting. In that sense, this album’s a belated successor to those by past Jamaican stars such as Jackie Mittoo and Harold Butler. Unlike the virtuosos of prog-rock, such players weren’t trying to impress us with their technique, even if it was formidable. They were trying to reach into our hearts and minds and create a feeling, and that’s exactly what Ansel does here.

John Masouri


About johnmasouri
John Masouri is a long-time author and music journalist specialising in reggae and its many off-shoots including dub, ska, roots and dancehall. The author of Wailing Blues: The Story of Bob Marley's Wailers, published by Omnibus Press in 2008, he is currently working on a biography of reggae singer Peter Tosh, due to appear next year. In addition to book projects, he continues to write articles and reviews for Reggae Vibes (France), Riddim (Germany) and Echoes - formerly Black Echoes - which is renowned as Britain's No. 1 black music monthly. His work has also appeared in Mojo, Music Week, the Guardian, the Observer and the NME, as well as magazines in the US, Caribbean and Japan.

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